Flash drives in future Apple laptops?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 42
    splinemodelsplinemodel Posts: 7,311member
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 42
    haraldharald Posts: 2,152member
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 42
    mr. memr. me Posts: 3,219member
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 42
    wnursewnurse Posts: 427member
    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?.
  • Reply 5 of 42
    crees!crees! Posts: 501member
    Flash.. solid state... pffft.. I want holographic storage.
  • Reply 6 of 42
    boogabooga Posts: 1,080member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 42
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 42
    bdkennedy1bdkennedy1 Posts: 1,459member
    Hmmmmm, the last time I checked it took an hour to fill up my iPod Shuffle.
  • Reply 9 of 42
    joeyjoey Posts: 236member
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 42
    mynameheremynamehere Posts: 560member
    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?
  • Reply 11 of 42
    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!
  • Reply 12 of 42
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 42
    heinzelheinzel Posts: 107member
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 42
    ishawnishawn Posts: 364member
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 42
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 42
    mike12309mike12309 Posts: 135member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 42
    jimdreamworxjimdreamworx Posts: 1,064member
    Could Flash memory become a sort of level of cache RAM?



    Here's hoping!
  • Reply 18 of 42
    heinzelheinzel Posts: 107member
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 42
    mr. memr. me Posts: 3,219member
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 42
    mike12309mike12309 Posts: 135member
    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.
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