Are SSDs ready for prime time?

Summary:A couple of colleagues and I got to talking about Solid State Disks (SSDs) recently. It went something like this:I'm contemplating swapping out the hard drive on a new MBP with an SSD.

Sandisk 32GB SSD
A couple of colleagues and I got to talking about Solid State Disks (SSDs) recently. It went something like this:

I'm contemplating swapping out the hard drive on a new MBP with an SSD. Space isn't a big issue for me - I'm only using 31GB on my current laptop drive, and that's without even trying to pare it down - but speed and power savings are sexy in my book. Thus the interest in the SSD.

I could probably drop below 31GB without breaking a sweat, since I keep most of my things on a server, and all my music/pics/etc. live on my desktop machine. If I got a 64 gig drive I'd have plenty of room to spare

The general consensus was that it doesn't make sense to replace a hard drive with an SSD yet just because they're; a) insanely expensive, and b) small in capacity.

SSD isn't a new technology, its been around for a while, its just always been very expensive because it's levered to the component price of NAND flash memory.

Transcend makes a 32GB model (MSRP US$509), Lexar makes a 16GB model (MSRP US$299) but they're SSD ExpressCards, which I don't really get the point of. If you're not booting from it, can't you just connect an eSATA hard drive (or iPod for that matter) and pretty much get the same thing? (Note: is down at press time.)

There are obvious concerns about jumping into a technology too early and paying a heavy early adopter tax. And what about real-world performance? For example, will there be significant power savings and performance gains with SSD?

Most of these questions remain unanswered because of lack of availability, but Samsung is talking a pretty good game about their SSDs:

The Samsung SSD looks like a hard disk drive, but it doesn't act like one. That's due to the NAND Flash inside. Flash is known for its reliability, impact resistance, blazing speed and low power consumption. It's also dense, packing a lot of storage capacity into a little space.

And their comparison between SSD and HDD is worth noting:

SSD and HDD comparison chart

Note that Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) number above. Two million hours is 83,333 bays or 228 years whereas HDD MTBF is 34 years. My experience has been to stop trusting an HDD after three years which is one-tenth of the MTBF quoted above. If I apply the same correction factor to SSD, even though solid state will last much longer than anything that moves, it would last an impressive 23 years.

If you're looking for a proper 2.5-inch SSD "disk" that could be used as an HDD replacement in a modern notebook you'll need something with an eSATA connector on it.

The 32GB, 2.5-inch SanDisk SSD is available now to computer manufacturers, with initial pricing of US$350 for large volume orders. They're also working on a 64GB model, which is getting closer to the mark.

Average end-user price on a 64GB SSD is ~US$3,500 and a 32GB will you around US$2,000 from what I can find (despite what Sammy claims are their OEM prices for "large" orders.) It will probably take 64-128GB SSDs that are in the US$500-1000 price range to reach critical mass.

(Thanks Emory and Steve)

Topics: Hardware


Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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