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Solid State Disks, Demystified

The HP Mini 1000 netbook, MacBook Air, and Vaio TT all sport solid state disks, a technology that's still evolving. Our hardware expert explains where SSD is today -- and where it's going.
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Then there's the other side of the coin, where you've already bought that $1,300 notebook chocked full of take-along goodness. You don't really have a hankering or a need for a minimalist netbook, but you'd really like to make your friends swoon by mentioning you have an SSD in your laptop without having to go broke getting one in there. All right, that means you want to slide an SSD into your current portable.

Apricorn's DriveWire Universal Hard Drive Adapter helps move data from a mechanical hard drive onto a new SSD.
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The interface could be an issue. Most current portables will probably use a serial ATA (SATA) connection while older ones will be parallel ATA (PATA). Although there are PATA SSDs, the more common configuration is SATA, so you may have to dig a bit for the former. Also, the most common size for a hard drive in a portable computer is a 2.5 inches, but there are laptops that bypass that size and use smaller (1.8-inch) mechanical hard drives. Most SSD are 2.5-inch, so determine what you have before you shell out your money.

Once you've cleared away the small details, you're going to need to clone your current mechanical hard drive onto your new SSD before you install it. If you have 300 GB of a 320-GB drive filled, it's not going to make it onto a 128-GB SSD. It won't even fit on a 256-GB Samsung Flash SSD. Pare down your data to the capacity of your SSD if needed, and then select something like Apricorn's DriveWire Universal Hard Drive Adapter (you can always eBay it when you're done) to do the cloning.

Which SSD should you consider? There are many. We've already mentioned Samsung's zippy 256-GB Samsung Flash SSD announced in November (pricing not available), and Intel's X25-M. The Intel disk is fast but it will set you back north of $500 for the 80-GB version. On the bright side, there is a 1.8-inch version available, the X18-M.

As an alternative, there's Patriot's 128-GB Warp SSD. Despite the bump in capacity from 80 GB to 128 GB, the Warp costs at least 10% less than the X25-M, more than that (possibly) depending on where you look.

Down the road a little way is Ridata's Ultra-S Plus SSD drive. It's a slower than the aforementioned SSDs from Samsung, Intel, and Patriot, but at around $300 for a 128-GB SSD, it's not a bad deal for the bragging rights of it all.

These three SSDs are not, by any means, the sum total of all your choices. As we already mentioned, there are many others -- and there will be more by the middle of 2009. These are, however, reasonable examples of what's available right now just as the portables are. We're not entirely sold on SSDs just yet, either as a pre-installed component or as a user upgrade, but early adopters have plenty of choices.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Carrie Pallardy, Contributing Reporter
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Carlo Massimo, Contributing Writer
Salvatore Salamone, Managing Editor, Network Computing