Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Sony's Solid State 2.4 Pound Laptop Reviewed 214

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the flexible-solid-state dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Last week Sony finally launched its super slim, super sexy TZ series of laptops in the US. If you've been waiting to get your hands on one of these, check out this first review of the top drawer TZ12VN, complete with solid state hard disk. It's a lot of money, but it sure looks sweet!"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Sony's Solid State 2.4 Pound Laptop Reviewed

Comments Filter:
  • Flash Drives (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eightyford (893696) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:13PM (#19959089) Homepage
    Anyone know how long do these flash drives last?
    • Re:Flash Drives (Score:5, Informative)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:20PM (#19959185) Journal
      Anywhere between 100,000 and 5,000,000 write cycles, depending on the quality of the flash media.

      This may or may not be a lot more than a conventional hard drive depending on abuse; in a perfect world, a conventional harddrive would last much longer, but in a laptop, with all the bouncing, the odds are closer to even.

      Either way, I wouldn't want to keep anything unique on a laptop.

      • Re:Flash Drives (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:27PM (#19959293) Homepage
        I think it would be nice if you could just throw 2+ gigs of RAM in one of these things, and disable the swap space, so as not to tax your harddrive. This is probably one of the major culprits for writing lots of data the the hard drive. If you get rid of that, you'd probably greatly increase the life of the drive. Also, with 2 Gigs of RAM, most people would have absolutely no need for swap space.
        • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:36PM (#19959459)

          Also, with 2 Gigs of RAM, most people would have absolutely no need for swap space.

          Not so sure about that. The article did mention it came pre-installed with Vista, FYI. And the reviewer said he uses Photoshop on it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by MindStalker (22827)
          From what I understand for flash based memory that the number of writes is sector based. Meaning you can write to each sector X number of time. A swap partition would probably be a good idea, with an understanding that once you've burned through that partition you need to look at other options, but this way your not risking the rest of your data.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Basically every modern flash device has wear leveling. As I understand it, this means that putting swap on a separate partition will do absolutely nothing to protect your data if the flash drive gets so worn that it starts to wear out.
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward
              Yep. They should just have a slot so you could stick in a 2GB micro-sd card as a sacrificial swap partition. Those things are getting so cheap that by the time you need a new one, it won't be that bad at all to buy another to slap in there.
        • by Tuoqui (1091447)
          Because as we all know 64k memory ought to be enough for anybody.
        • Swap is good (Score:3, Insightful)

          Swap means that stuff that genuinely is NEVER used can be swapped out and forgotten about. That means more space for a disk cache or a write buffer, which, in turn, means fewer writes to the disk.
          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            But if you're running windows, even doing stuff like minimizing a window can cause it to get swapped to disk. Having an OS that does unnecessary swapping it probably worse than not swapping at all. I think that if you're running simple Email + Word Processing + Web, that you'd probably be better off without a swap file. Even with the disc cache and write buffer, you shouldn't get anywhere close to 2 GB. If you're doing something more advanced like using Photoshop, or running VS.Net, then maybe this opti
            • Completely missing the point.

              Having an OS that does unnecessary swapping it probably worse than not swapping at all.

              The point is, an OS is better equipped to figure out what's "unnecessary" than you are.

              Let's take, for example, an applet I have in my system tray called KArm. It's a time logger -- lets me punch in and punch out to separate projects, so I can charge an hourly rate.

              Right now, I'm not using it at all. Haven't used it for hours. Not likely to for hours. So the ideal thing to do would be to c

        • by timeOday (582209)
          "I think it would be nice if you could just throw 2+ gigs of RAM in one of these things, and disable the swap space, so as not to tax your harddrive."

          Absolutely you can. I'm writing this on a system with no swap for the last year, running VMWare (with 750 megs of ram allocated to the guest), developing a large software app in NetBeans, running firefox (with about 20 tabs open), gimp, etc. etc... Under linux it's as simple as not putting any swap entries in /etc/fstab. Here's the output of
        • I think it would be nice if you could just throw 2+ gigs of RAM in one of these things

          As mentioned in the article, it comes with 2GB standard.
          "Of course some of this improvement is no doubt due to the 2GB of memory installed..."
      • by mlts (1038732)
        Are any companies selling flash hard disks in a 2.5" or even a 3.5" SATA or ATA form factor retail, or is it an OEM-only product? Other than IBM selling a 15.8 gig drive for around a grand, I've seen a few companies that I've never heard of before selling these, but that seems to be basically it.
      • ... are the two main ways to fight the finite write cycles.

        Wear leveling essentially distributes writes to a frequently-accessed logical sector to multiple physical sectors. Without it, cheap flash cards would barely survive ~10K pictures (they use the FAT filesystem, btw). Redundancy - it simply means that there are more physical sectors than logical ones, to transparently replace dead sectors.

      • Re:Flash Drives (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:39PM (#19960339)

        Anywhere between 100,000 and 5,000,000 write cycles, depending on the quality of the flash media.

        This may or may not be a lot more than a conventional hard drive depending on abuse; in a perfect world, a conventional harddrive would last much longer, but in a laptop, with all the bouncing, the odds are closer to even.
        No, it is pretty much many, many years longer than a spinning disk of equivalent size. In summary, at the absolute worst case of continuous streaming writes at maximum throughput it will take roughly 25 years to fail.

        Another benefit that flash has over spinning disk is that almost all failure modes are at write time, so the hardware can detect the error and write to a spare flash cell without the user experiencing any problems. Error detection on rotating media is almost always at read-time, usually long after it is too late to recover from.

        See here for the gory details. [storagesearch.com]

        • I read a typical unix filesytem with lots of writes will kill it in a few days.

          However the ssd firmwire implements a psuedo virtual filesystem that is hidden that spreads everything apart so writes to the same area of the disk happen less often.
    • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:56PM (#19959731)

      Anyone know how long do these flash drives last?
      Not long underwater. Don't ask.
      • Not long underwater. Don't ask.
        Just about everyone I know has a story about how their USB flash drive went through the washing machine (and often the dryer too) because they forget it in their pocket. Universally the stories end with the drive working just fine once it has fully dried out.
        • I threw mine out when it happened. I didn't want a short to fry my usb ports on my notebook. My wife told me to throw it. Oddly my cell phone went through the washer before and works fine. It was only 512 megs and $$$ because it was purchased in 2004. My crappy verbatim flash that replaced it holds 2 gigs and I can now put openoffice and ms office install with drivers on 1 drive. ITs sweet.
        • by Mal-2 (675116)
          I can confirm one more case of this. I had a 256 MB flash drive go through the wash and the dryer about a year and a half ago, and the cap came off at some point (wash or dry, I don't know). By the time I discovered it, it was quite dry and quite warm, but looked none the worse for wear. I tested it out and it had the same four photographs on it that I had loaded onto it that morning.

          Fast forward to today, and I e-mailed my boss to ask if she ever intends to give it back. I put a couple of videos on it (tot
    • by MoxFulder (159829) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:16PM (#19960025) Homepage
      Why are flash hard drives SO EXPENSIVE? It's $300 for a 16gb 2.5" IDE drive [newegg.com] on Newegg!!!

      On the other hand, a 16gb CompactFlash card is only $140 [newegg.com]. And the CompactFlash interface is electrically identical to IDE/PATA, so you can use a $5 mechanical adapter [ebay.com] to connect a CompactFlash card to your notebook's hard drive bay.

      What am I missing here???
      • I can make my own 16gb solid-state IDE disk for only $150 (and 32gb CF cards are coming out in a few months).
      • Does the $300 Transcend solid-state disk include any additional caching features or other speed-up? (the web site doesn't say: http://www.transcendusa.com/Products/ModDetail.asp ?ModNo=164&SpNo=3&LangNo=0 [transcendusa.com])
      • Are the 32gb disks anything more than just a little RAID0 chip with two 16gb CF cards attached?


      Inquiring minds want to know. Maybe I can start selling cheapo 16gb solid state drives on eBay for $180 and make a killing :)
      • bwahahahahaha

        but, really, good point.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by danbert8 (1024253)
        The flash disks have much higher transfer rates. That $140 CF card is only 40x. If you can live with slow transfer rates, go for it. You'll still get quicker access times than a hard drive. You win some, you lose some.
        • by MoxFulder (159829)
          That's what I was thinking. The $140 CF card is rated 40X or 6 MB/s transfer rate. But most 5400RPM 2.5" hard drives can barely do that in a sustained write, in my experience.

          If you put two of those $140 CF cards in a striped RAID-0 with the dual-card Addonics adapter, you'll have a 32gb solid state disk, with a speed approaching 12 MB/s rate, for about $300 ($280 for the two CF cards, and $20 for the dual adapter).

          Certainly cheaper than the 32gb solid-state disk for $430 from Transcend [newegg.com]. And you can upgr
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by llZENll (545605)
        The main difference are the write/read cycles the drives can take, SSDs have built in algorithms to evenly spread the writes out over the disk over time, which greatly increases the life of the disk, granted you could probably do this in software, but its another thing to deal with. Standard CF/SD memory can only take a few hundred thousand cycles, which as a system disk is gone in a very short time.

        So a CF/SD SSD would work and be cheaper, but would probably not last very long, and be slower.
        • by MoxFulder (159829)

          The main difference are the write/read cycles the drives can take, SSDs have built in algorithms to evenly spread the writes out over the disk over time, which greatly increases the life of the disk, granted you could probably do this in software, but its another thing to deal with. Standard CF/SD memory can only take a few hundred thousand cycles, which as a system disk is gone in a very short time.

          So a CF/SD SSD would work and be cheaper, but would probably not last very long, and be slower.

          As I see it, the ONLY high-performance way to do write levelling is in software: that is, flash devices should use different filesystem structures from hard disks. In hard disks, fragmentation is very bad, so data should be kept together on the disk. While in flash devices, fragmentation is not an issue, but wear and write granularity are important, so data should be kept in a sort of cyclic log structure.

          The author of LogFS, a log-structured flash filesystem, has written a very convincing paper on this

      • by bflong (107195) on Monday July 23, 2007 @05:11PM (#19961715)
        This is an issue I have recent and intimate knowledge of.
        XP will *NOT* install on a standard CF card. Even with a CF/IDE converter, Windows sees the CF card as a "Removable Device" and will not install to it. Windows also will only ever see one partition on a removable device. It's also broken when trying to format an existing partition during install, and it corrupts itself when trying to expand it's C: partition when installing from a sysprep'ed disk image. The only way I was able to get it installed was to create a sysprep image the exact size that the finished install will be and write it directly to the flash drive. It's kind of funny to double click on "My Computer" and see the C: drive show up as a removable device with a little removable type icon. This guys blog details the issues a bit more:

        http://thebs413.blogspot.com/2005/12/windows-xp-em bedded-gotchas.html [blogspot.com]
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by visdog (1132101)
          • by bflong (107195)
            From that link:
            A Transcend 2GB Industrial Compact Flash with UDMA Fixed Disk Mode feature was used to do a fresh install

            Yeah, that would work. But the cf cards that are labeled "Industrial" are much more expensive then a standard CF card, and that kind of invalidates the point. The instructions further down talk about installing to a regular hard drive and then transferring the image to the CF card, which is exactly what I had to do.
      • by mollymoo (202721)

        Why are flash hard drives SO EXPENSIVE?

        The fact that SSDs are faster has been mentioned, but the other major factor is the size of the market. The market for SSDs is tiny and new, with only a few manufacturers competing. The market for CF cards is vast and mature with zillions of manufacturers competing.

    • by arrianus (740942) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:25PM (#19960163)
      Flash media will typically have about 100,000 read/write cycles before failing. It's sometimes advertised as millions, but practically, no one makes media that goes over 300k, and no one makes media that goes under maybe 10k. Used naively (e.g. CompactFlash in an IDE-to-CF adapter as your / partition), the time to failure is on the order of days. Log files, file access times, and bits like that get written over and over and over, with some files being touched every few seconds. You've got 86,400 seconds in a day, which is in the same ballpark as flash endurance. I've seen drives fail this way.

      Used properly, however, a SSD will last forever. Typically, the drive will include load spreading somewhere in the chain. The algorithms are a bit more clever than what I'm about to describe, but naively, if you've written the same location more than a few times, you move that data to a different location. This are often implemented in the drive's firmware, but may also be implemented in the file system (Linux comes with a few flash file systems that do this -- indeed, OLPC uses one of them). Used this way, the solid state drive will last for many decades of continuous use before failing, and will eventually fail for the same mechanisms as any other old IC. A 40GB drive, written at 100Mbps, will take about an hour to overwrite completely. With an endurance of 100,000 cycles, you get a bit over 10 years of continuous write at that speed before you run into endurance limits. With normal write frequencies, that means it'll last essentially forever.

      Data is stored as charge on a conductor surrounded by insulator, but the insulator isn't perfect, and eventually, electrons do drift on and off. As a result, data stored in flash has a lifetime on the order of 10 years if it doesn't get refreshed. Of course, refreshing it is trivial (read out data, write it back).

      Of course, with a Sony laptop, the major question isn't drive lifetime, but how long until the hinges or latches break. Sony laptops typically frequently have mechanical failures within a few months of purchase. Sony skims on quality quite a bit, these days, and is mostly running on reputation for quality acquired many years ago. That, combined with shooting for the lowest possible weight (and skimming on construction quality to save weight too) makes for pretty flimsy laptops.
      • Interesting post.

        But for those stuck on Windows which are 95% of users I wonder if NTFS really is an issue in causing unreliability. Non unix filesystems clump everything close. I know you mentioned that ssds use a psuedo filesystem spread apart that hides it in firmware from the os but I wonder what happens if the drive gets full. Also this seems complicated and strange to hide such a virtual filesystem.
      • Log files, file access times, and bits like that get written over and over and over, with some files being touched every few seconds.

        I wonder how much good Linux's "Laptop Mode" would do, with or without the flash wear-leveling...

      • by ansible (9585)

        All CF cards (and SD and everything else flash-based) now implement wear-leveling inside.

        The only time you're going to quickly wear out flash memory by doing something naive is to mount a raw flash memory device using MTD and then using a filesystem like FAT or ext2 right on top of it. But it is just as easy to use JFFS2, so you wouldn't do that, right?

    • by Fweeky (41046)
      Depends what drive it is; from what I've seen, even the cheaper ones are rated for *decades* of use, using the full write bandwidth of the drive.

      This doesn't sound too unlikely given even a fairly modest 2 million cycles over 32G of wear-levelled storage makes for over 60PB of writes.
  • Wouldn't it be more appropriate to call them "flimsy state" devices, rather than "solid state"?
  • but (Score:5, Funny)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:15PM (#19959121)
    Will it run linux?
  • SSDs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nimsoft (858559) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:16PM (#19959129)
    It's good we're finally starting to see SSDs starting to ship as an option in notebooks. Mechanical hard drives have served us well but I for one can't wait for the speed and reliability increases we're going to see in the future with Solid State.

    How much time do you spend each day waiting for your drive to stop churning? The hard drive is certainly the weakest link in my system when it comes to performance!
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      How much time do you spend each day waiting for your drive to stop churning?
      Install more RAM

      The hard drive is certainly the weakest link in my system when it comes to performance!
      See above

      Seriously, for most people, 512MB of RAM isn't enough on a laptop.
      My computer savvy friends all have >1GB
      My non-savvy ones sit around waiting for their HD to stop churning.
      • More RAM generally doesn't help the initial boot and app start-up times. Your suggestion would help speed up app switching or starting up more apps than you can fit in your RAM.

        BTW: I have a 1GB system and it's only using 380MB.
    • Current SSD drives are a little faster than the 1.8" drives. 2.5" drives are still faster than SSD drives.

      Maxing out the RAM helps too.
  • £ or lb? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Eudial (590661) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:18PM (#19959167)
    Either this is a very cheap, or a very light laptop.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:21PM (#19959199)
    Glancing through the description, I saw the prices quoted, and thought "heck....that's not too bad...".

    Then, I noticed that the thing in front of the numbers wasn't a dollar sign...it was a pound sign. :(

    (Just for reference, the current exchange rate is: 1.00 GBP = 2.05749 USD.)
    • Glancing through the description, I saw the prices quoted, and thought "heck....that's not too bad...".

      Then, I noticed that the thing in front of the numbers wasn't a dollar sign...it was a pound sign. :(

      (Just for reference, the current exchange rate is: 1.00 GBP = 2.05749 USD.)

      Yes, but that's not the effective exchange rate, which we all know is 1.00 GBP = 1.00 USD.

      Welcome to rip-off Britain. </bitter>

      • So leave.

        I did about ten years ago and have never regretted it. My younger brother is emigrating to Oz this coming Friday :-) I lived around Europe and eventually emigrated to California. I tried for the USSR but couldn't get a work permit.

        The 1:1 effective exchange rate is great except I need to buy Sterling so the 1:2 rate applies :-(

        The only things I miss in the UK are family, pubs and a decent curry. I travel back annually but ideally it should be twice as often.

        The British public are completely to
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:40PM (#19959509) Journal

      (Just for reference, the current exchange rate is: 1.00 GBP = 2.05749 USD.)
      Hardware prices don't necessarily exchang along with the cash exchange rates.

      For example (using another Sony product) the PS3 released at GBP 425 for the same unit that cost USD 599 in the US. Exchange was more along the lines of 1.9 at the time, but even so, the US-purchased machine was far cheaper after currency conversion.

      I expect the US pricing for this laptop to be significantly under $4000 USD.

      I know, everyone jokes about the 1.0000 exchange rates for electronics (and beer, FWIW) -- but they don't necessarily mention the wage exchange rate. As a percentage of income, the pricing on electronics is similar in the US and the UK.
      • It's listed at £2,099.00, but that's after VAT. Before VAT it's £1,786.38 which should be it's MSRP price. That said after doing the before-VAT conversion, the US MSRP should be listed at $3,664.22 dollars. It's not 4 grand, but it's up there.

        Yowza!
        • by MoonBuggy (611105)
          A poster lower down mentions the actual US MSRP as $3199, leaving an extra $465 to play with on the pre-tax prices (even more on post-tax, but I don't think even Slashdot can manage to blame Sony for the UK's VAT rate).

          Yay.
  • Uhh... my sources tell me that a laptop with projecting front buttons is asking for them to break. EVidently, the most common injury to a laptop is a hard landing. Since we tend to carry them with a thin side pointing down, they land there. And buttons break.

    Or so I'm told. I always break my laptops through heat death, which cooks connections and fries batteries, resulting in cancer of the motherboard before the third birthday. So my questions are: A) how hot does it get? and B) how long does it last on a
  • It'll be a cold day in hell before I hand my money to Sony.
  • by johnw (3725) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:54PM (#19960609)
    Even with the current very weak dollar, 2.4 pounds sounds like a lot less than 100 dollars.
  • I remember back in the day when laptops were first hitting the scene that one of the FIRST and most important elements the reviewer would discuss was the battery life.

    It's still one of my primary concerns when thinking about portable computers. Why on earth does the reviewer not even mention this? --Especially when we're dealing with a computer with such a different type of technology design which he excitedly claims consumes much less power. Damn, that'd definitely be on my list of things to test, just
  • Instead of an optical drive spindle.

    And I'd like the cost/GB to be in the same ballpark as CD-R or DVD-R media.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

Working...