We compared eMMC and SSD, both of which store data in flash memory. An HDD is different, it is a mechanical drive, so which is better between eMMC and HDD?

What do you usually check when you go to buy devices? Well, some devices normally have eMMC, SDD, or HDD storage.  The eMMC (Embedded Multimedia Card) and SSD (solid-state drive (SSD) both store data in flash memory, while the HDD(hard disk drive) is a mechanical drive.

Due to their unique specifications, this makes they be used on different devices. In this article, we will compare eMMC and HDD (Hard Disk Drive). This is in terms of the storage capacities, speed differences, price, use cases as well as service duration.

Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will be better informed on which to use for your devices.


What Is The eMMC?

eMMC

eMMC stands for embedded Multi-Media Card. It features a flash memory and controller integrated into it. It is ideal for smartphones, tablets, low specification laptops, smart TV, smart home devices, and some wearable electronic devices.

Not only that, but it has a NAND flash that is also found in USB drives and SD cards. Its low cost is what makes it ideal for cost-effective electronic devices. When you buy a low-budget laptop, you will find low storage of 32 GB or 64 GB. That’s mostly for eMMC devices. However, you can also find 128 GB or 256 GB storage.

However, you shouldn’t use the device for powerful operations. It is ideal for word processing, streaming media, or browsing the internet.


What Is The HDD?

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Hard disk drives are traditional storage devices used in laptops and computers. They contain magnetic platters that rotate and store data, as well as magnetic heads, which are responsible for reading and writing operations on the magnetic platters.

The standard rotating speed of the magnetic platters in the HDD is 5400 rotations per minute. However, there exist rare high-end HDD storage devices with a speed of 7200 rotations per minute (rpm). These types of HDDs have improved read and write operation speeds and faster data access speeds.

HDD’s come in two cache memory sizes, 8 MB or 16 MB, both of which affect the performance of the HDD and the overall operation of the laptop or computer.

In comparison with other storage devices, HDD is slower in terms of system boot-up time, loading of applications and files, as well as copy and paste operations. Due to the nature of the device, they are prone to mechanical damage, where a mild fall can easily damage the magnetic rotating disks or reading arm, leading to data loss. They are, however, relatively cheaper compared to the other storage devices.


Storage Capacities

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The eMMC was developed for portable devices, and therefore their storage capacities are relatively small. They are typically used as a temporary storage device for portable mobile electronic products such as phones. As of 2022, the largest capacity of eMMC in the market is 256 GB. They also come in 16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB.

HDDs being traditional disks have significantly increased in storage size over the years. Some earlier HDDs were only tens of gigabytes or smaller. HDDs have higher storage capacities, with the common maximum capacity ranging between 8-10 Terabytes (TB).

The main limiting factor on the increase of the storage capacity of HDDs has to do with the reliance on magnetic platters used to store data in a fixed space with an upper limit.


Speed Differences

speed

In general, HDDs are slower than eMMC in transfer speed, with a theoretical maximum transfer speed of 150 MB/s for HDD compared to 400 MB/s for eMMC version 5.0 and above 600 MB/s for eMMC version 5.1.

The main limiting factor in the write and read speeds of HDD is their use of magnetic platters and magnetic heads, which are mechanical moving parts. For the eMMC, they use NAND flash integrated circuits for read and write operations. They also have an integrated flash memory controller, which does not rely on the CPU for the read and write operations. Hence the CPU can handle other tasks. This leads to faster transfer speeds than an HDD storage device.

There are several versions of eMMC storage devices currently available in the market: from versions 4.5, 5.0, and 5.1. HDDs have also been upgraded through the years, and there are numerous versions, with the most common at this time being ATA 5, ATA 6, ATA 7, and ATA 8. With HDD versions 7 and 8 being compatible with the SATA data transfer protocol.

  • eMMC speed

InterfaceVersionMaximum Transfer SpeedMaximum Write Speed
 

eMMC

4.5200 MB/s~ 60 MB/s
5.0400 MB/s~ 90 MB/s
5.1≥ 600 MB/s~ 125 MB/s

  • HDD speed

InterfaceVersionMaximum Transfer Speed
 

HDD

ATA 566 MB/s 
ATA 6100 MB/s 
ATA 7 -PATA133 MB/s 
ATA 7 -SATA150 MB/s 
ATA 8 -PATA133 MB/s 
ATA 8 -SATA600 MB/s 


Price Comparison

Price Comparison

Basically, HDDs are the cheapest storage method as the technology has been well researched. Below is a price comparison between HDD and eMMC.

For eMMC, the storage costs per gigabyte range from US$ 0.1133 to US$ 0.2187 for 128 GB and 16 GB respectively.

CapacityeMMC version 5.1
highlowCost per GB 
16 GB3.503.400.2187 
32 GB4.304.200.1344 
64 GB7.507.400.1172 
128 GB14.5014.200.1133 
    

For HDD, the storage cost per GB ranges from US$ 0.028 to US$ 0.045 for 10 TB and 500 GB HDD respectively.

CapacityHDD
Cost in US$Cost per GB in US$
500 GB210.042
1 TB350.035
2 TB670.033
8 TB2400.030


Applications And Uses.

The eMMCs are used in portable electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, digital audio players, digital cameras, smart home appliances applications, and removable storage such as SD cards. They are also used in entry-level laptops or 2-in-1 computers, where one of the main selling points of these laptops is their lightweight.

eMMC storage devices are smaller than HDDs or SSDs and hence take less space and are lighter. They also consume low power. eMMC storage devices are usually not used for permanent storage, hence are used as temporary storage devices. They are inefficient in the storage of large files.

HDD storage devices are mainly used on laptops and personal computers. They are used as permanent storage devices and are very good at the storage of large files. However, due to the current speeds of HDDs, which no longer meet the needs of most users, newer versions of computers and laptops come with SSDs. They are one of the largest storage devices in terms of size and weight compared to SSDs or eMMC of the same storage capacity. Nowadays, HDDs are generally used as external drives used to save data.


The Service Life

The Service Life

eMMC typically has a long service life. However, their service life is also dependent on the device they are used in. For example, if used in a phone or a tablet, the eMMC may be well functioning, but the battery or the touch screen may be damaged.

This will lead to the disposal of the device due to the failure of the other components while the eMMC storage device is still working efficiently. The current eMMC use TLC (triple-level cell – which is a type of NAND flash memory that stores 3 bits of information on each cell), and the erasure limits are about 1000 times. Considering the small stock, its life is shorter than that of SSD.

For HDD storage devices, service life calculation with flash storage is not the same as eMMC. HDDs do not have erasure restrictions. However, because of the high-speed rotation of the mechanical, magnetic parts, even a mild fall or intense vibration will cause serious damage to the HDD leading to loss of data. Under normal use, the theoretical life of an HDD is generally more than ten years.

It is easy to migrate an HDD from one computer to another. Hence, if the other parts of the laptop or computer are damaged, you can easily use the same HDD in another laptop or computer and access all the stored data. HDDs have good compatibility as the interface is consistent with the SATA protocol. HDD repair is possible. However, it is advisable to transfer all the data after repair, as the reliability of a repaired HDD cannot be trusted.


Which One Should I Buy?

Which One Should I Buy

In conclusion, we have seen the characteristics of both the eMMC and HDD. As mentioned, eMMC is mainly used in portable electronic products, mobile phones, tablets, but now there is faster UFS flash memory; please pay attention when buying eMMC.

When buying an HDD, you need to consider how much storage space you need. As for the read and write speed, this can be ignored if the intention is data storage.