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Samsung shows flash-disk based laptop


Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has developed a higher-capacity version of its solid-state disk (SSD), a flash-memory based replacement for hard-disk drives, and is showing it at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, this week.


The drive packs 32G bytes of flash memory into a case the same size as a 1.8-inch, hard-disk drive. That capacity is double the 16G bytes of a prototype device announced by Samsung last year and was made possible by the continuing miniaturization of flash-memory chip technology.

At Cebit the solid-state disk is being demonstrated inside a Samsung laptop computer. Because the SSD is the same size and shape as the computer's hard-disk drive it was relatively easy to replace the hard-disk drive with the SSD, said Yun Mini, a spokeswoman for Samsung.

The SSD technology has three major benefits over hard-disk drives, said Yun. The first is that data access is faster. This could be seen when the SSD-based laptop was booted up alongside the same model machine with a hard-disk drive. The desktop appeared on the screen of the SSD laptop in about 18 seconds while the hard-disk drive-based computer took about 31 seconds to reach the same point.

The second advantage comes in durability. Because there are no moving parts in the SSD it is much better at withstanding shock and unlikely that data will be lost if the laptop is dropped. The third major advantage is that it works silently, said Yun.

But for all these advantages there is a major hurdle that needs to be overcome before SSD can reach mass market -- price. Flash memory costs around US$30 per gigabyte so the memory needed for the 32G byte drive works out to about $960, before any other costs are taken into account.

Samsung thinks there are some military or industrial customers that have specialist applications that would benefit from the SSD and so might be more willing to pay a premium.

"At this moment it would be very expensive," said Yun, "but technology is moving very fast so in the near future it could be cheaper."

Prices for flash memory are coming down. In May last year, when Samsung first announced the technology, the flash memory price was about $55 per gigabyte. So it might just be a matter of time before such disks hit the mass market.

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