Don't think laptops will go faster with Flash memory technology, because according to a new report, it doesn't make any difference if you use it or normal hard drives.
An Inquirer report looked at the boost in performance from adding a SanDisk solid state drive to a laptop. Compared to a notebook with the usual hard drive, it was only five seconds faster to start up - SanDisk claimed it would be 20 seconds faster than a 55-second Windows Vista boot time.
Paying $600 for 32GB of flash to gain a five seconds faster boot and longer battery life doesn't seem like a great idea then, not when a conventional hard drive costs less than $100 for 80GB.
RAM-based solid state drives are faster than flash memory-based ones but are vastly more expensive at over $1,000 per GB, well over fifty times more expensive than SanDisk's flash drive. The SanDisk flash is also faster at writing than reading data; the wrong profile for a faster boot time. Samsung thought a flash hard drive would decrease boot time by 8 to 25 seconds.
The point here is that the flash drive doesn't simply accelerate all and any boot operations. It needs careful interaction between the flash memory controller and the operating system to produce speed improvements. The first generation controllers and version one of Vista haven't got the interaction right yet.
This notebook PC flash ineffectiveness tallies with information from Chinese PC manufacturer Lenovo. It looked at hard drives with added flash cache and the Intel idea of a flash cache on the motherboard. Competitive analysis Matt Kohut wrote: "We at Lenovo have been testing these drives and determining whether it is the right technology that we want to offer on our notebooks in the future. Frankly, we're underwhelmed at the performance we're seeing from first generation flash-assisted technology, both in battery life gains and in performance gains. Obviously this technology is still undergoing growing pains."
Windows Vista can make use of flash-enabled drives and a flash-enabled motherboard through its ReadyDrive feature but Windows XP can not. The Intel way of using flash on the motherboard is said to be supported by Windows XP.
Concerning flash drives, Kohut's advice is: "Skip the first generation of this technology and instead spend your money on extra system memory or higher performance HDDs. If you were going to buy 1GB, buy 2GB instead. If you were going to by a 80GB 5400 rpm HDD, buy the 7200 rpm instead. You'll be much happier with the performance overall."
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