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Data Storage Portables Hardware Technology

Flash Memory HDD for Notebooks Launched 277

ukhackster writes "Traditional magnetic hard drive platters could be on the way out, thanks to SanDisk's launch today of a hard drive based on flash memory chips. The device can store 32GB of data and is meant for notebooks . SanDisk claims that using flash chips means faster access and better reliability, so less danger of a serious system crash wiping out all your valuable data if you drop your laptop. The downside, though, is price. At an extra $600 dollars, are price-conscious consumers going to be interested?"
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Flash Memory HDD for Notebooks Launched

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  • No. (Score:4, Informative)

    by geekboybt ( 866398 ) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @02:59PM (#17462292)
    By definition, a person who is "price conscious" will most likely not spring for the +$600 pricetag. The cost/GB is way too high. I see it being introduced just as any other technology - early adopters will get half-baked, Rev. A quality devices and pay a large premium for them. Once adoption becomes more widespread, prices will come down, and the "price conscious" (read: patient) folk will reap the benefits of the early adopters' beta testing.
  • nomenclature (Score:5, Informative)

    by tonigonenstein ( 912347 ) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:09PM (#17462494)
    Can you stop calling them "flash hard drives"? They are precisely not hard drives, but flash drives. It is like saying "liquid crystal cathode ray tube" or "electric internal combustion engine".
  • by imsabbel ( 611519 ) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:27PM (#17462830)
    The power distribution in a modern notebook is EXTREMELY dependent on usage and the special model you look at.

    Averaged, the biggest power-draw of a modern notebook is the display, followed by the cpu. (this may of course vary if the notebook has a very small display. With equal brightness, power-draw of course increases with display size, until it dominates everything else with those 17" 200cm/m^2 display). After that is chipset and GPU (of course depending on with model you use).

    2.5" HDs are actually not very power-hungry. Typical power-draw figures are 5W during spinup, and about 2W while in use (dropping to 0.5W or so during spindown).

    The FLASH drive mentioned draws about 0.6W in use, so in average you might gain 1.5W thats about 3-5% of the average power-draw of a modern notebook, and should give you about 10-15 minutes or so more.
  • by mean pun ( 717227 ) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @03:48PM (#17463256)
    Conventional wisdom / rumor is that these non-volatile memories have a limited number of write cycles before they fail. I still haven't heard anyone explain why that wouldn't be a problem for these drives. Anyone?

    A mixture of:

    • Because the limit is actually fairly high.
    • Because wear leveling over such a large number of bits makes the problem less serious.
    • Because in practice many people don't actually write that much to a disk.
    • Because if you buy one of these things you accept that as part of the trade-off.
  • by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <> on Thursday January 04, 2007 @04:04PM (#17463542) Homepage
    Flash memory has (depending on which technology) a limited life of 10^5 or 10^6 write operations...Get used to the notion that this will mean you have to buy a new drive as these wear out now too. and older drives will start developing mysterious read errors, so will also need additional space-consuming data-redundancy for an error recovery strategy.

    The kind of flash controllers used for designs like these are built with wear levelling [] approaches that manages this problem at a level below where the operating system will see errors. I wouldn't want to run a database server that's being written to all the time on one of them, but for normal notebook computer use 10^6 writes on every block should last several years.

    Now imagine your swap space being on flash.

    Why would you possibly do that? Add more (cheap!) physical RAM instead until there's no need to swap.
  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Thursday January 04, 2007 @05:06PM (#17464666) Homepage Journal
    It helps if you heed the prominently displayed signs and take your laptop out of the bag as instructed before you present it for inspection.

    Not if you are rushed off of the plane to care for another passenger (turns out was VIP and foreign national) who is having a medical emergency. We did not even get to the gate where you are officially supposed to present your materials, yet you are still told that you have to endure an inspection of belongings and documentation even when trying to obtain medical care for someone. Kind of absurd if you ask me.....

  • Re:nomenclature (Score:3, Informative)

    by joe_bruin ( 266648 ) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @10:12PM (#17468508) Homepage Journal
    Modern NAND flash is in fact not much more of a random access storage device than a hard drive. This is different from NOR flash, which is typically directly addressable like RAM (and much more expensive than NAND flash). These devices can only be accessed as block devices at the chip level. You certainly can't write to just one address, you need to erase the block and then serially feed in all the bytes to it. To read, you can address individual blocks and read their entire content. Further complicating it is that these high density multi-level flash chips are much more error-prone and require error correcting data to be stored. This precludes them being used as true random access devices.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller