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Intel SSD 310 80 GB: Little Notebooks Get Big Storage Flexibility

Notebooks: One Drive Only?

Enthusiasts with SSDs are loathe to swap back to mechanical storage. And for good reason. Wonderful though they might be for cramming lots of information into a compact space, disk drives aren't as responsive, and they're not as fast. Getting the best of each world often involves a desktop machine with both technologies under the hood. Use a decently-sized SSD for loading Windows and performance-sensitive apps, then throw your other programs and user data on the big disk.

Unfortunately, mobility often precludes such a luxury. Compact enclosures mean that storage is usually limited to a single drive. Only the larger notebook chassis give you room for two or more disks, and those are commonly desktop replacements--hardly ideal candidates for getting dragged back and forth from class each day. Looks like it's time to make a choice. SSD or hard drive; which will it be?

It's fair to say that, given the choice, most enthusiasts would opt for solid-state technology over a hard drive any day of the week. The problem, of course, is that an SSD gives you limited capacity. Not only that, but it's comparatively very, very expensive when you look at cost per gigabyte. An SSD in a laptop sounds nice, but getting enough space for your OS, games, apps, and information is only really affordable for a fortunate few. Everyone else gets to drool over the killer data rates and plug along on 2.5" 7200 RPM disks, at best.

If only it were possible to mix and match storage technologies using conventional hard drives and solid-state storage packed into a more space-conserving form factor.

That's exactly what Intel is trying to do with its Solid-State Drive 310-series--small form-factor SSDs aimed at some of the most mobile environments you could imagine. Designed to work in a mSATA interface and available in capacities of 40 or 80 GB, we could be looking at the answer to hybrid storage subsystems in thin-and-light designs. Additionally, Intel is aiming at the netbook, mini/sub-notebook, all-in-one, and embedded markets. 

In one fell swoop, the company claims to be addressing size, weight, power, performance, and reliability issues with which 2.5" and 1.8" hard drives cannot compete. Is this the end-all for the folks who sit in front of online configurators trying to figure out if it's worth spending so much extra money on an SSD, when they really need the space afforded by that 320 or 500 GB hard drive? 

We set up a handful of different usage scenarios with the goal of digging deeper. Lets dissect the SSD 310-series and what it might do for your next mobile machine.