Mossberg tests Apple MacBook Air with solid-state drive

“The hard-disk drive is so common that most computer users take it for granted as a natural part of a personal computer. But now, the hard drive has a challenger for its longtime role as the principal storage device in computers. It’s called the solid-state drive, or SSD, and it has begun to show up in some big-name notebook computers,” Walter S. Mossberg reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“Solid-state drives have some key advantages. Because they lack moving parts, they are faster, draw less power, are harder to damage and are quieter than hard drives. Unfortunately, today’s early versions of SSDs for laptops also have two big drawbacks when compared with hard drives: They offer much lower capacity and have much higher prices,” Mossberg reports. “For instance, on the newly announced Apple MacBook Air ultrathin laptop, the HDD version costs US$1,799 and stores 80 gigabytes. The SSD version costs $2,798, but actually stores less — just 64 gigabytes.”

“SSD does deliver on its promises, but, in some cases, just barely,” Mossberg reports. “For the small slice of users who are deeply and constantly worried about hard-disk failures, it may be worth it to pay a huge premium today for an SSD that stores less.”

“To measure battery life, I conducted my usual harsh test, where I turn off all power-saving software, set screen brightness to maximum, turn on the Wi-Fi and play an endless loop of music,” Mossberg reports. “In this test, the SSD made little difference in the MacBook Air and, in fairness, Apple is making no claims of any significant battery-life gains on its SSD model. The SSD MacBook gave me just five more minutes of battery life. Apple says this is because its hard-drive model already uses a very low-power drive,” Mossberg reports.

Read the full article, in which Mossberg also tests a Toshiba Portalet (or something like that), here.

16 Comments

  1. I shared this bit of info in another thread a couple of days ago, but it bears repeating.

    While at the apple store recently the Manager told me that they can’t keep the flash drive version of the MBA in stock, even with the price markup. It sells as fast as they get shipments in, and the regular hard drive version is selling slowly.

  2. I do believe that the flash market won’t be impacted by the SSD in the MacBook AIr, since the amount of flash in the MBA is dwarfed by the amount of flash already being consumed by all the iPods, iPhones, etc. being sold today. It’s going to take a lot longer than 12 months for 64GB of flash to hit 50 bucks.

  3. SSD that have been applied to computing have been for the purpose of improving system throughput efficiency. These SSD use volatile DRAM, and typically include a battery and hard disk backup subsystem to protect against data loss. These SSDs are FAST. This has given the impression to many that Apple’s SSD MBA would have tremendous speed gains over the hard disc version. Unfortunately, the Flash Memory used in the MBA doesn’t offer the same speed as DRAM, so is disappointing. It’s only advantage for the laptop is for shock and vibration resistance as far as I can tell. And for the niche the MBA was designed for, I’m sure there are many applications that have a need for shock and vibration resistance.

  4. The cost of SSD may drop, but Apple will keep increasing the capacity, to 96GB, 128GB, and beyond. So the price for the SSD option will remain high for at least two years. Meanwhile, the capacity for the 1.8-inch hard drive will probably top out at around 100-120 GBs, since the dual-platter design won’t fit in there. Apple will eventually stop making iPods with 1.8-inch drives, and Toshiba will stop making 1.8-inch drives soon after. By that time, the MacBook Pro will also have the option for SSDs, and the cost won’t be so high to put it into the MacBook Air as the base drive.

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