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Sandisk announces $350 flash hard drive

Milpitas (CA) - Want to upgrade your notebook PC? If it is not capacity, but it is performance you are interested in, then Sandisk should soon have an option that could make you think twice: The company will be offering a NAND flash-based solid state disk (SSD) in a traditional 2.5" form factor and 32 GB capacity for $350.

The 2.5" SSD joins a 32 GB 1.8" version that was announced during this year's CES tradeshow. According to the manufacturer, the 2.5" SSD integrates a SATA interface that is compatible with "most" mainstream notebook designs and therefore allows either notebook vendors to offer the SSD as an upgrade option or allow consumers to swap their old hard drive for this SSD.

The SSD holds 32 GB of data, which should be plenty for notebooks that are used on the road. The obvious advantage of the drive is higher performance: Sandisk says that a notebook equipped with the SSD can boot about 50% faster than a notebook with a regular hard drive and data transfers are up to 100 times faster with the SSD. The company claims that the 2.5" SSD will reach a sustained data transfer rate of 67 MB/s, which is actually slightly higher than the rating for the 1.8" drive (62 MB/s).

However, the drive has another significant advantage over regular hard drives that may be even more interesting to people who depend on the availability of their notebook on the road: Flash consumes substantially less power than a regular hard drive, which is generally estimated to account for about 20% of the consumed power in a notebook. According to Sandisk, the SSD is rated at a power consumption of about 0.9 watts during active operation; typical 2.5" hard drives today can consume about 2.3 watts under comparable conditions. If Sandisk's claims hold up in the real world, then the power savings could translate into and additional 30 to 45 minutes of running time in a modern notebook.

The manufacturer also says that these SSDs are reliable, with a meantime between failure rating of 2 million hours. Consumer notebook hard drives are typically rated at a lower value.

All these advantage come at a price: While you can buy a 160 GB 2.5" drive today for about $150, and a 200 GB version for around $250, Sandisk has begun selling the 32 GB SSD in "large volumes" for $350. Compared to the price of other flash storage media in the market however, the SSD could almost be considered to be a bargain. Leaving aside that the 1.8" 32 GB SSD was announced to cost about $600, Pricegrabber.com indicates that less complex, typical 4 GB flash storage media currently sell for an average of about $80 in U.S. retail, while some 8 GB storage cards just dropped below the $100 mark. In comparison, the 32 GB 2.5" SSD carries a very aggressive price tag right from the start and makes Gartner's prediction that about four million SSD's can be sold during this year look very realistic.

It will be interesting to see, if Sandisk can actually put some pressure the newly emerging hybrid hard drive segment, which combines flash memory with a traditional hard drive. Among others, Samsung and Seagate are expected to roll out such drives during H1 of this year.

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