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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!"
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Sony's Solid State 2.4 Pound Laptop Reviewed

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

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yppupcinataS.> 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.

  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • by lumierang (881089) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:40PM (#19959525)
    As for light and cheap laptop i have to point out the Asus EEEhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asus_Eee [wikipedia.org]. 2lb, 7inch LCD, 900 MHz Pentium M , 512 MB DDR2-400, 4 or 8 GB flash Solid state drive, Starting at $200, perfect for portable needs
  • Re: wireless issues (Score:5, Informative)

    by andrewd18 (989408) on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:42PM (#19959551)
    The two greatest resources I've found for finding Linux wireless card drivers are:

    http://linux-wless.passys.nl/ [passys.nl]
    http://ndiswrapper.sourceforge.net/joomla/index.ph p?/component/option,com_openwiki/Itemid,33/id,list / [sourceforge.net]

    Between those two, I've never had a problem finding drivers. Maybe you could point your friend in that direction.
  • Re:Flash Drives (Score:2, Informative)

    by MindStalker (22827) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reklatsdnim'> on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:47PM (#19959609) Journal
    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:Flash Drives (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2007 @02:58PM (#19959761)
    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:Flash Drives (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:02PM (#19959817) Homepage

    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.

    Solid state disks are memory products, so it's the memory vendors that will be selling them. That means that companies like Transcend and Super Talent are the brands you should be expecting to see.

  • Re: wireless issues (Score:3, Informative)

    by MoxFulder (159829) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:21PM (#19960107) Homepage

    The two greatest resources I've found for finding Linux wireless card drivers are:

    http://linux-wless.passys.nl/ [passys.nl]
    That site is awesome. Thanks for the link! I've been hoping for a searchable database of linux-friendly wireless cards for a while (even thought about making my own)!
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:27PM (#19960187)
    make sure your cf-ide adapter supports dma transfers.
  • by MoxFulder (159829) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:36PM (#19960305) Homepage

    make sure your cf-ide adapter supports dma transfers.
    The CF-IDE adapter is simply a passive mechanical adapter... nothing more than a connector between the pins of the CF card and the pins of the IDE header.

    However, you bring up a good point: if the CF card doesn't support DMA, it will be quite slow. The one I linked to apparently doesn't support DMA [newegg.com] :-( Anyone know what the prices are like for 16gb CF cards that do support UDMA mode 4? An 8gb CF card supporting DMA costs $110 [newegg.com]... and it is made by Transcend. It sounds like they may be the leading maker of CF cards that support DMA.

    Hopefully other manufacturers will catch up quick, since DMA capabilities don't depend on the raw NAND flash chips, only on the controller chip... so the cost to manufacture a CF card supporting DMA should barely increase.
  • 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]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:43PM (#19960393)
    many of the cf-ide adapters do not have 2 pins connected on either end (I forget which pins they are, but I had to solder them in on a cheap adapter to get our transcends to work effectively. we ended up buying addonics adapters http://www.addonics.com/products/flash_memory_read er/ad44midecf.asp [addonics.com]
    because they support dma.
  • Re:Flash Drives (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday July 23, 2007 @03:46PM (#19960453)
  • 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]

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