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Flash drives in future Apple laptops?

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
Samsung hopes that falling prices for flash-memory chips will mean solid-state memory can eventually replace hard-disk drives in Apple PowerBooks and iBooks as well as other devices, Macworld UK is reporting.

The comments came from Hwang Chang-Gyu, president and CEO of Samsung's semiconductor business, speaking to reporters in a briefing at the company's main chip production complex in Giheung, South Korea, south of Seoul.

According to the report, the company recently announced a prototype 16GB flash drive and said it has plans to expand to 100GB "in a couple of years," assuming double-digit percentage price drops in the flash-memory market continue.

Noting that flash-memory saw price drops of around 40 percent in the last year, Hwang said, "This will be big once people enjoy how much faster and convenient it is to use solid-state disks rather than hard-disk drives."

Aside from being more robust, flash-memory presents several other advantages over hard-disk drive storage. It's silent in operation, requires less power, and is more reliable because it lacks moving parts. The drives are also typically lighter and can read and write data faster than conventional drives.

The most recent IDC data ranks Samsung as the world's number one producer of flash chips.
post #2 of 43
The trouble with flash, especially the NAND flash that Samsung makes, is that it's neither durable or particularly fast for applications that call for regular, non-batch reads/writes.

In other words, it doesn't work well for virtual memory applications.
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post #3 of 43
It would work beautifully for PDA-style instant on. Stick the boot image on it. Turn the computer off totally. Turn it on again. You're back where you were in the time it takes to power up and read the contents to RAM.
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post #4 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
Samsung hopes that falling prices for flash-memory chips will mean solid-state memory can eventually replace hard-disk drives in Apple PowerBooks and iBooks as well as other devices, Macworld UK is reporting.

....

Solid state storage has been been on the verge of replacing disk storage for about 25 years now. Flash drives are much smaller than were the solid state disks back then, but they are also mind-numbingly slow. They are good for transporting PowerPoint presentations, but they are woefully inadequate as hard disk replacements.
post #5 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Me
Solid state storage has been been on the verge of replacing disk storage for about 25 years now. Flash drives are much smaller than were the solid state disks back then, but they are also mind-numbingly slow. They are good for transporting PowerPoint presentations, but they are woefully inadequate as hard disk replacements.

But samsung said it is faster than hard drives. Are you in a position to determine speed relative to a hard drive?.
post #6 of 43
Flash.. solid state... pffft.. I want holographic storage.
post #7 of 43
Reliability... I've had bad RAM more often than bad HDs, despite the "moving parts" argument. It would be interesting to see the performance, power, and reliability statistics, rather than just vague arguments. If it makes sense, it would be a nifty differentiator for the first generation of Intel Mac laptops.
post #8 of 43
As a colleague just pointed out, he would feel much better about dropping that NAND Powerbook down some hard stairs.

If Samsung intends to introduce this product to replace platter drives, they must be as transparent as possible. They'll figure it out.
post #9 of 43
Hmmmmm, the last time I checked it took an hour to fill up my iPod Shuffle.
post #10 of 43
Quote:
The drives are also typically lighter and can read and write data faster than conventional drives.

Has Samsung come up with some new technology where they've brought the speeds of flash memory up several orders of magnitude? This has typically been true of RAM, but not flash. Even with significant reductions in price... flash based drives won't be coming close to hard drive prices anytime soon. And I'll echo what someone else said regarding reliability... I've had more memory go bad than hard drives (although, the technology behind RAM and Flash is a bit different... so maybe flash is more reliable... but since I've never really used flash to the extent that I would use RAM, I can't argue this either way). You're also talking about a prototype... meaning their leading edge product... of 16GB. I'm all for the idea... it just seems a bit premature to be talking about flash replacing hard drives unless Samsung has made some major advances. I'd be inclined to say they haven't as I would have expected they would have released incremental products to take advantage of it.
post #11 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by bdkennedy1
Hmmmmm, the last time I checked it took an hour to fill up my iPod Shuffle.

That has nothing to do with the read/write speed of flash memory since you did it over USB (ie: the USB is what's slowing down the transfer, not the speed of the flash media itself)

Flash-based internal drives would be ideal in a server-type environment such as a high-traffic web server...right?
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post #12 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Squirrel_Monkey
As a colleague just pointed out, he would feel much better about dropping that NAND Powerbook down some hard stairs.

If Samsung intends to introduce this product to replace platter drives, they must be as transparent as possible. They'll figure it out.

Hmmm, might not be that good of an idea to drop a PowerBook down the stairs! Even if its drive is a flash. It would be a lot better if for some reasoon you ever have a power failure you dont have to worry about the needle hitting the disk! (Happened to my friends iMac G3, killed the HD, that was bad!)

How much thinner could these be? I mean its just a chip right? a couple mm's? The only problem is now we have too deal with the optical drive... hmmm. (O and dont forget the cooling system, Battery, processor Speakers, etc. If you need room for all that stuff why not just use a normal HD?

But the thing that I think would be cool is like a slot in the computer where you can pop the flash Drive in and out and then you can use an FireWire or USB adapter to connect your entire 100gb FlashDrive to another computer. It would be easy to carry tons oof data, app, tunes, and pics in your pocket. Also, upgrading to a larger drive would be a snap. It would be just like inserting and ejecting yoour PC Card from you PowerBook. Just press the little button and boom theres your HD! then slide it into your portable slot and take it with you. Cool!
post #13 of 43
I'd like to believe that flash drives are actually faster than rotational ones. My shuffle also takes a long time to read music files. My iPod mini on the other hand reads briskly. Maybe shuffles have crappy flash drives and Samsung has some good ones in the pipeline. I've had no problems with rotational drives ever, except noise.

I would think a flash drive could be smaller in addition to being lighter, in which case...

If such a drive didn't make any noise, took up less room and weight, and used less energy, it could be put into a great quiet Apple optical driveless subnotebook, a half inch thick 3 pound demon that would run on a 1.6GHz Yonah for 14 hours! Okay, I'm fantasizing.
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post #14 of 43
Why flash RAM? Why not MRAM, FRAM or Ovonic RAM? They have much higher read/write cycles before they die and faster RAM cell access times.
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post #15 of 43
I am little confused about RAM and flash. To me, they seem the same. It's a great idea though, but if they're maxing out in the very low double digits... doesn't seem like something to replace in the future. I am curious about Seagate's (?) new hard drives that use some sort of structural advancement to double the space it can write to.

Looks like something closer to real than flash in laptops.
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post #16 of 43
Why not MRAM, FRAM, holographic or Ovonic RAM? Because they're expensive laboratory technologies, not market technologies. We could wish for any of a whole bunch of dream technologies like giant, flexible, lightweight OLED laptop screens, but only a few of them are available and affordable for the average consumer.

There are a lot of misconceptions being thrown around here. As others have noted, there are assumptions based on flash drives that have to work through USB bottlenecks. There are complaints about the speed of flash RAM, which is only half true. Their write performance is quite a bit slower than normal RAM, but their read performance is faster than a hard drive. There's absolutely no rotational latency or head seek time.
post #17 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by bdkennedy1
Hmmmmm, the last time I checked it took an hour to fill up my iPod Shuffle.

<BR><BR>

uhhh thats because of USB ... USB is slow and inaccurate.. it never EVER gets up to claimed speed if you havent heard. not to mention the I/O problems, your argument proves only that we shouldnt have USB based hard drives, and boy if that isnt the truth.<BR><BR>

Solid state would be quite useful i believe if made properly and in high capacity with low latency. Hell id buy a 4 or 5GB one just for the OS if it had a low enough latency and a reasonable price.
post #18 of 43
Could Flash memory become a sort of level of cache RAM?

Here's hoping!
post #19 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Kolchak
Why not MRAM, FRAM, holographic or Ovonic RAM? Because they're expensive laboratory technologies, not market technologies.

Mmmh. Didn't Samsung say the 16 GB device is a prototype, i.e. it's "expensive laboratory technology", just as much as the other RAM types are at this point? OK, I'll admit that nobody has presented a working 16 GB MRAM prototype just yet and yes, there are manufacturing issues, however, looking at the pace at introducing e.g. strained silicon and SOI, it seems like a new material technology necessary for e.g. MRAM is about as far away as a mass produced 100 GB flash drive. Also, what happens if the flash cells representing a swap partition konk out after 100000 writes? Will we then see the automatically self-diminishing swap partition? Self destruction in a 007 James Bondian fashion, only slower? I don't think flash is made for this.
Guess we'll have to wait in anticip................pation.
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post #20 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by mike12309
<BR><BR>

uhhh thats because of USB ... USB is slow and inaccurate.. it never EVER gets up to claimed speed if you havent heard. not to mention the I/O problems, your argument proves only that we shouldnt have USB based hard drives, and boy if that isnt the truth.<BR><BR>

Solid state would be quite useful i believe if made properly and in high capacity with low latency. Hell id buy a 4 or 5GB one just for the OS if it had a low enough latency and a reasonable price.

It seems to me that blaming USB for the slowness of flash drives is just an excuse. Technology finds uses for itself. If the basic technology had even 1/10 the speed of hard drive drives at reasonable cost, its small size and durability would make for excellent hard drive replacements in many applications. The fact that flash drives are limited to service as expensive replacements for ZIP disks or CD-RWs has more to do with the storage medium and less to do with the communications protocols that connect it to your computer.
post #21 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Me
It seems to me that blaming USB for the slowness of flash drives is just an excuse. Technology finds uses for itself. If the basic technology had even 1/10 the speed of hard drive drives at reasonable cost, its small size and durability would make for excellent hard drive replacements in many applications. The fact that flash drives are limited to service as expensive replacements for ZIP disks or CD-RWs has more to do with the storage medium and less to do with the communications protocols that connect it to your computer.

Maybe in the past you are right, but today its because of cost not speed. IDE/SATA HDD's have been stuck at 7200rpm 100/133/150 (and they dont ever reach those peaks) for a long while, and we have seen limited speed increases in the past couple years. RAM on the other hand is plenty fast and sees speed bumps coutinously (last jan it was DDR400 now we see DDR733 or DDR2 533 right around the corner)... however RAM is also $120 a gig (for the mid/higher end stuff) for that cost you could get 250GB hard drive. Hard drives have been around for awhile, and so are cheap, flash has never really been made in large amounts or high capicities, hence the high price tag -- But because of the recent high demand, triggered by Apple, Sandisk etc the production/R+D of the stuff has increased, which in turn has lowered production costs and sent flash plummeting in price. This coutinued effect as well as pressure to innovate by prosumers/gamers/etc could very well have a chance of bringing reasonably priced flash technology to hard disks... but once again, its not the speed that is the concern, it certainly wont be the flash found in todays CF cards... it will be faster more like out high speed ram chips and most certainly optimized for the read/write needs of todays Hard disks.
post #22 of 43
Flash chips may be slow, but a flash drive would have many chips, so it could internally stripe across them.

ThinkPads have the hard disk in a bay; I think there's just one screw holding it in. You could probably plug it right into a WiebeTech dock.

Microsoft has proposed to add flash to hard disks as a write cache.
post #23 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by heinzel
Mmmh. Didn't Samsung say the 16 GB device is a prototype, i.e. it's "expensive laboratory technology", just as much as the other RAM types are at this point?

There's a big difference between a whole new techology and a refined, miniaturized version of existing technology. If you think bringing unproven technologies to market that have previously never been out of the lab is so simple, I have some stock in magnetic bubble manufacturers I want to sell you.
post #24 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by wmf
Flash chips may be slow, but a flash drive would have many chips, so it could internally stripe across them.

ThinkPads have the hard disk in a bay; I think there's just one screw holding it in. You could probably plug it right into a WiebeTech dock.

Microsoft has proposed to add flash to hard disks as a write cache.

Many flash drives are slow because the controllers and drivers are slow and very cheaply made. With multiple chips put together like DIMMs are and decent controller circuitry Flash would be a lot faster than a HD. Just the uniform access time replacing rotational latency+head travel would be a HUGE win. I don't know about the write cycle thing though. That could kind of be an impediment.
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post #25 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by heinzel
Mmmh. Didn't Samsung say the 16 GB device is a prototype, i.e. it's "expensive laboratory technology", just as much as the other RAM types are at this point?

A product prototype is not an experimental laboratory technology, its an implementation of a tech that is no longer experimental. The issues for these chips are production costs/scale, not a "can it work?"

Nearly all of the costs/scaling questions are quickly solved if the manufacturer believes in the market for the product. It's when the market balks that the product prototypes die on the vine, despite the fact they work just fine.
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post #26 of 43
I would love to have this drive in any of my computers.

Here are some performance characteristics from the linked page:



Quote:
Burst Read/Writet100.0 MBytes/sec
Sustained Readt 45.0 MBytes/sec
Sustained Writet40.0 MBytes/sec
Access timet<0.04 ms

I don't think we'll ever see a spinning drive with access time like that!

I'd already have a couple if their price weren't measured in the 10's of thousands of dollars.
post #27 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Hiro
A product prototype is not an experimental laboratory technology, its an implementation of a tech that is no longer experimental. The issues for these chips are production costs/scale, not a "can it work?"

Well, considering that e.g. Motorola has been sampling >1 Mb MRAM chips to customers for evaluation, at least this manufacturing variant has definitely left the experimental stage and seems to be manufacturable. It does however lack the capacity and maturity/low price. Gee, with non-volatile RAM, who needs hard disks anymore - I would love to have an instant-on laptop with 40 GB RAM
Unfortunately, if Moore's Law holds true for this type of memory, we are *definitely* talking many more than 5 years for this yummy phantasy to come true.
Oh well.
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post #28 of 43
I think we'd see faster rotation 1.8" hard drives at 20/40/60/80GB way before anything like this got cheap enough and reliable enough to use. I know some sub-notebooks already use 1.8" hard drives.
post #29 of 43
http://news.designtechnica.com/article7516.html

read that and stop throwing out "facts" of life for technology.

Some details from the article.

It's a 1.8 inch drive.

It has a power consumption rate less than 5% of today's hard disk drives, enabling laptops to extend their battery life by more than 10 percent.

(If Intels new Yonah chip does bring us to 8 hour battery life, this new hard drive could be saving us almost an hour in battery life? Sounds real good to me.)

The new drive also weighs less than half that of a comparably sized (1.8in) HDD.

Plus it should be nearly silent and a lot cooler than todays hard-drives. Two real huge biggies in laptops.

It reads data at 57MBps and writes at 32MBps, so its already faster than other 1.8 platter drives.

Plus it will be available for consumers in a month or two.


This new drive approaches all the major issues that laptop makers have to deal with and destroys them.

Plus since its built of NAND flash, which is being scaled up by many many suppliers, I think that the capacity could rise quickly. At the moment it seems like the drive will be double the storage of whatever the highest level flash card is on the market.

Lets just see how expensive it is... Tech companies can do anything as long as its cheap enough for people to buy. Maybe this wont be cheap enough...

Note: I did some more research and the highest capacity Toshiba 1.8in hard drive is:
60 GB
15ms Seek Time
Buffer to Host- PIO\t16.6MB/sec
Buffer to Host- Ultra DMA\t100MB/sec

Main thing seems to be capacity...

(Is it just me or does anyone else see this as a possible solution to the battery life of the iPod?) I guess it still depends on price but I believe (I could be wrong) that the iPod uses a 1.8in drive. 95% power reduction in the HD of an iPod sounds... Amazing. The drive would have to be at least 20GB for Apple to use it I guess.
post #30 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by thesosguy


(If Intels new Yonah chip does bring us to 8 hour battery life, this new hard drive could be saving us almost an hour in battery life? Sounds real good to me.)


lol!! haha intel power efficient? lol... yeah... intel are about as power efficient as a burning oil well.

their new desktop chips run at 65-70C on full load... their laptop models generate less just because the processor runs at only a portion of its possible preformance. The only way an intel chip is gonna give you 8 hours is if its a 2.5Ghz running at 400Mhz or if its a 3 year old celeron.

check out Toms hardware guide testing of intel chips, hot and inefficient, AMD always gets 20-40% less power consumption (and AMD used to be considered the hotter chips).

i have SERIOUS doubts that any intel chip will give better battery life than a G4 without cutting preformance of the chip. Look at PC laptops for your examples, its hard to find one with a battery life greater than 4 hours... many are like 2.
post #31 of 43
My girlfriend has a centrino running at 1.6 and I have a g4 PB running at 1.33.
Both have same amount of ram.

Hers is generally a lot faster than mine and last longer every time we go somewhere to work on projects. Both of us using photoshop and dreamweaver for the majority of our work.

My laptop is a good 6 months older so the battery could just me more lame... or perhaps hers has just a bigger battery and that says it all. It could even be possible that I click and do stuff more than her so I use up the battery life faster. All that aside, hers last longer than mine and its 2 or 3 generations older than Yonah. So she won the laptop performance war. Except that she is stuck with windows...

I kinda lost hope in the Moto G4 a while ago... Intel beat them...

Hell even Steve had to admit it and switch...

Are you just flaming me for saying Intel instead of AMD? I was just referring to the chips we will be using in newer Apple stuff anyways.

Edit: Looked into it...

A new Apple 15in PB 1.67 comes with (according to apple):

50-watt-hour lithium-ion battery (with integrated charge indicator LEDs) providing up to 4.5 hours of battery life (15-inch models)
So 4.5 hours claimed by Apple...

I dont even need to link to Centrinos that run 5-7 hours... they have been around for a while... Like a year...

Also, I'm not sure what video card she has... I suppose that could be a huge factor in the power usage... just my 2cent from life.
post #32 of 43
Quote:
Are you just flaming me for saying Intel instead of AMD? I was just referring to the chips we will be using in newer Apple stuff anyways. [/B]

nope i was citing stress and power consumption tests. centrino's are P4's that reduce their preformance to save power. my experience as been you either lose preformance or battery life, depending how you configure the thing. Im surprised it is more powerful than a new G4 // maybe the G4 should be pulled i guess, it is getting kindda old.

and no im not happy with the intel switch. intel is the microsoft of chips, im a recent switcher, and i feel somewhat betrayed... if i wanted intel id build a system with an intel inside... at least for my desktops anyway.
post #33 of 43
It would be neat if they could do it - which i doubt.

I dont see what the problem with hard drives is really - I think it would be better just to stick one of those 1.8" hard disks into a Powerbook/iBook, and get 20gb of storage (Toshiba made one.), and not have to worry about access times too much.

As someone pointed out, you can stick as much small stuff into a small case as you like - look at these new PDA's, 4gb hard disks, 800mhz processors, slideability*, but a terrible UI, becuase there is no keyboard or mouse. Fundamental flaw of the PDA - people want a readble screen.

And Samsung could only reach 100gb if someone baid for R&D, and with hard disks getting cheaper, coming down to about $1AUD/gig

In short, why bother?

*slideability - the ability to slide into ones pocket.

EDIT: Looking at the last posts, this has somehow turned into an intel power consumption thread, and i should rave about that as well.

Pentium M, Celeron M, whatever are really just PIII's on steroids, and PIII's were made before the ghz myth really came into play. Thus they are fairly power efficient, at least I've seen well disigned Wintels getting quite admirable battery lenghts.
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post #34 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by thesosguy
http://news.designtechnica.com/article7516.html

....

The link raises a few questions. Toshiba's SSD is supposed to be "nearly silent." Nearly silent? Where does the noise come from? In the 1.8" configuration, the drive is supposed to have a capactity of 16 GB. However, the HD capacity of the cheapest iBook is 30 GB. Demand for HD capacity is on a continual upward slope. Can SSD catch up and keep up? And then there is the matter of price. How much will these things cost?
post #35 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by h228
[B]I would love to have this drive in any of my computers.

5,000,000 write/erase cycles until failure - if you use this as a primary drive on a laptop, you will start wearing out the drive pretty quick.

In flash products that I have worked on, we had low-level load balancing software that moved stuff around to evenly wear the disk out, but we still had to be careful not to use flash too much or it would wear out (like if you write to flash every time something changes, and it changes more often than you expected).

A previous poster mentioned virtual memory, which would trash this fairly soon.
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post #36 of 43
I've only seen one post in this thread that got it right. Holographic storage is the future of hard drive technology. Check out this link to learn more about it.

http://www.inphase-tech.com/technology/index.html

InPhase is the leader in this field and will have their first holographic hard drives out in early 2006. There is also a video somewhere on their site that is worth looking at. The advantages are: no moving parts and over a terabyte of storage in an extremely small space. Supposedly, their hard drives will only work with x86 processors. Another reason for Apple's recent move? I don't think it's a coincidence.
post #37 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Cubert
I've only seen one post in this thread that got it right. Holographic storage is the future of hard drive technology. Check out this link to learn more about it.

http://www.inphase-tech.com/technology/index.html

InPhase is the leader in this field and will have their first holographic hard drives out in early 2006. There is also a video somewhere on their site that is worth looking at. The advantages are: no moving parts and over a terabyte of storage in an extremely small space. Supposedly, their hard drives will only work with x86 processors. Another reason for Apple's recent move? I don't think it's a coincidence.

Well for someone trying to sound so authoritative you sure bought an x86 only line all too easily. External storage is dependent on the external bus connection specifications, not the CPU which it will never actually interact with in a direct manner. If you have the correct bus congiguration and driver, a peripheral can properly operate physically regardless of CPU flavor. The data stored will be somewhat CPU dependent because of the endian issues, but thats just byte ordering and can be overcome with swizzle filters as a layer just above the filesystem if you really wanted to.
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post #38 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by mike12309
lol!! haha intel power efficient? lol... yeah... intel are about as power efficient as a burning oil well.

their new desktop chips run at 65-70C on full load... their laptop models generate less just because the processor runs at only a portion of its possible preformance. The only way an intel chip is gonna give you 8 hours is if its a 2.5Ghz running at 400Mhz or if its a 3 year old celeron.

check out Toms hardware guide testing of intel chips, hot and inefficient, AMD always gets 20-40% less power consumption (and AMD used to be considered the hotter chips).

intel was chosen to insure continuous large quantities of quality chips, after being burned by ibm (big) and moto (big) i'd go with intel. intel has the most chip producing capacity of any chip maker. maybe amd is better but where will it go, what is their capacity and what about name recognition, centrino was very wll marketed, ask about an amd chip, do people know any??? it also takes away a windows marketing ploy of we are bigger better, there will be easier for people to switch to mac os x, since they are already familiar with intel e.g. centrino---it's the laptop market that has the margin and future.
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post #39 of 43
Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Me
The link raises a few questions. Toshiba's SSD is supposed to be "nearly silent." Nearly silent? Where does the noise come from? In the 1.8" configuration, the drive is supposed to have a capactity of 16 GB. However, the HD capacity of the cheapest iBook is 30 GB. Demand for HD capacity is on a continual upward slope. Can SSD catch up and keep up? And then there is the matter of price. How much will these things cost?

does flash have to match the curve? having the OS on a small (4-20GB) flash drive and having other data on a traditional HDD could provide good preformance boost... i know thats probably not feasible for laptops, but for desktops sure. On top of that HDD's have been at a max of 500GB for like a year now... they really arnt increasing past that right now because there is no consumer demand for TB (terabytes) currently (outside professionals). So hard drives have reached the max oh what consumers will demand currently. Besides once you get above 200 or 250GB you begin to run into speed and preformance problems when you have filled the drive. Ever try nearly filling a 500GB drive... not nearly as quick as when it was new (yes this is true for all HDD's but its worse are huge drives). Additionally i believe demand is there for new larger capicity flash drives... though i believe its a demand for 1-4GB more than 20+, but we will get there eventually.
post #40 of 43
What about the iPod thing? If these drives are cheap enough that is...
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