Samsung plans to double the capacity of solid state disks (SSDs) every 12 months. The company said it will deliver samples of 128GB SSDs by mid-year and a 256GB drive sometime in 2009, according to several reports from a Samsung press conference yesterday. At the same time, Samsung is boosting the capacity and speed of its standard hard disk drives for laptops.
There are already several laptops on the market that offer 64GB SSDs including the Dell XPS M1330, Latitude D430, and just-announced Latitude XFR D630; Lenovo ThinkPad X300; Apple MacBook Air; and the Alienware Area 51 m9750 and Area-51 m15x. Though it received almost no coverage, Sony's updated TZ series not only offers SSDs, but also includes one configuration (the VGN-TZ298N/XC) that has both a 64GB SSD and a 250GB hard drive. And a handful of low-cost subnotebooks like the Asus Eee PC also offer smaller capacity drives using flash storage.
Samsung confirmed that the ThinkPad X300 is using its latest 64GB SSDs with a SATA-II interface, which reads data at 100 megabytes per second (MBps) and writes at 80MBps. That's about 60% faster than the first crop of SSDs, according to the company.
SSDs use NAND Flash memory rather than rotating platters with a magnetic surface. Because they have no moving parts, SSDs are quiet, durable, lightweight and use less battery power. In theory they are also faster for many applications. The obvious drawbacks are cost and capacity. Choosing a 64GB SSD in place of the 120- to 200GB hard drives on the 13-inch Dell XPS M1330 adds anywhere from $650 to $900 to the price depending on the configuration. But the price of NAND Flash is dropping quickly and the density is increasing. Switching from SLC (one bit per cell) to MLC (two bits per cell) flash memory should also halve the cost per gigabyte.
But all this will take some time and hard drives aren't going to disappear from laptops anytime soon. With that in mind, Samsung also announced two new 2.5-inch mobile hard drives. The Spinpoint M6 is a 5,400rpm 500GB drive that is only 9.5mm high, which means it is suitable for even the thinnest ultraportable notebooks. Last week Fujitsu announced a 2.5-inch 500GB drive, but at a speed of 4,200rpm. Samsung also announced a 7,200rpm 250GB drive, the Spinpoint MP2. Both drives are shipping this month.