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.
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 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.
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.