For fans of solid-state drives (SSD) laptop drives, some good news and some bad. SSD prices are plunging, but they turn out to use a lot more power than has been claimed.

The price news comes from OCZ’s announcement that it is offering a range of fast SSDs at prices that start to make the technology look like a viable upgrade for some users.

The new Core series comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB, with prices of $169 (approx £85), $259 (approx £130) and $479 (approx £230) respectively. This is still well above what you’ll pay for a conventional 2.5 inch drive – 120GB drives can be had for around £40, but that misses the point. A 32GB drive could be used as a primary ‘performance’ drive with the secondary storage coming in spinning form. Many rivals, meanwhile, sell these capacities for $1,000 and up.

Laptop users pay attention. OCZ claims that as well as being 40 percent faster than HDDs, the Core series uses 50 percent less power. Not according to Tom’s Hardware which tested a range of SLC-based SSDs using Mobilemark 07 and found that, on the contrary, they appear to increase power consumption. They didn’t test the new OCZ Core drive, but the results look to be indicative of any SSD on current power design parameters.

The reason? Today’s SSDs draw full power when in use while HDDs reduce power consumption when the read/write heads are not actually in use, which is most of the time when not over-caching (think Vista on 1Gb RAM). This could be corrected with some sort of power consumption technology being built into the SSDs to detect periods of low use, but that doesn’t appear to have been thought important by the designers.

That will change, more so if people start buying them in any quantities and come up against the power consumption issue.

If we assume these results to be correct, the lesson is this: always buy the second (and improved) generation of any new technology. To lead is still, some of the time, to bleed, however attention-grabbing the price falls look.