Samsung shows flash-based laptop

That long dreamed of product, the solid-state laptop (SSD), is one step closer to reality, as Samsung is showing off a new prototype laptop at CeBIT in Germany that could revolutionise the notebook market.

The new device features a 32GB flash drive that replaces the model’s hard disk saving battery and improving performance.

Although not yet big enough to offer a complete solution, it is thought that the drive would be big enough to store core programs as well as a version of Windows for booting from.

At CeBIT, the solid-state disk (SSD) is being demonstrated inside a Samsung laptop computer. “Because the SSD is the same size and shape as the computer’s hard disk drive, it was relatively easy to replace the disk drive with the SSD,” said Yun Mini, a spokeswoman for Samsung.

“The SSD technology has three major benefits over hard disk drives,” said Yun. “The first is that data access is faster. This could be seen when the SSD-based laptop was booted up alongside the same model machine with a hard disk drive. The desktop appeared on the screen of the SSD laptop in about 18 seconds, while the hard disk drive-based computer took about 31 seconds to reach the same point.

“The second advantage comes in durability. Because there are no moving parts in the SSD, it is much better at withstanding shock and unlikely that data will be lost if the laptop is dropped. The third major advantage is that it works silently,” said Yun.

But for all these advantages, there is a major hurdle that needs to be overcome before SSD can reach mass market price, flash memory costs around $30 per gigabyte so the memory needed for the 32GB drive works out to about $960, before any other costs are taken into account.

Samsung thinks there are some military or industrial customers that have specialist applications that would benefit from the SSD and so might be more willing to pay a premium.

“At this moment it would be very expensive,” said Yun, “But technology is moving very fast so in the near future it could be cheaper.”

Prices for flash memory are falling. In May last year flash memory was about $55 per gigabyte. It might just be a matter of time before such disks reach the mass market.