On Thursday, SanDisk introduced 64-GB solid state drives (SSDs) that the company plans to have ready for shipment to manufacturers and to retail outlets by the end of this year.
When they formally launch, the SanDisk 1.8-inch UATA 5000 and 2.5-inch SATA 5000 SSDs, which already are available in 32-GB sizes, will be able to serve as drop-in replacements for hard drives in most mainstream notebook PCs.
"Laptop manufacturers have requested more memory capacity for systems that use the Microsoft Vista platform, which can require a number of preloaded accessories and security suites," Doreet Oren, SanDisk director of SSD product marketing, said in a statement. "Also, there is interest in developing laptops for gaming, and the SSD is well-suited for the performance and memory requirements of those users."
SSDs can offer several benefits over conventional hard drives, with durability and reliability being among the top advantages. Because SSDs have no moving parts, they can deliver up to six times the mean time between failure (MTBF) over hard disks.
In addition, flash-based SSDs can boot almost immediately, making them faster than a conventional hard disk. In notebook computers, data moves to and from an SSD more than 100 times more quickly than data moving to and from a hard disk, SanDisk noted.
Low power consumption is another benefit of SSDs. Because SSDs consume far less power than typical hard drives, they can extend battery life. SanDisk plans to offer samples of the new 64-GB drives to manufacturers in the third quarter, with mass production planned to commence prior to the end of the year.
Research firm Gartner projects that global consumption of SSDs in consumer and business notebooks will leap from about four million units in 2007 to 32 million units in 2008. Samsung and Toshiba, among other companies, are vying for a piece of that action.
Joseph Unsworth, analyst for flash memory at Gartner, said there's plenty of buzz surrounding SSDs. But, he added, the lowest price he has seen for a 32-GB drive is about $350. "The problem is, not only are solid state drives very expensive, but most if not all enterprises and consumers don't have a strong grasp as to why they would want to pay such a huge premium," he commented.
When the price falls below $100 for a 32-GB drive, Unsworth predicted, the market will see greater adoption of SSDs. Gartner is not saying that the traditional hard drive will die at that point. "We are advocating rather that there's a storage rush and both markets are going to be strong," he said. "But we still have a long way to go to drive down the price of solid state drives."