Samsung says it could deliver 256GB solid-state drives next year, quadrupling the capacity of SSDs it currently ships to PC makers.

Samsung recently plugged 64GB SSDs into Lenovo's ThinkPad X300 laptops, which only have SSD storage built in, said Jim Elliott, vice president of memory marketing. Samsung is due to ship samples of 128GB SSDs in the middle of this year.

The 128GB samples will only reach hardware makers, and Samsung will continue to work with PC makers like Lenovo and Dell to deliver SSD drives in capacities from 64G bytes to 128GB, Elliott said.

He wouldn’t say whether Samsung would make SSD drives available directly to consumers, or comment more on 256GB SSDs other than that they could be out next year. Samsung is trying to double SSD capacity every 12 months, he said.

Samsung believes that, in the long term, SSDs may replace hard drives as primary storage for notebook PCs because they are lightweight, power-efficient and fast. It argues its SATA II SSD drive is two to five times faster than conventional hard drives, weighs 73 grams and consumes 30 percent less power.

SSDs are prohibitively pricey – about US$600 (£300) for a 64GB single-level cell (SLC) SSD. However the cost-per-GB equation will improve once the industry moves to more cost-effect multilevel cell (MLC) SSDs by the second half of 2008, Elliott claimed.

Others point out that SLCs are roughly twice as fast and much more reliable than MLCs.

"MLC SSDs… are having a difficult time proving the performance and reliability" compared to SLC SSDs, analyst Joe Unsworth at Gartner said. However, MLC SSDs are less than half the cost of SLC SSDs, he conceded.

Samsung’s Elliott is optimistic that a drop in prices could improve adoption of SSDs and stabilise a slowing NAND flash market.

Concerns about the economy and consumer spending recently prompted research firm iSuppli to slash its NAND flash revenue forecast for 2008, and Intel warned earlier this week that low prices for NAND flash memory chips will have a greater financial impact during the first quarter than company officials had initially anticipated.

Samsung was not a SSD player until recently, but has done well positioning SSDs with the major PC makers like Dell, Lenovo, Apple and Hewlett-Packard, Gartner's Unsworth said.