The Solid State Drive (SSD) market, leapfrogging in sizes and speeds, took another jump Tuesday when Samsung announced that it was releasing a 1.8-inch, 64-GB SSD. This doubles their previous highest-capacity SSD of 32 GB.
The drive, announced at the annual Mobile Solution Forum in Taipei, is based on an eight-gigabit, single-level-cell (SLC) NAND. The company said the SLC drive has a significant performance improvement over previous SSDs. Samsung cited the read performance that, at 64 MB/sec, is 20 percent over its own 32-GB SSD released last year. The write performance, at 45 MB/sec, is 60 percent better.
By contrast, competing manufacturer Adtron said that its 160-GB SSD has read speeds of 65 to 70 MB/sec and write speeds of 55 to 65 MB/sec.
The new Samsung drive is a drop-in replacement for an existing hard drive in an ultraportable notebook, and power requirements are 0.5 watts for operation and 0.1 watts for idling. Mass production is expected in Q2, and pricing has not been announced.
SSDs can have several advantages over traditional hard drives. With no moving parts, they are more durable and can last up to six times longer between failures than standard hard drives.
In addition, they move data in and out as much as 100 times more quickly than standard hard drives. For a large operating system such as Vista, on a laptop computer, this can make a big difference.
Beyond reliability and speed, SSDs are as much as 50 percent more energy efficient than standard hard drives. And, for those who want to use their laptop while the airplane passenger in the next seat sleeps, SSDs are as silent as USB memory sticks and other flash-based storage media.
Hard drives, however, still have the dominant edge is price-per-GB and in total capacity.
'Depends on the Price'
Shawny Chen, an analyst with technology research firm Current Analysis, said that the difference in speed between Samsung's 32-GB and 64-GB SSDs was probably not enough for users to notice. "But, at 64 GB, their drives are beginning to be a size that ultraportable notebook users could find useful," she said.
"We're starting to hear a lot about new SSD product introductions," she noted, "but the demand is still not clear."
She said that corporate users of notebook computers could benefit from the improved power efficiency, boot-up times, and lighter weight, but that "it all depends on the price." She said that, as sizes keep growing, the price per GB will be the main issue. Even as the higher SSD drive capacities approach hard drive sizes, she noted, "flash capacities will always follow hard drives'. Hard drive manufacturers will always push their capacity."
The market for SSDs is expected to grow dramatically. Samsung has said it expects shipments to increase from about 2.2 million units last year to over 170 million this year. In addition to those by Samsung and Adtron, SSDs have been announced by SanDisk, Intel, Micron, Spansion, Super Talent, Ritek, and others.