As solid state storage gets cheaper and cheaper it is being bunged into everything from our mobile phones and MP3 players to new SSD form factors and now, err... optical drives. After announcing its 7mm HDDs, Hitachi has shown off the second (if confusing) part of a particularly productive day: the 'HyDrive'.
An obvious abbreviation of Hybrid Drive - a not at all confusing choice of branding that would never be mixed up with Hybrid Hard Drive *cough* - it is the combination of an optical drive with SSD memory. Why would we want such a thing? I tend to agree with you, but here's the pitch:
DVD and Blu-ray HyDrives will come with a choice of 32GB and 64GB SSDs (not simply NAND flash) and this solid state memory will be used as the boot drive for a computer's OS. Integrated 'Defect Management technology' will also use the SSD to cache information on scratched discs so they can be played back smoothly. All the time a standard HDD can still be fitted and used for bulk storage. AMD, Asus and Moneual are launch partners.
Yes it's kinda neat, but here are the caveats. Firstly HyDrive's will debut in August 2010 and only come in 12.7mm thicknesses which won't fit anything smaller than desktops or large desktop replacement laptops. Secondly 9.5mm drives won't come until March 2011, nine whole months down the line and curiously out of line with its 7mm roadmap. Thirdly they will add circa $200 (£137) onto any machine's RRP and fourthly there are no plans to release them to retailers for the upgrade market.
Throw in the fact that by March 2011 we should be seeing widespread availability of even faster, much cheaper 25nm SSDs (an 80GB 50nm cost £340, an 80GB 32nm £140...) combined with the fading interest in optical drives in general and it seems like trying to maintain interest in a BMX by strapping a Kawasaki Ninja to it.
Can we not just have SSD in an mSATA form factor and dump both 2.5in HDDs and optical drives from ultraportable laptops already? Sheesh...