Sony will replace hard disks with flash memory when it launches a new model of its Vaio U laptop next week, it has announced.

The computer will be one of the first on the market that uses flash memory in place of magnetic storage.

Flash has long been eyed as a potential replacement for hard-disk drives because it's lighter, runs silently, offers faster data access and uses less power, but price has always been an obstacle.

The cost per bit of flash storage is still more expensive than hard disk drives, but it has fallen to a level where some PC makers are experimenting with flash drives.

The Vaio UX90 will come with 16G bytes of flash memory storage in place of the 30G-byte hard-disk drive on the original model. It will cost around ¥210,000 (US$1,805), or about ¥40,000 more expensive than the disk-based model, and go on sale in Japan on July 3.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. launched a couple of PCs with flash storage earlier this month. The Q30 laptop and Q1 ultra mobile PC both use Samsung's "solid state disk," which packs 32G bytes of NAND flash memory into a case the same size as a 1.8-inch hard-disk drive.

Samsung is the world's largest manufacturer of flash memory.