Solid state drives still 'far from practical'

Solid state drives still 'far from practical'

Flash drives may not take off until 2013

The widespread use of Flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs) could be as far off as five years, according to one analyst.

Jim Handy, of Objective Analysis, believes that the chip-based drives may not see significant use in notebook computers for three to five years.

"We remain sceptical in our outlook for rapid adoption of Flash-based SSDs," he said.

"Flash has found success in replacing hard disk drives [HDDs] where a fixed capacity is needed, but notebook and PC users will continue to demand increasingly larger HDDs for quite a while yet."

The first Flash-based drives began to emerge as options for notebooks in 2007. Vendors such as Apple and Dell offer SSDs on selected notebooks at anywhere from $900 to $1,300.

"SSDs are about 20 times more costly than an HDD of the same capacity, a ratio that is likely to remain constant for the next several years," said Handy.

The extra cost is not without its rewards, however. In addition to a longer lifespan and no moving parts to damage, SSDs require less power and are much faster than HDDs.

This can dramatically cut start-up and loading times, and can improve battery life, but the performance boost is not yet worth the smaller capacity and premium price, according to Handy.

"For our money, and yours, it pays to shop around when considering the relative merits and claims about SSD performance," said the analyst.

Handy is not alone in his assessment. HP executives said last month that the company does not expect SSDs to become large enough and cheap enough to appeal to most users until at least 2010.