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Flash based hard drives in laptops

Before I dish out $3000 for a new Sony Vaio, can someone tell me more about these flash based hard drives?  Apparently there is no more spinning disk?

What are possible problems that a flash hard drive would pose?

Is it easier to wipe data securely off of this hard drive (vs a spinning?)

Should I wait until they get bigger? Right now, the biggest flash based hard drive is 32gb. Kind of small when you are shelling out $3000. How upgradeable are flash based laptops?

Thanks
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dissolved
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dissolved
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PUNKYCommented:
I would wait for a bit to see debates and perhap bigger capacity.
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MarkCommented:
Here is an interesting article on the subject. The low program /erase cycle counts seem to be the sticking point as far as the longevity of this type of drive.
http://news.zdnet.co.uk/hardware/0,1000000091,39258739,00.htm
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kode99Commented:
Toms ran a story on the Samsung 32GB drives a while back,

http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/09/20/conventional_hard_drive_obsoletism/index.html

Bottom line is outside of cost and size limit there is not a downside.  No heat, lower power use, no mechanical parts, shock resistant,  oh and it is faster for both reading and writing.

Secure erasing faces similar problems as a regular drive.

Upgrades would be no different than regular drives.  So if a larger unit comes available or you want to use a larger regular style drive just trade it out.  The flash unit is still the same format as any other 2.5" hard drive,  same interface and same dimensions.

This is not really a new technology,  just a technology that has started to become cost effective enough for use in consumer items.  4GB drive modules have been on the market for some time,  the size and cost have kept them in the embedded systems or terminal/kiosk markets.

SanDisk has brought both 32 and 64 GB versions out to compete with Samsung.  I am unsure if the 64 GB model is actually available at this time.
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kode99Commented:
The 100,000 rewrite cycle limit of the memory chips may sound scary but in reality the methods used to extend this have allowed for a tenfold increase.  So 1,000,000 rewrites.  This only applies to writing and erasing,  you can read as much as you want.

Basically the rewriting is spread out evenly over the drives entire memory.  If you look at a typical user only a fairly small percentage of files are rewritten so by spreading this around the odds of wearing out the drive become quite small.  When you factor in how robust the drive is compared to its mechanical counterpart,  it is going to be more reliable and may last longer.

If you think about it,  even if the drive did stop allowing rewrites you won't actually lose data.   You could still read everything.  Unlike a mechanical drive which leaves you toasted when it fails.

All that said there are some disk intensive applications where this could be a problem and a regular drive would be better suited.  Very few typical portable uses fall into this catagory.
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eagle0468Commented:
Kode, what is the effect on system start up?  How much faster is it?  I know some of the newer PCs and Servers running the latest SATA or SAS configurations boot up very quickly so I would think these flash hard drives are almost instant.
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ryanarakCommented:
Main differences is that there is no spinning or moving parts therefore it is less prone to being damaged by dropping (although I don't recommend dropping it anyhow), being shook or jarred, or even being moved about when doing something on it (e.g. moving from one room to another while writing a document).

There will be a lot less heat since there are no moving parts.

The only downside to flash from what I can tell is the price and also that there is a limited amount of writes/re-writes that can occur.  It is not infinite.

From benchmarks I've seen online I haven't seen a HUGE significant increase in speed over the standard 2.5" hard drives.  I see some improvement but nothing that would make me want to spend the extra money necessary for a flash based laptop.
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dissolvedAuthor Commented:
how soon is the 64gb flash drive coming out?
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ryanarakCommented:
http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=38532

According to that article 64GB drives were just recently announced.  I would say give it at least 6-8 months.  I would say for sure sometime next year we should start seeing 64GB solid state drives.
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kode99Commented:
Benchmarks I have seen would indicate that this drive is about twice as fast on bootup as a standard portable drive.

Keep in mind this is replacement for portables.  High performance SAS and SATA are simply not available in this market.  Even between SAS drives and SATA drives there is a big difference in both cost and performance.  

The real strength here is durability and low power consumption.  If cost per gigabyte is at all a concern look elsewhere.  Mechanical drives will be cheaper per gigabyte for a long time to come.  The article headlines of 'conventional drives obsolete' are hugely inflated and the usual media crap.

I think Dell is using SanDisk so that may be the first place you see them available.  One review I read on the 64 GB model was from early July so these are on the way shortly though I've not seen a specific date for North America.  A lot may depend on how well the initial wave sells.

You can get a 64 GB unit now,

http://www.memorydepot.com/details.asp?id=FD64GSATATURBOP

The price is probably just a bit high.  Though that drive has 5,000,000 hours MTBF and can take 15 G shocks.
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Computer101Commented:
Forced accept.

Computer101
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