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Dell Swaps Hard Drives For Flash Drives In More Notebooks

The computer maker hopes solid-state disk drives' faster boot time and improved system performance will be selling points for its corporate customers.
Dell is offering solid-state flash drives as an option on its Latitude corporate notebooks, a move that potentially makes a better product for people on the road, the company said this week.

The PC maker said Tuesday that it's making a 1.8-inch, 32 Gbyte, solid-state drive from SanDisk available on its Dell Latitude D420 ultra-mobile and D620 semi-rugged notebooks. But the hardware isn't cheap; Dell Latitude notebooks start at $549, or about $17 a gigabyte. Traditional hard drives with spinning discs and read/write heads cost less than $1 a gigabyte.

But Dell hopes companies will trade the higher cost for a notebook that's less likely to break on the road. Solid-state disk drives have no moving parts, which make them far less likely than traditional hard disk drives to fail when jostled. Hard drives and displays are the two largest points of failure in notebooks, Dell said.

In addition, flash drives are faster than disk drives at getting data to the processor, which means significantly faster boot time and overall system performance. Dell claims its Latitude notebooks with solid-state disk drives perform up to 23% faster and take 34% less time to boot than systems with hard disk drives.

Out of the top five PC makers, Dell is the first to offer a corporate laptop with a solid-state disk drive as an option, said Samir Bhavnani, analyst at Current Analysis.

Dell may be moving aggressively with new technology in an attempt to try to reverse <"http://www.informationweek.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=197700607 ">an 18-month slump. The company is currently undergoing a major restructuring led by founder Michael Dell. Dell returned as CEO this year following the resignation of Kevin Rollins.

For companies looking to boost the reliability of notebooks for workers constantly on the road, solid-state-disk-equipped computers are a strong option. "It's a big advantage for end users," Bhavnani said.

This article was updated on April 25 to adjust the market price of hard disk drives.