Samsung readies hybrid drive with flash memory

Think of it as the Toyota Prius of of hard disk drives

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. next week plans to unveil a prototype hard disk drive that can improve system performance and extend battery life on laptops, the company said today.

The drive is called a hybrid hard disk drive, because it includes flash memory storage space in addition to the usual magnetic disk storage. The flash memory acts as a storage buffer, holding data until it's full and only then writing the data to the disk.

This cuts down on the amount of disk activity -- typically the new drive spins only a few seconds every 10 or 20 minutes -- which means battery life is extended by between 8% and 10%, according to Samsung's measurements.

There are also performance benefits, because data stored in the buffer can be read by the PC much faster than if it had to be pulled off the hard disk. On boot-up, a computer with a hybrid drive should start between 8 seconds and 25 seconds faster, Samsung said.

Two prototype versions of the drive will be on display at Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle. The prototypes will have either 128MB or 256MB of flash memory. Samsung expects to begin delivering sample drives to customers in the third quarter and to start shipping in volume in January 2007.

Microsoft is building support for hybrid drives into Windows Vista under the name ReadyDrive.

It's one of a number of technologies the company is building into the new operating system to help improve system performance. These include ReadyBoost, which allows a removable flash memory device to act as system memory, thus providing an instant memory boost without having to install new RAM boards, and SuperFetch, which preloads frequently used applications into memory to improve system responsiveness.

Windows Vista is expected to be available to business customers around the end of this year and to consumers in January 2007. 

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon