Solid-State Drives May Be Trendy, But Consumers Aren't Buying It

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by alebar14, Jan 28, 2008.

  1. alebar14 macrumors regular


    Jul 14, 2007
    Auckland CBD, New Zealand
    Apple offers MacBook Air buyers the option of purchasing the ultralight notebook with a solid-state drive instead of the more typical hard drive. But solid-state storage is so expensive that few customers are likely to go for it -- and, experts say, it won't be an affordable alternative to hard drive storage for many years.

    "Right now, the mainstream for laptops is still very much disk drives," says Joni Clark, senior product marketing manager for Seagate, a company that makes hard drives. "While solid-state drives are a good fit for products like internet tablets and music players ... hard disk drives are still going to be your traditional drive in laptops for many years to come."

    SSDs store data on nonvolatile memory chips, also known as flash memory chips, which are similar to the RAM chips used for computer memory except that they don't lose data when the power goes off. Compared with more traditional hard disk drives, or HDDs, which store data on spinning platters, SSDs are faster and less susceptible to damage from shock or vibration, because SSDs have no moving parts. They're also much more expensive than hard drives. For instance, for the price you pay to switch from the MacBook Air's standard 80-GB hard drive to the 64-GB solid-state option ($1,300), you could buy a whole new MacBook.

    It's the same story for other notebook manufacturers. Adding a 64-GB SSD to a Dell laptop that normally comes with a 128-GB disk drive costs an extra $1,000. Similarly, Alienware charges $900 to stick a 64-GB SSD into a laptop that normally comes with a 320-GB hard drive.

    Although Seagate has a vested interest in the continued viability of hard drive technology, other experts confirm that hard disk drives are in no danger of being usurped by their diskless solid-state brethren, despite increasing use of the latter in tablets, mininotebooks and other portable devices.

    In fact, the market for HDDs is doing better than ever and is expected to bring in close to $9.3 billion worldwide in revenue in 2007, research firm iSuppli says.

    "The threat from solid-state drives using (flash memory) instead of traditional rotating media has not stalled shipments or profitability in the HDD industry," iSuppli concluded in a January report.

    In theory, the comparative lack of capacity in flash-based storage isn't supposed to matter for "thin and light" notebooks because such computers are positioned as luxury items -- executive jewelry for the jet-setting professional -- not replacements for ordinary working stiffs' primary computers. But so far, ultralight notebooks remain a tiny niche within a much larger overall notebook market, where such exorbitant prices are a nonstarter.

    Even if prices for SSDs do come down and capacities go up (which they undoubtedly will), traditional spinning disc drives will likely follow the same trend lines, which means the price differential will remain.

    That's why it's no surprise that hard drive manufacturers like Seagate are still skeptical about consumers' willingness to shell out more money simply for the privilege of having a slightly faster, more reliable solid-state drive with considerably less capacity.

    Indeed, research from Gartner suggests the fastest growing segment of the laptop market will continue to be midsize and larger desktop-replacement models, almost all of which use 2.5-inch HDDs.

    And while solid-state drives do offer superior power savings -- an important metric for laptops -- the exorbitant prices for the drives mean that their popularity in notebooks will be muted.

    "We look at ourselves as very much a consumer-focused storage company," Clark says of Seagate's philosophy. "For us, it's more about areal densities and meeting the needs of the consumer. Right now, the best way to do that is with rotating discs."

    The bottom line is that consumers are voting for storage space: The more the better, and the cheaper the better. In other words, solid state has a ways to go before posing any legitimate threat to hard disk drives.


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  2. tiamat1990 macrumors member

    Jan 14, 2008
    New Zealand
    Sure they're nice but they're ridiculously expensive.

    Honestly, less space for so much more money. What a steal! :rolleyes:
  3. heatmiser macrumors 68020

    Dec 6, 2007
    I don't think I'll seriously look into SSD for another few years (by when they'll likely be considerably faster--not to mention cheaper--than they currently are). For now, what really interests me are the ever-increasing capacities of traditional drives. I might upgrade my 120gb drive in a few months, and I'm sure by then the prices will be much nicer.
  4. edesignuk Moderator emeritus


    Mar 25, 2002
    London, England
    Give it a few years. It'll be nice when there's well priced 3.5" ~150GB drives. These will be great for nice fast boot/app drives in MP's. Then use traditional drives for large storage capacity.
  5. steve31 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 20, 2007
    Edmonton Canada
    I think that the MBA was made for a SSD HD. imo. I think that it will give the user close to the same experience as a MB would. But it always costs lots to have the latest "cutting edge" products. I do think it would be smart to wait a year and see SSD HD's fall in price. I am just not that smart!;)
  6. pilotError macrumors 68020


    Apr 12, 2006
    Long Island
    I would hardly call SSD's cutting edge, but they are new to the consumer market.

    SSD's have always been expensive relative to rotating disk. I'm pretty surprised they have gotten as cheap as they have. Typically you would pay about 4x the price of rotating disk for a 2x performance increase.

    The size of the drives have always been a sacrifice, but it looks like they are finally starting to become reasonable for the Consumer market.
  7. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    I disagree that SSDs are trendy. I believe the market for SSDs are the very people who are real travelers and want better battery life and stability of their drives. The days of getting knocked around in the airport with your laptop on your shoulder are over for those willing to sacrifice space for stability. While the market is small still, it is not trendy. Trendy would suggest there is a large market. Albeit expensive, there is nothing worse than a damaged drive on a notebook caused by some moron knocking it about while traveling.

    The MBAir is what separates those who bring a laptop everywhere because they can and those who need to. Sure, the two can commingle but I believe those who are buying the MBAir today with the SSD need the stability. If they do not and if it is just for "bragging rights" then they're tools and they deserve to pay premium for less space. ;)
  8. DocSmitty macrumors regular

    Jan 7, 2008
    Lincoln, NE
    I disagree that SSDs are trendy. Trendy implies something that will go out of style once people wise up. Like Hasselhoff. Sorry Germany, but really. SSD is here to stay, and companies like Seagate have a vested interest in spreading as much bad press about them as possible. Interesting that they quote Seagate here yet don't quote any manufacturers of SSDs.

    Give them 3 years. They are only now becoming a consumer product, and it's going to take some time to gain the economy of scale that HDD producers have. The bad news for HDD makers is that the flash technology is not new, it's just the packaging and controls for wear leveling. There's just no way to get around the benefits of SSD. They use less energy, they are not affected by vibration, they run cooler, and can give great performance boosts to particular tasks.

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