Solid state storage for mobile devices entered a new chapter on Monday, with Samsung's new 1.8-inch, 64-GB solid state drive (SSD) now rolling off the production line.
The new SSDs are among the highest storage capacity of flash media yet available for mobile computing products. In a statement announcing the new drives, Samsung said it sees demand for "premium, SSD-based notebooks," especially in the new, ultramobile category that falls between a smartphone and a laptop.
SSDs 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, this can make a big difference.
Beyond reliability and speed, SSDs are more efficient. Samsung said that its 64-GB SSD can improve battery life by up to 20 percent, and they are as silent as USB memory sticks and other flash-based storage media. Hard drives, however, still have the dominant edge in price-per-GB and in total capacity.
But that pricing edge is now moving into a head-to-head competition, as the new capacities begin to make solid state drives useful for business.
"Once you hit a 64-GB size," said Samir Bhavnani, research director at Current Analysis West, "you've hit a size that you can deploy to notebooks and ultramobiles." On average, he said, notebook computers for the enterprise have drives about 80 GB, although for consumers it's generally larger.
For an ultraportable laptop, he added, 64 GB is "certainly sufficient" for most business applications and documents.
If this were a race, the 64-GB SSD might be the starting point, and the runners are already sprinting. Samsung has said that it expects the market to take off, with shipments going from about 2.2 million units last year to over 170 million this year. Bhavnani has noted that HP, Fujitsu, and Dell, among others, have released SSD-based laptops.
At 64 GB, he said, businesses begin to see the advantages of quicker boots and the promise of better ruggedness, although they also begin to look at total cost of ownership. The cost per gigabyte for SSDs is still much more than it is for hard drives and "prohibitive" for many purposes, he noted, although everyone expects the prices of SSDs to drop in time.
Many companies are rapidly joining the SSD race. Earlier in June, SanDisk introduced a 64-GB SSD, in 1.8-inch UATA and 2.5-inch SATA formats, designed as drop-in replacements for hard drives in laptops. For users who need rugged, higher-capacity units, Apacer Technology has shown a 128-GB, industrial-grade SSD, able to operate in temperatures beween -40 and 85 degrees Celsius.
Other SSDs have also been announced by Adtron, Intel, Micron, Spansion, Super Talent, and Ritek. Retail pricing for Samsung's new SSDs has not yet been announced.