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Dell Releases Flash-Based Laptops

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the welcome-to-the-world-of-tomorrow dept.

Portables 230

joetheprogrammer writes "Dell has announced that they are going to offer a special configuration option with its Latitude D420 laptop that will allow users to swap clunky old HDs in favor of a 32GB SanDisk Flash hard drive. The only hitch comes with the price tag, which is set at a rather expensive price of $549. This will definitely ensure the laptop is set for a very high-profile consumer. 'The 1.8-inch 32GB SanDisk SSD, which SanDisk announced in January, increases performance by as much as 23 percent and is three and a half times less likely to fail when compared with HDDs currently available for the Latitude line, Dell said. The drive, currently available in North and South America, costs $549 -- on par with the 32GB drive Sony is offering exclusively in Japan for the Type-G Vaio. SanDisk will expand SSD availability to Europe and Asia in the near future.'"

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I for one... (3, Funny)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892409)

... welcome our 32GB SanDisk Flash hard drive in our laptop overlords. Dammmit. That sucked so bad.

Re:I for one... (5, Interesting)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892567)

The cost is not very important. Whatever the drive costs today it will cost less in a years time.

What is rather more interesting is what eliminating the hard drive will allow in terms of laptop design. A compact flash card is much smaller than a hard drive, the volume saved will be significant on compact format laptops.

Another interesting difference is that it will be easier to make the drive easily removable on compact laptops. Today this tends to be a feature of the larger models which means that corporate IT depts are less willing to offer compact units.

Re:I for one... (4, Insightful)

lee1026 (876806) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893199)

Isn't the keyboard the bottleneck in how small a laptop can be?

Re:I for one... (2, Informative)

DigitalCrackPipe (626884) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893215)

A compact flash card is much smaller than a hard drive

Actually, what the article is talking about is a 1.8 inch drive - the smaller form factor for laptop hard drives, just with no moving parts. The news here is that the flash-based device has the same bus as a hard drive and has enough capacity to replace, rather than complement, the hard drive.

While 1.8 inch drives are already in laptops, this may further push towards smaller drives as flash technology shrinks.

Really? (1)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892899)

A Troll mod for a bad joke? C'mon...

This could be useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892411)

Now Vista will boot in under five minutes.

Re:This could be useful (3, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892691)

Isn't the minimum disk requirement for Windows Vista set at 40GB? I'm not sure if you would have enough room on a 32GB flash drive to run Vista and minesweeper.

Re:This could be useful (3, Funny)

Celt (125318) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893165)

Dell have a special OEM version of Vista that doesn't include minesweeper, this free's up 10GB and allows it to run on the flash drive

I hope the Sony drives ... (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892425)

... aren't made by their battery division. ;-)

Requiem for Macintosh: 36% Growth (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892511)

The artists moved to the Mac in 1984 for the user interface to make their art. They generated applications, hypercard stacks,applescripts, performance spaces like the apple store soho would eventually become, text and picture clippings, art galleries (tekserve).etc., due to their highly developed aesthetics.

these artists-- these creative designers, musicians, scientists, and programmers-- stayed on the Mac during the interregnum when apple was a decaying mess and, respecting the Gestalt manager, built their applications out of dilapidated but beautiful Toolbox code.

The pencil-pushers and accountning brats saw all of this and said, "Hey, that looks cool." "Daddy buy me some of that." But these switcheurs have nothing to contribute except a talent for demanding crap like glossy screens. just what the fuck are you spreadsheet fiddlers doing? nothing beyond fueling the demand for ugly, tragically misdesigned, cookie-cutter applications like Firefox and Azureus. That is why the Mac community has so rapidly gone into its Rococco stage.

The Mac community continues to change and it is becoming very clear that we are loosing our edge-- the subcultures that once thrived on the Mac are all loosing steam to the mainstream. art, music, nightlife, web development. The Mac is so over. very sad indeed.

Re:Requiem for Macintosh: 36% Growth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892541)

what does this have to do with the parent, the topic or with Mac being over? I'm not sure but did you even post into the right topic?

Re:I hope the Sony drives ... (0, Offtopic)

www.famousstamps.org (1093883) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892735)

Lol.. yeah so what happens when the battery uh.. runs out?

Re:I hope the Sony drives ... (0)

DeadChobi (740395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893339)

Umm, the same thing that happens to a USB flash drive? Does your digital camera lose its pictures when you take the batteries out?

Re:I hope the Sony drives ... (1)

www.famousstamps.org (1093883) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893523)

Ohh right, I thought it just disappears haha Whoops.

How would I know if the HDD failed... (5, Funny)

ForestGrump (644805) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892433)

How would I know if the HDD failed if it no longer has the "click of death"?

Re:How would I know if the HDD failed... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892753)

The "click of death" has been replaced by the "bit bucket clang" to indicate a dying hard drive.

Re:How would I know if the HDD failed... (2, Interesting)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892903)

You may have been joking, but I'd be seriously interested in knowing this. How exactly does flash memory behave when it fails? The last thing anyone wants is for their drive to silently corrupt data.

Re:How would I know if the HDD failed... (4, Informative)

crabpeople (720852) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893001)

Same way as most hard drives: Delayed write fails, disk errors in event viewer, devloping bad blocks, frequently needing chkdsks, bsods.. HDDS make a big fuss when they are failing. Its way easier to diagnose than most things. When in doubt, ghost it and see if theres a performance improvement with the new drive.

That said, ive had flash drives go from working fine to dead in a few short static induced moments. As these drives will be inside the PC and far less likely to be treated like a portable drive, hopefully it won't have those over handling issues.

secure deletion (1)

infolation (840436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893035)

...and how can data be recovered from a flash HD if it fails or is overwritten? Is there a flash-ram equivalent to scanning tunnelling electron microscopy data recovery?

Would a flash HD laptop be the ideal solution for the paranoid? Would this be a way of running an operating system without leaving any unwanted traces of previous activity without needing to boot from a live CD or scrubbing the HD with darius boot and nuke?

Re:How would I know if the HDD failed... (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893573)

How would I know if the HDD failed if it no longer has the "click of death"?

We former owners of Deathstar/Deskstar drives affectionately call that the "Death Rattle".

yussss (2, Interesting)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892443)

is three and a half times less likely to fail when compared with HDDs currently available for the Latitude

Ok... now seriously, how reliable are the normal hard drives to begin with? 2 days x 3.5 = a week. yay!

Re:yussss (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893175)

As someone who supports Dell machines (and no, I'm not a Dell employee), I can attest that in a corporate environment most drives last well into the warranty, if not, past the warranty end date. Our biggest client uses a mix of 90% dell, 10% HP machines. They even fork out for extended warranties just because the machines are so reliable.

We even support older machines that are way out of warranty with a support contract, good old Dell GX150's (P-III, early P-IV). There are some even with original 9GB HDDs in them, which only get replaced due to lack of space, and not from failures.

Twofo (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892453)

Dell is for faggots [twofo.co.uk]

Re:Twofo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18893559)

Their computers don't burn very well and let off icky fumes. I prefer cedar chips and hickory logs myself.

Wow (1)

www.famousstamps.org (1093883) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892459)

That is so cool.. no more spinning harddisks. YYYeeaahh Baby!!

Re:Wow (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893535)

Sounds like a quieter computer to me. Every little bit helps. I use my computer to make music and video and although my computer has gotten quieter over the years, thanks to clever engineering and cooling technology, it would be nice to have no moving parts at all.

You don't realize how loud these things can be until you turn them off.

Re:Wow (1)

wwpublishing (1093863) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893555)

Oh yeah.. so true. My 10k RPM Drive is insanely loud. Flash would be a lot faster too right?

Less likely to fail? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892467)

"and is three and a half times less likely to fail when compared with HDDs currently available for the Latitude line" Dell said.

I wonder how they tested that. I would think the failure rate of a flash hard drive would be much better. Basic anything you can to break it, would probably also damage components on the motherboard.

Re:Less likely to fail? (2, Informative)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893421)

Is it just me or are there others out there who are bothered by statements like "three and a half times less likely to fail?" From a statistical standpoint, would it not be better to say "less than one-third as likely to fail?"

odd wording (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892479)

The only hitch comes with the price tag, which is set at a rather expensive price of $549.

At first read I thought "WOW!!! A laptop with a 32GB flash drive for $549, that's awesome!!!".

Then I realized that it's the flash drive OPTION that ADDS $549 to the price of the laptop (which I haven't bothered to go look up). Nice going.

Re:odd wording (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18893681)

Seriously, that was my reaction too...

Read/Write speed? (1)

Manos_Of_Fate (1092793) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892481)

I was under the impression that while flash drives boasted impressive read speeds, they were fairly plodding in the write speed department. Am I mistaken?

Re:Read/Write speed? (2, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892551)

> I was under the impression that while flash drives boasted impressive read speeds, they were fairly plodding in the write speed department. Am I mistaken?

If you're using an SSD in a laptop, you've got a pretty reliable way of powering a huge on-drive write cache. Even a "drained" laptop battery will have no trouble powering a solid state drive for a few seconds after the power-hungry CPU and display have shut down.

Re:Read/Write speed? (4, Insightful)

Echnin (607099) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892603)

Well, IMHO read spead is more important anyway, at least for most users. If you're going to work with a lot of data, you'll probably want a bigger drive than 32 GB anyway. Now, with faster read speed, applications such as Office and Photoshop and such will start up a lot faster. Swap file access will also be faster (arbuably, just installing 8 GB of RAM or whatever might be more economical and effective). Anyway, it'll be a lot *snappier*!

I wonder if we in the near future will see hybrid systems with flash-based drives for applications and swap space, and hard disk drives for data storage.

Re:Read/Write speed? (1)

prelelat (201821) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892739)

I think I remember reading about a drive that did just as your talking about, it had a hard drive platter but the most used files(say your swap or cache file) would be pulled to the solid state as well as the OS so that load times with the OS were faster but you had the cheaper storage. I could be wrong on any aspect of this idea, but I think I remember that..

Re:Read/Write speed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892857)

Robson technology [wikipedia.org]

Re:Read/Write speed? (4, Interesting)

harrkev (623093) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892769)

Swap file access will also be faster (arbuably, just installing 8 GB of RAM or whatever might be more economical and effective).
Not to stray to far off-topic, but you got me thinking...

At first I thought that you were correct about it being better to use more RAM, but the numbers just don't add up...

DRAM is just a capacitor and a transistor per cell. Any sort of flash memory is more complicated, as you have to provide programming voltages, floating gates, etc.

So, why is it that 1GB of DDR ram will cost about $40 and up, while you can easily get a 1GB USB drive for $10 or less.

Why the price difference? I thought that since DRAM is the densest possible memory, that it would also be cheaper per bit, but the prices on Newegg tell me differently.

I do realize that flash memory is a LOT slower and will wear out after a few years, but using flash for swap space seems like a very cost-effective way of doing things. As first I scoffed as Vista for doing this, but now I am not so sure.

Re:Read/Write speed? (1)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892939)

I could be totally wrong, but my guess is that the $40 RAM operates at a speed much higher than the $10 flash drive.

Re:Read/Write speed? (3, Interesting)

harrkev (623093) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893065)

True enough. However, the speed is a by-product of the design. The important factors in silicon production is:
* Raw silicon area (die size)
* Geometry (smaller features = more money)
* Process yield
* Wafer size
* Number of metal layers

Speed is more like a side-effect of the geometry, and the geometry affects the silicon area and yield.

It is just confusing to me how 1GB of SDRAM is a lot more expensive that 1GB of flash memory, when SDRAM should be smaller and cheaper to make.

Re:Read/Write speed? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893601)

Perhaps SDRAM is made in newer fabs.

Re:Read/Write speed? (4, Informative)

VCAGuy (660954) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893027)

At the end of the day, DRAM costs more than flash because of the frequencies they operate at and byte-addressability. DRAM runs at frequencies starting at 266MHz through the 1GHz range...at those frequencies, the process controls have to be very tight to keep defects down to a good level. Also, DRAM is byte-addressable, meaning that you can write/write just one byte from the DRAM. Byte-addressing means that there have to be row and column leads for every memory location. Further, because DRAM has to be refreshed on a regular basis, the chips have higher heat-dissipation requirements.

Flash memory, on the other hand, is block-addressable, meaning that it is erased and written in blocks (usually anywhere between 32K and 256K). As a consequence, reading flash memory is quick, but writing can be very slow. ...that's essentially why flash is cheaper.

Supply and Demand (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893355)

It's simply a matter of demand. As demand for a product goes up, the price goes up. Demand for DRAM is high, so the price is high. 1G flash drives just don't have the demand, especially with 4G, 16G and higher models in the market.

You're "write" (1)

Skadet (528657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892607)

I believe you're correct. According to the datasheet [sandisk.com] for the SanDisk 32GB:
Internal transfer read rate: 62MB/s
Internal transfer write rate: 36MB/s

Whereas, for example, the Maxtor MobileMax [seagate.com] 40GB drive (for comparison) says:
Sustained Internal (MB/s) 42

Maybe it averages out?

What's the power advantage? (3, Interesting)

Babbster (107076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892483)

It'll be interesting to find out how much battery life is extended by replacing the hard drive with flash. The performance advantage doesn't seem that impressive given the high cost, but if replacing traditional hard drives with flash can improve battery life significantly then it could be worthwhile - not only for "traditional" productivity, but for mobile gaming which is severely hindered by power considerations.

Re:What's the power advantage? (4, Informative)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892803)

SSD Sata is 220 ma @ 5v.
SSD IDE is 37 ma @ 5v.
source [memorydepot.com]

2.5" 7200rpm IDE on full seek 460 ma @ 5v
2.5" 5400rpm SATA on full seek 420 ma @ 5v
source [logicsupply.com] (I think my calculations are correct)

With the increased seek speed of SSD I'd rather go with the IDE SSD because of the huge power savings.

$549 ???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892485)

I don't know highrolers whom have that much to spend? It's like 5 OLPCs!!!

Re:$549 ???? (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892837)

A D420 is a relatively-nice laptop. I think one page on Michael Dell's corporate-blog thing mentioned that he used one himself. It is hard to configure a usable D420 for less than a couple $K.

Flash Disks (1)

normuser (1079315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893287)

Watch for flash disk sales. afew months ago I got some 1GB SD cards for US$10 each.
One of those is enough to install your OS. then one or two for data and your good.

Great for students (3, Insightful)

geek (5680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892487)

I know that I've risked a lot of HDD damage over the years at school, lugging this laptop around, dropping it in hallways etc. If the rpice was right and the drive a bit larger, say 70g I'd be very interested. 32g is a little small for me, but on the right track.

Re:Great for students (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892605)

Actually it's 54mm x 8mm x 71mm and weighs 59g. Why would 70g be better?

Re:Great for students (1)

emj (15659) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892717)

My hard drives weighs in at 40GB and I had no problem replacing it with a CF card at 16GB.

Re:Great for students (1)

ross.w (87751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892703)

Wait six months or so. You'll get your wish.

Re:Great for students (2, Interesting)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893141)

A 32gb flash HD is a GREAT idea. Seems to me, one could make a laptop with a REALY small form factor and spend time protecting other things (Screen, keyboard) then worries about drive saftey. 32gb is plenty for the opsys and a few files. As to other stuff (movies, music); get a external 2.5 enclosure preferably with a firewire port. Firewire needs no external power support on a 2.5 enclosure and, you can get up to a good 100gb using regular tech. Most times you don't need the external anyway so why lug it around; stash the class notes on the flash and head towards the dorm to finish the paper and store permanant on the normal drive. best of both worlds...

Re:Great for students (1)

La Fortezza (690838) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893693)

That's a great idea EXCEPT I have yet to see a non-Apple laptop with a powered 6-pin firewire plug. Yeah, you can get an add-on PCMCIA firewire adapter with 6 pin plugs but of the ones I've seen, they too are un-powered.

Wowie! (1, Funny)

Wylfing (144940) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892489)

Flesh-based laptops, woohoo!

Oh...darn.

Re:Wowie! (2, Funny)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893111)

You're not one of those people who prefer a nipple to a touchpad, are you?

Neat to see (2, Interesting)

Skadet (528657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892521)

It's neat to see a consumer-level incarnation of this technology. I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that solid-state storage will be the norm in portable devices where impact is a real liability -- after all, the iPod kind of pioneered that. Even with impact-protection devices like the ones Apple has for their hard drives, physical damage is still a real-world problem. The faster access times are a welcome benefit, but for now are not the main focus. So, kudos to Dell. The "rather expensive" price will fall, and it'll become the norm. It will be interesting to see how much more bloated apps become when access time isn't an issue.

Re:Neat to see (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892825)

It will be interesting to see how much more bloated apps become when access time isn't an issue.

Yes, but massively increasing the price of storage, and reducing the maximum capasity, will help fight other bloat too.

Jack Valenti, Dead at 85 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892885)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - Former MPAA leader and loyal Democrat Jack Valenti was found dead in his Washington home this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon.

Devils Advocate (2, Interesting)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892531)

This is a long time coming, and I'm excited about this but has anyone really considered that one of the benefits of mechanical storage is that the data can still be pretty easily recovered if the hdd isn't bootable any longer. How easy or difficult would it be to recover data from an SSD drive if it isn't bootable? I'm thinking that putting it in the freezer just isn't going to work any more.

Re:Devils Advocate (1)

bcat24 (914105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892999)

Couldn't you just connect the SSD to another computer as a secondary device and access the undamaged data, like you can do with hard drives right now?

Re:Devils Advocate (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893465)

I disagree because you will be able to use a logic levels to read the data. So instead of having more specialized hardware you will need more specialized software and some minor hardware hacking (hack an old usb key) to get the data out. I would also guess that there probably be less random data corruption compared to magnetic problems of HDD. Can any experts on stuff like this comment, because I just did a lot of guess work (^^;

two questions (4, Interesting)

free space (13714) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892573)

1- Why only 23% faster? I thought mechanical HDD's were the bottleneck in modern computers and that replacing them with purely electornic components would make the machine run many times faster.

2- Must the users permenantly use the solid state drive, or can it be replaced/hotswapped with a normal hard drive when storage capacity is needed more than speed?

Re:two questions (5, Informative)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892669)

Flash-based drives have MUCH lower latency than spindle-based disks. If your drive has an average seek time of, say, 15 milliseconds, you're limitted to about 60 I/O operations per second no matter how little bandwidth you're using. While the actual transfer speed of flash is roughly similar to a current hard drive, the decrease in latency will be very appreciated in some situations.

CAN have lower latency (4, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893521)

Flash-based drives have MUCH lower latency than spindle-based disks.

That should read "CAN have much lower latency." I've seen USB flash drives tested that had +100ms seek times, and it's not always the 5-6MB/sec class drives; some of the 10-20MB/sec flash drives were this bad. The fastest USB keys are around half a ms or so, which is perhaps a 8x improvement over the fastest magnetic drives.

Flash memory can be glacially slow, have limited number of write cycles and poor reliability, and controllers can be slow as well- and as this stuff gets more into the mainstream, I guarantee some companies will use cheap components to boost profit margins or undercut competitors. We're already seen it in the USB flash drive market; I've witnessed at least a couple of these things get corrupted or stop working after daily use in an office environment, and they were all pretty much no-name brands or freebies.

This competition isn't entirely a bad thing, as the cheap junk will put some pressure on the "good guys" pricing-wise, but the tradeoff is that we'll have to look before we leap with the credit card.

Re:two questions (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892835)

#1- That was my thought also. The time it takes for a computer to boot is mostly due to the "slow" transfer of files from the HD. You would think it would boot a LOT faster and run a lot faster. The answer is probably that if you have enough memory on your computer, you aren't using your HD that much, mainly for loading programs and booting, the rest of the time it is running from memory that is faster than flash mem or the HD anyway.

Re:two questions (1)

NC-17 (411446) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892905)

Sandisk has a demo of laptop boot/shutdown times on youtube here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=SBhj56gIUuA [youtube.com]

It impressed me, sign me up when the 64gb ssds are ~$200.

What About The Number-Of-Writes Limitation? (4, Interesting)

Steve B (42864) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892627)

Don't flash drives crap out after a few hundred thousand writes? That may not be a problem for most people's data and apps, but it would play hell with a Windows swap file. (Can a swap file be load-balanced to different parts of the flash drive without overhead that would lose much of the advantages of replacing a hard disk?)

Re:What About The Number-Of-Writes Limitation? (1)

ross.w (87751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892725)

Safest way around this is to have more regular memory. If you have two gig or more you aren't likely to need a swap file unless you are rendering video or something. You shouldn't be using a laptop like this one for that.

Re:What About The Number-Of-Writes Limitation? (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892731)

More like 10 million writes.

I would certainly hope and expect that the flash drive has some kind of wear averaging so that repetitively writing to the swap file moves the hot bits around the harddrive.

Re:What About The Number-Of-Writes Limitation? (3, Informative)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892765)

According to the SPEC sheet, the MTTF was 2,000,000 hours. Which is above nearly every HD out there. I'd probably be correct in assuming that they figured the write-limit into their testing.

high MTTF != reliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18893433)

Actually, the so-called 1 million hr MTTF 'enterprise' hard drives are no more reliable than their economical counterparts. [slashdot.org] In the case of flash-based drive, there aren't even any known long-term reliability reports, so the estimate means nothing.

flash is not so bad (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892791)

Back in the 80's that was true. Modern flash designs last longer and are more reliable -- more on the order of 10 million writes (actually, 10 million block erases---you can change 1's to 0's in an individual byte any time you want, but you can't change them back without erasing a rather large chunk at once, usually like 64K). And even then, your OS might be able to detect the bad blocks and avoid using them, allowing the other 98% of the blocks, that haven't had as many writes, to keep being used.

Conventional hard drives wear out and break too. I'm guessing these flash drives last longer than today's conventional hard drives.

Re:What About The Number-Of-Writes Limitation? (1)

migmog-gomgim (1080877) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892883)

Also, how are they coping with the fundamental limitations of flash? As I understand it, on flash you can write a few sectors at one time, you can read as much as you like at a time, but you can't OVERwrite data in place, instead you have to write it somewhere else, and keep a note interally that the original location is now invalid and ought to be erased. Also you have to erase in BIG chunks which takes a long time. AND you also have to copy any data which is still valid to some other location before you can erase. In other words - LOADS of overhead.

So, to fit a filesystem such as NTFS which was designed around the assumption that you can write and overwrite without restriction onto a flash device, there must be a big overhead in marshalling all this data into the flash.

In addition, the device has to do wear levelling in order to prolong its life given the limit of X write-erase cycles. AND NTFS is notoriously bad for fragmentation. How does the device cope with that?

How would such a device cope with a swapfile, which may have small parts of it being overwritten VERY frequently?

Perhaps this should only be used on a machine with sufficent RAM that swap is not required....????

I'd be very interested in a real life review of a machine with a flash hard drive. I bet there are going to be all sorts of problems with it cropping up over time.

Re:What About The Number-Of-Writes Limitation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18893557)

That reminds me that if you use tools such as Sysinternal's (now Microsoft's) FileMon, RegMon, or Process Monitor, you will notice that Windowze XP keeps on overwriting the same file and registry over and over every few seconds, even when the system is idle, has no connection, and has no scheduled tasks. If you think it's bad that virtual memory goes corrupt, just imagine what will 1 million write cycles do to the registry!

Re:What About The Number-Of-Writes Limitation? (1)

Timoteo47 (1080787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893159)

Flash drive technology has advanced over the years including increased the number of writes you can make to the memory cell. Also, the drives use a wear leveling algorithm to spread writes evenly across the entire disk. This is all transparent to the OS. This is really cool stuff and I can't wait to replace the HDD in my laptop. [sandisk.com]

Re:What About The Number-Of-Writes Limitation? (1)

LnxAddct (679316) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893451)

That was the case 5 years ago. Flash drives have long since matched and beaten regular harddrives on reads/writes. The only aspect where they aren't superior to spindle based hard drives is in cost.
Regards,
Steve

a step in the right direction (2, Insightful)

techtakeaway (1093005) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892633)

it's just what laptops needed, and the flash hard drives will only get bigger in capacity.. the fastest drives like SCSI & the 10kRPM SATA2, have always been a bit smaller than their larger slower counterparts. If you need storage on a laptop, get a 500gb drive and put it in an external enclosure, having windows running off a flash drive sounds like it should be great.

Re:a step in the right direction (1)

DFJA (680282) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892893)

having windows running off a flash drive sounds like it should be great.
and having Linux running off a flash driver would be even better.

The REAL use: Ruggidized laptops... (3, Interesting)

nweaver (113078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892657)

This would be REALLY good for a ruggidized laptop, as vibration + HDDs are not a pretty combination.

Also, I'd assume this would help on the power budget, and really speed random-access workloads.

Is the flash removable? (4, Insightful)

microbee (682094) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892721)

It'd be very handy if the flash could be removed and carried in pocket.

I wonder.... (1)

volpe (58112) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892789)

... what the price/performance ratio would be if you took an ordinary 200GB 7200 RPM HDD, dropped the speed down to 4500 RPM, and put in, say, 4 GB of level-2 cache (on top of the 2-8 MB DRAM cache) in flash memory.

Re:I wonder.... (2, Informative)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892897)

Isn't that close to what Vista has with ReadyBoost [msdn.com] ?

Mod parent informative (1)

volpe (58112) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893203)

It seems to be. I wasn't previously aware of ReadyBoost. Thanks for the link.

Re:I wonder.... (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893639)

You would nearly half the transfer rate of the drive by dropping the rotational speed. Access time is important when you can not cache the files to memory on read. If you read up on ready boost or whatever vista calls it it seems to only matter on memory starved systems so I would rather put 4GB of primary ram into a system than pay for 4GB of flash on a disk. Sure if your already maxed out in ram (a very expensive proposition for my idea of a workstation) it might start making a difference. The best bang for the buck to increase raw drive performance is raid as most OS's support it in software with very little overhead 2 drives can double your disk performance. Now having said that I would love to see ready boost or similar with something like those asus sata ram cards.

Works like a charm (2, Interesting)

emj (15659) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892799)

I have been doing this on and of for two years, I first bought a 1GB CF and placed it in my PC CARD port so I could use my basic stuff with out using the harddrive. It was very nice, but sadly a bit slow, I think it was the PC-CARD -> IDE converter that was the problem. Then a year ago I bought a IDE 2.5" -> CF converter and a 2GB flash, and it works wonderfullly. The 2 GB is enough for most things, and I get no HD heat, nor noise from it. Wonderfull.

Though the CF converter or CF card I have doesn't support UDMA, which still makes things slow, but it's ok.

Current setup:
X40 + 1GB DRAM + 4GB CF

Clunky?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18892813)

A very loaded word.
Now you can replace your Clunky HD with a Expensive, Tiny, Slow Flash drive.
Not quite on the level of the Optical Mouse vs the Ball Mouse.

those seem like pretty crappy specs (1)

llZENll (545605) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892909)

23 percent faster? 3 times less likely to fail? what the hell is going on here? a flash device with 32GB should be able to be striped like crazy and give 100-10000 times the transfer rates than HDD, and with almost 0 access times compared to HDD, they should be 1000 times faster to seek, giving a 100000 - 10000000 times performance increase.

Also with no moving parts they should be about 100-10000 times less likely to fail. And should use about 100x or less power than HDDs. Who is designing these things?

What is special about the hdd versions? (2, Informative)

vanyel (28049) | more than 7 years ago | (#18892979)

I've recently tried to install centos and freebsd on various cf cards with an ide adapter (my home router's hard disk is dying), and neither are happy, getting timeouts and various errors. My understanding is that the cf interface is ide, so why should it be a problem?

Re:What is special about the hdd versions? (1)

emj (15659) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893585)

I have no problem at all.. Must be your adapters.

Not quite big enough (1)

AbsoluteXyro (1048620) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893225)

I'll be all over this when the drive sizes start approaching 100GB. Seems perfect for a laptop. Maybe I'm just hard on my stuff, but my laptop drives are always, always fucking up.

Re:Not quite big enough (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893563)

Buy three and use RAID0.

"Old clunky" hard disk drives? (1)

dfsmith (960400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893321)

Why doesn't Dell supply "new quiet" hard disk drives that the rest of the world uses? B-)

Does anyone have random small block write performance figures?

$540 hd with $15 POS gma 950 video (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893365)

and it comes with windows vista eating up 15GB of that 32gb HD.

Effect on battery life? (2, Insightful)

steppin_razor_LA (236684) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893403)

I'd be very interested to know what sort of effects this has on battery life? I'm not sure how much energy the CPU vs Screen vs HD consume...

RAID? (1)

scooter.higher (874622) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893549)

But can you put a few of these flash drives into a RAID array?

High-profile customer? (1)

TopSpin (753) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893609)

The only hitch comes with the price tag, which is set at a rather expensive price of $549.
While I've seen many people saddled with low-end laptops I have never spent less than $2K for a personal laptop or had an employer pay less for hardware with which I was expected to do my job. Breaking $2K for a laptop is easy; just spec enough resolution and RAM for the desktop replacement role and you're there. I have also spent >$500 on good disks for both personal and professional use.

I predict Dell will be surprised by the number of customers that opt for this. Disks are slow, vulnerable power sinks. A laptop with a solid-state disk offers a lot of value. These disks are small but size is only one factor; speed, reliability and efficiency are all equally valid and flash disks measure up well.

Yes, this is early adopter stuff, but $500 is not a deal killer even now. Doesn't really matter much; a year or two from now and it'll be $250-300 and 4-5 years from now it will be default on all but low end products. Think of it this way; prior to sufficiently large solid-state disks the only option was traditional hard drives. All of the people who might have paid more but couldn't now have a choice. Guaranteed success.

Flesh-Based (1)

General Wesc (59919) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893621)

Is this human flesh or other?

In the past.... (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893653)

I recall a day when a mother board could come with just a little bit of cache onboard, and if you wanted more cache, you could buy chips and stick them into the available sockets..... .....Why don't we do this for long term storage now? Seriously, I would love to buy an SATA "Hard Card" (not to be confused with the old HDD on an ISA slot) that had sockets left open. Six months from now when even MORE dense memory comes out, I would love to just insert chips into those sockets and double my drive space. If made properly, with the obvious expectation of losing data, I wouldn't mind removing some originals for more dense storage. The idea of a USB Thumbdrive array has come to mind, that would be a nice desktop storage box where you send your old thumbdrives to pasture, but it doesn't make much sense on laptop, or even normal desktop scale. How hard would it really be to make upgradeable storage like this? Remember, GParted is your friend

Business (1)

massysett (910130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18893699)

This will definitely ensure the laptop is set for a very high-profile consumer.

Not really; Dell markets the Latitudes to enterprises. Even with a $549 drive a Latitude is still cheaper than many Thinkpads.
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