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New Samsung flash drives going to Dell, Alienware

Samsung released a high-speed 64GB SSD and is working on a 128GB version.

Samsung Electronics has begun mass producing 64GB solid state drives (SSDs) with a new high-performance interface and will begin shipping the drive to major notebook PC suppliers, the company announced Friday. This follows last month's announcement of plans to bring out a 128GB SSD.

Samsung SATA-II SSD Samsung

The new Serial ATA (SATA)-II SSD is able to read data at 100 megabytes per second (MB/sec) and write it at 80MB/sec, 60 percent faster than SATA I drives, Samsung said.

Dell will be one of the first takers. "Today, I wanted to let our customers know that in the coming weeks we will be launching the Dell Flash Ultra Performance SSD based on Samsung's SATA II-SSD technology, available in 32GB and 64GB capacities, which will leave traditional notebook hard drives in the dust," according to a post on Dell's Direct2Dell blog.

"Our labs benchmarked this drive in a Latitude notebook and saw a 35 percent overall system performance increase over a standard 2.5-inch 5400rpm notebook hard drive using SYSmark '07. That's even more impressive when you realize that the difference between standard 5400rpm and performance 7200rpm drives (in the same generation) is 10 percent on average," Dell said.

Alienware is also slated to use the SSDs.

Last month, Samsung announced the development of a 128GB SSD that it will produce this year in 1.8- and 2.5-inch versions for notebook and desktop PCs, as well as other mobile applications. That drive offers a data writing speed of 70MB/sec, the industry's highest for multi-level cell-based SSDs (which uses multiple levels per cell to allow more bits to be stored), the company said. It reads data at 100MB/s. These published speeds exceed 2.5-inch hard drives used in mainstream notebooks.

SSDs are generally much faster than hard drives at reading data (which is what computer users spend most of their time doing) and slower at writing data to disk. But, overall, SSDs are becoming popular in niche markets because they have advantages crucial for ultra-small gadgets and ultra-thin notebook PCs: they weigh less, use less power, generate less heat, and withstand shock better. The new SATA II SSD can resist up to 1500 Gs of shock in a half millisecond compared to a shock resistance rating of 300 Gs in 2 milliseconds for a typical HDD, Samsung said.

As a caveat, it should be noted that flash technology--which SSDs are based on--has a skeleton in the closet. Flash has limited write cycles. That is, flash drives have the potential to "wear out" after hundreds of thousands of write cycles. File systems that spread the writes over the device can extend the life cycle but it's still an issue that corporate users of flash storage have brought up in the past. It remains to be seen if this actually becomes a problem later in notebooks with SSDs such as the MacBook Air and Eee PC.