With the all the brouhaha surrounding solid state drives (SSDs), there remains a question of exactly how big of a performance advantage flash memory really holds over today's hard drives. On paper, most SSDs scream ahead in both read and write speeds, but real-world benchmarking paints a different picture. So why the discrepancy? At SandDisk, they're blaming Vista. The company's CEO, Eli Harari, says SSD "performance in the Vista environment falls short of what the market really needs. Vista is not optimized for flash memory solid-state disks."
It's not hard to find fault with Vista, but blaming the OS for underperforming SSDs qualifies as a new one that even Apple hasn't yet exploited in its many mocking commercials. To be fair, Harari made the statement as part of a pitch to improve SSDs' next generation controllers, which he says "need to compensate for Vista's shortfalls." Because of this need, the company claims it is behind schedule bringing competitive SSDs to market.
Is SanDisk justified in pointing the finger at Vista?
Not everyone is sold on SSDs, but that isn't stopping almost everyone from trying to sell you one. Competition has started to heat up, and it looks as though OCZ and Super Talent are lining up for a race to see which company can offer the fastest SSDs at the lowest price point. Super Talent kicked things off with its MasterDrive MX line, offering 120MB/sec read and 40MB/sec write speeds in 30GB, 60GB, and 120GB sizes for as low as $299, but OCZ joined the race just a few months later with a low cost line of its own. OCZ's Core series drives upped the ante with a hat trick that includes slightly more storage space, better read and write speeds at up to 143MB/sec and 93MB/sec respectively, and lower price points. Game, set, match?
Not quite. Super Talent doesn't appear ready to concede the mainstream market, and to prove it, the company has revised its MX series SSDs to offer faster speeds. Both the 15GB and 30GB models now sport read speeds of 120MB/sec and write speeds of 60MB/sec, while the 60GB and 120GB boast the same read speed but increases the write speeds to 80MB/sec. "Our expert engineering team is constantly discovering new ways to improve our proudcts, and this is one improvement that will be well received by power laptop users," said Super Talent director or marketing, Joe James.
The tweaked SATA-II SSDs still trail behind OCZ's Core series, but to make them more competitive, Super Talent has begun offering a $40 rebate (PDF) when purchased through Newegg. Is it enough to make you consider a SSD?
Solid state drives (SSDs) are usually considered to be more power efficient, faster, and in some respects more reliable than hard disk drives and they command a hefty premium over other drives. Dell's offering of a 128GB solid-state drive as an option on its Latitude, XPS, Alienware, and Precision laptop models for $649 is a steep drop price drop since many SSDs with half of that capacity still sell for more than $700. Is it really worth it? The IDC released a report that claims the performance gap between SSDs and lower-cost high-performance hard disk drives is not that significant at the system level.
TargetTech.com quotes David Reinsel, one of the authors of the report, "Many tests have been done comparing 4,200 rpm hard drives to SSDs, but 5,400 rpm is now mainstream and even 7,200 rpm disks are available." He adds that the gap between performance in systems with 7,200 rpm 2.5-inch drives and systems with SSDs was much smaller than expected, mainly because of the performance of the system as a whole rather than just the storage device. Reinsel goes on to say, "There will be what's called a 'period of interdependency' with this technology. It isn't just plug and play." He suggests that system redesigns will be necessary in PCs and enterprise systems to gain the full benefit from flash.
If you are the ultra curious type and have ten grand to blow you can grab the report here. My credit card just laughed at me for trying.
Even though SSDs have dropped in price, they still are not a good performance item for the price point. A Fujitsu 120GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb OEM notebook drive is going for $99, versus a $640 SSD with the same capacity. The price savings can buy you a lot of other goodies. We will have to wait for systems to be updated to take advantage of SSD drives and of course in the mean time, the price will continue to go down. When will it be the right price point versus performance for you to make the switch?
According to Fujitsu, flash memory currently has no place outside of handheld gadgets, a situation it doesn't see changing within the next two years. But despite Fujitsu's short-term reservations, other manufacturers seem intent on pushing SSD storage into the mainstream posthaste. Both Super Talent and OCZ have recently announced lower cost SSDs, and now Samsung is getting into the fray by saying it has begun mass producing 1.8- and 2.5-inch 64GB and 128GB multi-level cell (MLC)-based SSDs.
"With the 64GB and 128GB MLC SSDs, we are satisfying the density requirements of most business users and many PC enthusiasts, who will appreciate not only the performance gains and added reliability, but also the more attractive pricing," said Gerd Schauss, Director of Memory Marketing EMEA, Samsung Semiconductor Europe.
Throwing a wet blanket over the announcement are somewhat comparatively underwhelming performance numbers. Samsung claims its MLC based SSD has a write speed of 70MB/sec and a read speed of 90MB/s, which not only pales in comparison to some of the faster single-cell SSDs on the market, but lags behind Western Digital's VelociRaptor HDD. That might make the new SSDs a tough sell to PC enthusiasts with money to burn, but depending on how 'attractive' Samsung plans to price the units, it could capture a portion of the bang/buck crowd, a market segment SSDs aren't used to seducing.
With companies like Super Talent and OCZ pushing solid-state disk pricing into affordable territory, there has been a recent rash of excitement of building up over what the near future might bring. Can we finally expect to get over the performance bottleneck imposed by hard disk drives? Not so fast, says Joel Hagberg, VP of business development at Fujitsu.
In a recent interview, the high level exec played down the current state of flash memory. Even as the latest batch of SSDs tout impressive performance specs to the tune of 120 to 143 MB/sec read speeds and 80 to 93MB/sec writes, Hagberg claims it's more hype than substance. Hagberg says SSDs are "really good if you're reading stuff, but it doesn't work very well for large file reads and large file writes, and it doesn't work well for random writes." Because of this, the VP notes a sizeable rift between notebook customers' expectations and real-world experiences.
Hit the jump to find out why Hagberg thinks we're still more than 2 years away from seeing SSDs as a viable option.
While SSDs continue to come down in price and up in performance, hard disk drives keep ballooning in size. And just when we thought we were becoming spoiled with storage space, Hitachi hits us with a humdinger by announcing plans to release a 5TB hard drive by 2010. That's FIVE freaking terabytes in a single 3.5" drive, or half the storage capacity of the human brain, claims Dr. Yoshihiro Shiroishi from Hitachi. In more concrete terms, 5TB equates to about 5,000 hours of video, or more than a million songs. Throw two drives together and you could store a human brain's worth of porn!
Hitachi's pledge trumps an earlier prediction the company made back in October 2007 when it said 4TB of storage would be likely by 2011. Instead, Hitachi will employ Current-Perpendicular-to-Plant Giant Magnetoresistance (CPP-GMR) magnetic read heads to pack an additional terabyte than initially anticipated, and a year sooner than predicted. CPP-GMR will make it possible to achieve data densities of 1TB or more per square inch, paving the way for even larger hard drives.
Home theater buffs will undoubtedly herald Hitachi's announcement, but what about everyone else? Are we reaching the point of diminishing returns in terms of hard drive space? Post your thoughts in the comments section.
As previously rumored, Asus' new Eee PC 904 will sport both a larger keyboard and bigger chassis akin to the Eee PC 1000, while also carrying a comfortable price tag of just £269 when it ships in the UK in mid-July. But in order to reach the low price point (and perhaps cope with Intel's Atom shortage), the new model will feature an Intel Celeron M processor instead of the popular Atom chip. Asus previously indicated the shortage of Atom processors would continue through September, a scenario which has low-cost panel makers more than a little bit nervous.
But the Atom chip isn't the only component playing a disappearing act; Asus plans to go with an 80GB hard drive for storage duties instead of a speedier SSD commonly found on other Eee PCs. Rounding out the spec sheet will be 1GB DDR2 RAM and Windows XP instead of the oft used Linux OS.
No word yet on when U.S. residents can expect to see the 1.4kg ultraportable on store shelves.
Earlier this week OCZ announced a new lineup of low cost SSDs, trumping Super Talent's MasterDrive MX series in both price and performance. In an attempt to address the former, Super Talent has begun bundling Ubuntu with its SSDs and will continue to do so right through to September 30th.
"Bundling an excellent OS plus applications package like Ubuntu helps MasterDrive MS customers get up and running that much faster and easier. This is a great value add that doesn't increase the cost." - Joe James, Super Talen Marketing Director
And James is right, it doesn't increase the cost. Of course, it doesn't increase the value (or performance) of the MasterDrive MX line either. But it might increase the perceived value of Ubuntu, which if you head over to Ubuntu.com, you can download the Linux distro free of charge. Or if you'd prefer a hard copy without firing up Nero, you can put in a request for a free CD and they'll even throw in a handful of stickers. Sadly, neither option will cost you a cent, not even shipping, and who wants a free OS? Pshaw! Super Talent's bundle tackles this problem, and you'll have to fork over at minimum $299 (30GB). Or if you really want that copy of Ubuntu to come laced with uber value, you have the option of paying up to $649 (120GB). Now all you Windows owners with a predisposition to paying for your OS can finally get your Linux on without feeling like you cheated the system, something Amazon couldn't offer with its paltry $12.99 price tag.
Set up a swank RAID 0 array and you'll still find situations in which your hard drives remain the bottleneck. Higher areal densities, fast spindle speeds, and beefy cache have kept hard drives from being pokey, but the future appears headed for Solid State Drives (SSDs). And with companies like OCZ pushing higher performing SSDs at increasingly lower price points, the future may be closer than you think.
Lest we get too excited, SSD technology still trails considerably behind traditional hard drives in the cost-per-gigabyte arena, but helping to shrink the gap, OCZ today announced its Core Series SATA II 2.5" Solid State Drives. OCZ dubs the new lineup as the "world's first truly affordable high-performance SSD for consumers," and while still out of mainstream reach, this is as close to that goal as high performing SSDs have come. The three new models include:
32GB - $169
64GB - $259
128GB - $479
OCZ's aggressive pricing trumps even Super Talent's recently announced MasterDrive MX series, but is the time right to jump on SSD technology? Find out after the jump.
Solid State Drives are here to stay! The folks at Tom’s Hardware recently spoke to a source at Intel saying the company is sticking with the technology, despite reports to the contrary. Intel has announced some initiatives, and suggested that it would help mass produce SSD drives to help bring down prices. I myself can’t wait for reasonable capacity drives priced within my budget. There are definitely performance gains to be had with these (especially when drivers mature for them), but they have to arrive at a lower price point to be somewhat competitive with traditional hard drives. Not so easy given how cheap hard-drives are per gigabyte.