SanDisk unveils new SSDs for laptops and netbooks at CES

It's positioning them as replacement drives for existing hardware

SanDisk Corp. unveiled its next-generation solid-state drives (SSDs) at the International CES. One series is aimed at the hot netbook market and the other at laptops. The company's new higher-performance SSD for laptops are priced at less than $250 for a 120GB model and are being positioned as a "drop-in replacement" for hard disk drives to extend the life of existing hardware.

The new G3 notebook and pSSD netbook drives boast sequential read/write speeds of 200MB/sec. and 140MB/sec., respectively.

If those performance claims pan out, the drive would surpass Intel's 10-channel consumer-class X25-M SSD drives for write speeds. The X25-M model has a sequential read and write rate of up to 250MB/sec. and 70MB/sec., respectively.

The new laptop drives boast sequential read/write speeds of 200MB/sec. and 140MB/sec., respectively.
SanDisk's 3G notebook SSD drives

Samsung also sells a faster SSD that comes in 256GB capacities. That 2.5-in. drive with SATA II interface has up to 220MB/sec. sequential read rates and 200MB/sec. write rates. Samsung is only selling the drive through reseller channels. On, however, a 32GB version of Samsung's 2.5-in., SATA II interface SSD, is selling for $299.

SanDisk's new pSSD-P2 and SanDisk pSSD-S2 SSDs for netbooks are 1.8-in. drives built on SanDisk's 43-nanometer multilevel cell NAND flash memory. They are expected to become available in February in 8GB, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities.

"Netbooks represent the fastest-growing PC segment in 2009 and 2010, yet widespread adoption of SSDs in netbooks has been limited by speed, capacity and cost constraints," Rich Heye, general manager of SSDs at SanDisk, said in a statement.

Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist with market research firm In-Stat Inc., said SanDisk's drives represent a "tipping point" for solid state disk.

"I think we're finally getting to the point where solid state disk is living up to expectations," he said. "As long as you're exceeding the speed of hard drives and you're exceeding the anticipated lifespan, typically three years as far as a corporate warranty goes, then it makes sense."

McGregor said while SSDs are still more expensive than hard disk drives of equal capacity, research from In-Stat shows users are willing to pay a 4% to 5% premium for the advantages SSDs offer, such as faster throughput, lower power consumption and ruggedness.

While SanDisk sees its drives as a "drop-in" replacement for hard disk drives, McGregor said the drives won't be a big seller with consumers and are mainly targeted resellers such as Dell, and most of the drives will be sold in new machines, not as replacements for older drives.

SanDisk's new pSSD-P2 and pSSD-S2 netbook drives come in 8GB, 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities.
SanDisk's new 1.8-in. netbook drive

SanDisk did not release pricing for the new netbook SSD drives, saying only that a 32GB modular SSD is priced at parity with 2.5-in. HDDs in reseller quantities.

SanDisk's third-generation of 2.5-in. laptop SSDs are priced lower than other consumer SSDs on the market at $149 for a 60GB model, $249 for a 120GB version and $499 for a 240GB drive, according to Doreet Oren, marketing director for SanDisk's SSD business. The G3 series SSDs are expected to be available in mid-2009.

By comparison, Intel Corp.'s 80GB X25-M drive is priced at $595.

Oren said the G3 drives are also the fastest on the market today and are five times faster than 7,200-rpm hard drives and more than twice as fast as SanDisk's previous generation of notebook SSDs, offering 400 write IOPS and 4,000 read IOPS.

"This is definitely the fastest SSD on the market today. This is a totally new controller in these drives, with new flash management software -- Extreme FFS," Oren said.

SanDisk announced its Extreme FFS advanced flash file system in November, saying it is optimized to work with Windows Vista and has the potential to accelerate random write speeds by up to 100 times over those in existing systems.

SanDisk said it's hoping the new lower prices will prompt companies to choose SSD as a replacement for existing laptop hard drives instead of spending money on all new machines.

"These existing WinXP notebooks can be upgraded to a 60GB SSD for $149, resulting in a system that frequently outperforms a new notebook with a HDD, thereby delaying the need for large capital purchases," Heye said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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