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Solid State Drives (SSD) have long been hailed as the death knell for traditional hard drives. By using flash memory, like that found in USB memory sticks, to store data, rather than spinning disks, the data access speeds, power usage, and operating temperatures of SSDs can be orders of magnitude lower than hard drives. Indeed, it seems like SSDs should've had the storage market sewn up by now.
As we all know, though, this has been far from the case. While hard drive capacities are hitting such lofty heights as a terabyte (1,000 gigabytes), the largest SSD drive you'll find is 256GB and that costs £3,500. Also, although SSDs can read and write small amounts of data very quickly, sustained read/write performance has so far been less than impressive. Indeed, the Samsung MCAQE32G5APP-0XA SSD that we reviewed a while back was significantly slower than the Hitachi Desktar 7K1000 HDD, a drive that was half the price and had 30 times the capacity.
Even so, there are several markets where SSDs are starting to make a significant impact. The most obvious examples are notebooks and other mobile devices. For these, the limitations of SSDs are felt less acutely and the benefits are greatly appreciated.
Specifically, notebooks and mobile devices seldom find themselves being used for large volume data transfers so the sustained read and write speed is far less important. Also, the high cost per megabyte is not so much of a problem because, for all but heavy duty gaming and workstation laptops, very little storage is actually needed - I'd be happy with 32GB for my notebook, and most people should find 64GB plenty. As for the benefits, the fast access times are very welcome because notebooks are more often than not used intermittently so having a system that boots up and loads programs near instantly is a huge boon. The fact SSDs also consume less power than hard drives has also made them the natural shoo-in for portable storage.
The Lenovo X300 is a perfect example of this as the 64GB SSD it employs brings a whole other level of snappiness to the mobile experience. Booting up, opening applications, and going in and out of standby are all noticeably quicker than on any traditional hard drive model - not instant, mind, but very, very quick. The simple fact of the matter is, if you can afford the SSD upgrade for your notebook, get it.
So, while SSDs do genuinely look set to be the way forwards for notebook storage, can they really make an impression in the desktop sector? Well, with the help of its snappily titled SATA II 2.5" SSD, OCZ certainly seems to think so.