First Tests: Fast 32GB Flash Hard Drive

Samsung's new 2.5-inch 32GB SSD.
Samsung's new 2.5-inch 32GB SSD.
Are you ready for laptop storage with no moving parts to spin up, break, drain your battery, add weight, or make noise? That's what you get with Samsung's new 32GB SSD (Solid State Drive). Built using NAND flash memory, the SSD is the first consumer unit with enough capacity to compete against standard notebook drives; 32GB may not satisfy multimedia addicts, but it's plenty for average business users.

We looked at a preproduction model to see how it fared against 5400-rpm Seagate drives using the latest perpendicular recording technology or traditional longitudinal recording. The SSD found files more than twice as fast, and accelerated boot-up. Its cumulative speed advantage over the other two drives was an impressive 25 percent, though it was slower on two tests that involved accessing the drive many times rather than performing longer sequential reads and writes.

Samsung SSD Shows Its Performance Edge
Samsung's SSD provides a faster boot time and speeds file search, large-file processing.
Drive Drive technology Test Completion Time (Seconds)
Boot up Copy files & folders Copy large file Find file ACDSee PowerPack 5.01 Ahead Nero Express 61
Samsung 32GB SSD (32GB) Solid-state 35 267 196 58 710 425
Seagate Momentus 5400.3 (160GB) 2 Perpendicular recording 42 270 215 131 647 607
Seagate Momentus 5400.2 (120GB) 2 Longitudinal recording 43 286 223 137 659 638
Chart notes: All drives used the ATA-100 interface. Lower scores are better on all tests. Bold denotes the best score. Tests performed by the PC World Test Center. All rights reserved.
Footnotes: 1 These tests are part of the PC World Test Center's WorldBench 5 suite. For details on how we test, visit www.worldbench.com. 2 This is a 5400-rpm drive with 8MB of cache.

Shipping now, the 32GB and 16GB drives will initially be sold to equipment makers only. Given flash memory costs (approximately $63 per 4GB chip module at press time), it will be a while before an SSD matches the cost per gigabyte of a standard notebook drive, which is typically less than $2 per GB. Samsung already includes the drive in its Japan-only Q30 subnotebook; the company is in discussions with U.S. vendors to bring SSD laptops and portable devices here.

Though the SSD's price is high, its silent operation, light weight, incredible shock resistance, and low level of power consumption bolster its appeal. Our unit weighed just 1.6 ounces, compared to 3.5 ounces for a typical 2.5-inch drive; 1.8-inch SSDs weigh even less. Its shock rating is a whopping 1500G--it can withstand most shocks short of being fired out of a howitzer--far higher than a standard drive's 200G to 300G rating. And it draws a tiny 0.5 watt of power while active and 0.1 watt at idle, far less than common drives.

But don't expect huge battery-life savings. On our system-level test, we saw a boost of about 9 percent in battery life for the test unit when configured with the SSD as opposed to with the Seagate Momentus 5400.3 (4 hours, 25 minutes versus 4 hours, 3 minutes).

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