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HP's desktop with solid-state drive packs 16GB

HP's new Compaq DC7800 is more proof of concept than mainstream product.

If consumers and businesses are going to be convinced to switch to solid-state drives over hard disks, it's going to take something more compelling than 16GB.

On Wednesday, Hewlett-Packard will introduce a new version of its Compaq DC7800 series desktop PC. The product line was initially introduced last September, but now has an option of adding a 16GB solid-state drive (SSD) from SanDisk.

Erica Ogg/CNET

Sure, fewer moving parts when storing data is more reliable and saves power, but when an audience is conditioned to expect 80GB minimum in a desktop, 16GB appears a bit puny. (That's like running your office from an iPod, but a desktop-size iPod. It's limiting.) The software image--a load of software that includes the Windows Vista operating system and other software that corporate customers use--takes up roughly half of the available space, or 8GB, leaving the other 8GB for productivity apps like Microsoft Office and storage.

"This is not a mainstream product," said Kirk Godkin, HP's senior product manager for business PCs. The option is aimed at commercial customers, like those in the hospitality industry, who have limited space and run a single application repeatedly. Godkin said he believes SSD in desktops won't be mainstream until at least 2010. Eventually HP will move to a 32GB and perhaps even a 64GB SSD, he said, but did not give a specific target date.

The biggest reason is cost. Right now solid state is more expensive than a hard disk drive (HDD)--a 16GB SSD costs about $300, compared with $120 for an 80GB HDD, Godkin said.

Solid-state drives in desktops are new. The option for a solid-state drive in notebook PCs is still relatively rare, and is usually reserved for a PC maker's higher-end mobility products. Some hard drive makers, like Seagate and Samsung, are beginning to offer hybrid drives for notebooks, which combine the use of flash memory chips with a hard disk, but even those have been slow in gaining any sort of mass appeal among the top PC makers.