Samsung Electronics is set to launch two portable computers that use flash memory in place of a hard-disk drive for data storage, the company said Tuesday.

Flash memory has long been eyed as a potential replacement for hard-disk drive technology because it works faster, is lighter and more shock-resistant, but it's still more expensive than a hard-disk drive. Despite the costs, flash memory chip prices are coming down to a range that some specialist users might be willing pay for the benefits.

Samsung has built 32GB of NAND flash memory into a case the same size as a 1.8-inch hard-disk drive. The so-called "solid state disk" (SSD) has the same interface as a hard-disk drive, so it can be directly substituted with little extra work required.

There are several benefits to using flash memory, said Samsung. The flash drives can withstand about twice the impact as would cripple a similar hard-disk, and are much less affected by harsh environmental conditions. Read speed is 300 percent faster and write speed 150 percent faster than a hard-disk drive, so Windows boots faster and data can be loaded more quickly. The solid-state disks also make no noise when in use.

Until now Samsung has been coy on the price of the drives but with the announcement of the two new computers - a version of its Q1 ultramobile PC and Q30 laptop - the price premium is clear.

The Q1-SSD will cost 2.3 million won (US$2,452) and the Q30-SSD will cost 3.5 million won. Equivalent models of the same computers with hard-disk drives cost 1.2 million won and around 2.6 million won, respectively, putting the SSD premium at about US$1,175.

Samsung said nothing has been decided regarding an overseas launch of the SSD-based computers.

Other computer makers are expected to soon announce computers with flash memory-based drives. Samsung, which is a leading maker of flash memory, has started offering the drive to its customers. Sony last week said it planned to use an SSD in a new version of its UX50 portable PC due around the middle of this year.