Storage Station

A bird's eye view of the data storage industry.

Flashtops Starting to Become a Force

NEW YORK -- Solid-state flash-based laptops are starting to move from market shelves in 2008, pretty much on the schedule The Station discussed almost two years ago.

Yes, they're moving, all right. But if you're really in the market for one, it might be better to wait a few months -- perhaps until this fall -- until the prices come down a bit due to competition. At the moment, it will take at least $2,000 to $3,000 to bring you one of these.

Back in March 2006, Samsung demonstrated the first such flashtop at the CeBIT conference in Hannover, Germany. These pioneer units featured a 32GB, 1.8-inch solid-state drive. At the time, however, flash memory was selling for about $30 per gigabyte, so the 32GB drive would have cost $960 just for the memory itself. The flashtops' initial retail price was about $3,700, pretty much out of the reach of the average buyer.

Since then, Dell has come out with its own XPS solid-state-driven laptops, at 32GB and 64GB (approximately $2,500) SATA (Serial ATA) storage capacities. Apple, with its usual ton of ballyhoo, debuted its Macbook Air laptop earlier in 2008; it's selling well at $1,799 (1.6GHz, 80GB capacity) and $3,098 (1.8GHz, 64GB capacity), we're told.

The latest news in this sector is Toshiba's latest Protege ultraportable laptop, which sports the first three-digit storage capacity at 128GB, but only has a 12.1-inch display.

Weighing a mere 2.4 pounds, the Protege R500-S5007V has a starting price of $2,999. It has a list of good features, such as an ultralow-volt Intel Core 2 Duo U7700 processor with a 1.33GHz clock speed, 2MB of Level 2 cache and a 533MHz front side bus.

Flash-based laptops certainly have their advantages. At 53M bps of I/O, NAND flash reads data about 300 percent faster and writes 150 percent faster than a conventional laptop hard drive. It offers silent operation (no cooling fans needed), a lightweight form factor and much-improved battery life. Those are all hard factors to ignore.

But these laptops are still a bit expensive. Wait a few months and watch the prices come down.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...