Solid-state drives slip into the mainstream

They made their mark by appearing in the trendiest ultraportables, as a high-priced option. Now solid-state drives are coming off their rarefied shelf space.

Solid-state drives, if not yet ubiquitous, have arrived. You can find them in laptops big and small and as a high-octane storage option for gaming PCs.

Alienware 128GB SSD option adds $550 but on the Dell XPS M1530 this option adds only $450.
Alienware 128GB SSD option adds $550 but on the Dell XPS M1530 this option adds only $450. Alienware

SSDs made their mark by appearing in the trendiest ultraportables like the Apple MacBook Air and Asus Eee PC--typically as stratospherically priced options, fashion statements rarely seen in the real world.

These drives are now coming off their rarefied shelf space and appearing across a wider range of laptops and ultraportable computers.

Any new, lightweight enterprise laptop worth its salt comes with a large-capacity solid-state drive option now. Hewlett-Packard recently introduced the 3-pound EliteBook 2530p with an Intel 80GB solid-state drive option and Dell this month announced the 2.2-pound Dell E4200 with a 128GB drive.

Dell E4200 ultraportable can be configured with 128GB SSD
Dell E4200 ultraportable can be configured with 128GB SSD Dell Computer

Dell also offers solid-state drives on more mainstream laptops such as the 15-inch XPS M1530 laptop. The SSD option on the M1530 is twice the capacity and half the price of drives offered to date: 128GB for $450. The first generation of solid-state drives in the MacBook Air, for example, added almost $1,000 to the cost for only 64GB of storage. Dell lists it as an "Ultra Performance" M1530 option.

Solid-state drives are almost synonymous with the new category of tiny laptops called netbooks. And the category continues to grow. Lenovo is the latest high-profile entry. Earlier this month the China-based company introduced the IdeaPad S10 with a 4GB solid-state drive option.

More notable is the 10-inch Asus Eee PC 1000 that comes with a 40GB solid-state drive and that's priced at just under $700.

HP VP Keith LeFebvre holds a new HP 2530p ultraportable.  The laptop comes with an Intel 80GB SSD.  Larger 160GB drives from Intel are expected in the fourth quarter.
HP VP Keith LeFebvre holds a new EliteBook 2530p ultraportable. The laptop comes with an Intel 80GB SSD. Larger 160GB drives from Intel are expected in the fourth quarter. Intel

In the gaming space, solid-state drives are just beginning to be aggressively marketed as the ultimate high-performance storage option. Last week at the Intel Developer Forum, Chris Saleski from Intel's Storage Technologies Group demonstrated an Intel 80GB X25M solid-state drive crushing 7,200-rpm, 500GB Seagate Barracuda drives in benchmarks. The single Intel drive hit 44,000 IOPS (input-output operations per second), while the Seagate array did under 550 IOPS.

If this benchmark holds up in the real world, solid-state drives could catch on at game PC makers like Falcon Northwest, which demonstrated its FragBoxes at the Intel forum also beating high-performance hard-disk drives.

Dell's Alienware game PC unit currently offers a 128GB solid-state option for $550 on its Area-51 M15x laptop. "Solid state drives are the best performance options Alienware offers hardcore gamers," Alienware said in a statement. "These drives offer them shorter load times and faster access rates that put them at a much higher level of performance than traditional hard drives."

Alienware currently offers up to a 256GB SSD in a "RAID 0" configuration.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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