SSD shipments outpaced HDDs by 3:2 last quarter, but hard disks still lead the storage race

We’ve come a long way since solid-state drives were the expensive alternative to traditional HDDs, making up only a small part of the market. Falling prices and increasing capacities have seen their popularity rise in recent times, to the point that in Q1 2021, SSD shipments outpaced their hard disk drive counterparts by 3:2, while in 2020, SSDs saw 28% more unit sales than HDDs.

According to a Trendfocus report (via Tom’s Hardware), three hard drive makers shipped as many as 64.17 million HDDs in Q1 2021, while fewer than a dozen SSD suppliers shipped 99.438 million SSDs during the same period.

We all know the typical speed and physical size advantages that come with SSDs, so the figures aren’t too surprising; a recent IDC report revealed that nearly 60% of new PCs shipped in Q1 used SSDs.

The trend of SSDs outselling HDDs isn’t new. A jump in fourth-quarter sales last year helped SSDs push past 333 million units for the entirety of 2020, moving ahead of the 260 million HDD units sold.

One area where HDDs have an advantage, of course, is their superior $/gigabyte ratio, which makes them ideal for enterprise solutions. And while datacenters do still use SSDs for caching, it means the total exabytes (EBs) shipments for HDDs in the first quarter far exceeded that of SSDs: 288.28 EBs vs. 66 EBs.

Solid-state drives are bringing in more money, too. Analyst firms had the SSD market valued at $34.86 billion in 2020, while HDDs lagged behind with $22.6 billion.

As with so many tech products, Samsung, the top supplier of NAND flash memory, is the industry leader when it comes to SSDs, boasting the largest market share for units shipped (25.3%) and exabytes (34.3%). It’s followed by Western Digital (18.2% units and 15.8% EBs) then Koxia—formerly Toshiba Memory (13.3% units and 9.4% EBs).

SSDs, and the storage market in general, is facing a tough time right now—despite the positive report. The shortage of SSD controllers is expected to affect sales, while the introduction of cryptocurrency Chia, which can ruin a 512GB SSD in 40 days, is starting to impact drive supply and prices in some areas.