Solid-State Disk Lackluster for Laptops, PCs

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Even vendors that sell SSD admit that when it comes to speed, there's little advantage at the consumer level (see "Performance showdown: Flash drives versus hard disk drives").

"Some SSDs out there are slower in writes than hard disk drives. It depends on how much you're writing at once. If it's 10MB, then it's probably on par with hard disk drives, but if you're talking 1GB, probably not," Gartner's Unsworth says.

Pat Wilkison, vice president of business development at flash memory maker STEC Inc., says the performance in SSD products varies greatly. STEC sells high-end flash memory to enterprise-class storage companies such as EMC, which uses the product in its high-end Symmetrix and midrange Clariion storage arrays.

"The class of product EMC needs is fundamentally different from what notebooks need," Wilkison says. "The reality is that performance varies depending on the applications running on it. Random write speeds are horrible. And guess what? As PC users, writes are important."

Western Digital Corp.'s fastest PC hard disk drive is the 3.5-in., 10,000rpm VelociRaptor, which has 300GB capacity. According to Computerworld's tests, the VelociRaptor racked up a 250.3MB/sec. burst speed, the highest we've ever recorded for a mechanical drive. Its average read/write rate was 105.6MB/sec. List price: $300.

Western Digital's fastest laptop drive is 2.5-in., 7,200rpm Scorpio Black, which has up to 320GB capacity. According our tests, the drive's average read rate is 63.8MB/sec. and its burst read rate is a screaming 238.8MB/sec. List price: $230.

In April, Computerworld tested two other top hard disk drives against the two top SSD drives at the time. The results showed little advantage for the SSDs.

The drives included the following:

32GB Crucial Internal 2.5-in. SATA SSD

32GB Ridata 2.5-in. SATA SSD

250GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 3.5-in. SATA hard drive

200GB Seagate Momentus 7200.2 2.5-in. SATA hard drive.

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