mSATA: Completely New
Wait. Haven't we seen drives like the SSD 310 before? No, mSATA is completely different from the flash-based devices loosely based on the mini PCI Express standard seen previously.
Why is this important? Frankly, the mini PCI Express standard has been modified one too many times. The standard basically went out the door as one company after another modified it to suit their purposes.
First we had Asus with "Flash Con," which was a proprietary version of mini PCI Express used in its Eee PC as a connector for a supplemental hard drive. These used a pin-out design specific to only Asus Eee PCs and had a non-standard height (71 mm), so it wouldn't fit into any other notebook, even if you tried.
Then we had the notebooks like the Dell Mini 9, which also used a modified version of the mini PCI Express standard that brought PATA signals to the same edge connector, so you could use a PATA-based SSD that also had the same form factor specified by the original mini PCI Express standard (51 mm x 30 mm).
The variations on the standard are why you can't install existing "mini SSDs" into just any old mini PCI Express slot. Think of OCZ's RevoDrive X2 that runs off a standard x4 PCIe slot. You can drop this in any desktop because all motherboards employ the PCIe standard at the slot level. For notebooks, we have mutants, and I'm not talking about the save-the-world-types. Proprietary variations use a bridge chip before the PCB traces reach the slot. The slot, while it has the same pin count and form factor, is completely incompatible with the specified mini PCI Express standard.
Now, you can't drop mSATA-based devices like Intel's SSD into any current notebook with mini PCI Express either, as they require specific mSATA slots. Fortunately, future mSATA-based SSD drives won't be compatibility limited, and we think it takes a company like Intel to make a technology like this standard-enough for other vendors to start backing.
Notebooks with mSATA, like Lenovo's IdeaPad Y560, are already shipping. More are expected to pop up shortly, and we are told the technology should become a standard option on many of the mobile platforms that roll out later this quarter.
Been rocking an SSD for about a year now, and there is no going back to mechanical drives, SSD for the laptop segment makes even more sense. I think most of us however would like to see price drops a bit faster though, my 120GB OCZ Vertex Turbo cost me over 500 dollars.
I believe the last report I read mentioned close to 60% of all SSD purchases are mobile related. SSDs can really mark up a notebook's price, so I'm right there with you on prices. We need price drops, more of them, and in quicker succession.
We have fast, extremely fast drives but at prices that touch the sky, wouldn't it be better to just have loaded or embedded the OS straight onto the mobo.... cheaper until it's capable of handling the high data flow rates offered by SSD... yet not being able to saturate the SATA flow rates or capacities.....
History has been made. SSD's are finally starting to hit a dollar/GB. Keep those prices dropping!
I currently enjoy the faster speeds of 4x500 RAID 0 with the OS on a 1TB. I would actually be running 8x500GB RAID 0 if my case was large enough, and my graphics card weren't so large (blocks 2 slots).
How does Toms feel about doing a showdown between $500 of modern HDD vs $500 of modern SSD? With and without a dedicated controller.
I know for my next build I don't know whether I want 4x 3TB or a 3TB with 2-3x SSD or 3x 3TB with a single small SSD, or is it better to go with, say, 8x 1TB or 4x 3TB in either RAID 0, 10, 5, 6, 50, 60 etc. :)
So, if I would have to choose between old-school 500GB HDD, overkill 256GB SSD, or just simple 60-128GB SSD + external 2.5" HDD for a laptop, I'd go with the last one.