by Zsolt Kerekes,
In the first 5 years of its history
(2006-2010) the notebook SSD market was a disappointment to SSD evangelists
like me - because integration with PCs was so bad, and most of the SSDs were
too slow or had too little capacity to be useful, while some consumer SSDs
unreliable and badly
designed. Hoping that SSDs would go away - most
hard disk makers
tried to offer hybrid
drives as a stop gap - which I predicted (right from the outset) would be a
waste of space.
Now in 2014 -
the outlook for SSD notebook users is better.
You can now
get affordable notebook SSDs which have no compromize in capacity or performance
in a range of different designs.
- fast notebooks - which use
PCIe SSDs in the
form factor. (Current consumer designs support generation 2 PCIe - which gives
similar R/W speeds
to the enterprise SSDs of 7 years ago.)
|Notebook SSD Timeline from
- HP offered a PCMCIA
flash disk as an alternative to a hard drive in its HP Omnibook 300. Although
not strictly speaking an SSD (because it didn't include
wear leveling) it
was one of the first serious attempts to offer solid state storage in a
mainstream portable PC.
January 2006 -
the first notebook maker to qualify flash SSDs for use in Windows XP, Linux and
May 2006 -
Samsung launched the
world's first high volume Windows XP notebook using SSDs.
2007 - Dell joined the
growing roster of notebook oems offering SSDs as a standard option.
2009 - Intel said it
will deploy up to 10,000 SSD notebooks this year to its own employees. This
evaluation of the "compelling" productivity benefits of using
SSDs instead of hard drives in business notebooks.
- Google opened its
doors to developers who want to work with
Chrome OS - a new operating
system for web notebook products. Its architects are "obsessed with
speed". So they designed it to support only
flash SSDs as the
default mass storage.
January 2010 -
it is sampling 128GB mSATA MLC SSD modules (30mm x 50.95mm x 4.75mm ) aimed
at the netbook
PC market. Sequential R/W speeds are 180MB/s and 70MB/s respectively. Weight
March 2010 -
WD Solid State
its entry into the
market. WD's SiliconEdge
Blue 2.5" MLC SSDs offer capacity upto 256GB (MSRP $999), R/W speeds
of 250MB/s and 170MB/s.
Also in March 2010 -
RunCore, unveiled a new
security feature in a consumer notebook SSD. If your notebook is stolen you
send a (cell-phone) text message to it - and it destroys the data.
StorageSearch.com - published a new
article called What's
the best / cheapest PC SSD?
June 2010 - to save power in
imminent volume production of a 512GB
SATA SSD - the 1st to
DDR NAND which enables sequential R/W speeds upto 250MB/s and 220MB/s
respectively while using about half the power of a regular
flash SSD of the
August 2010 -
Dataplex - a software product
aimed at PC oems - which provides
functionality inside a
Dataplex will begin shipping from select Tier 1 PC OEMs in 2011.
that a single SSD using its SF-2000 SSD Processor
along with 25nm MLC flash memory has achieved the highest possible WEI score
of 7.9 for the disk data transfer rate in a Windows 7 environment (3.5GHz AMD
CPU with 8GB 1.3GHz RAM).
September 2011 -
OCZ launched its
Cache Series 2.5" SATA SSDs for Windows 7 environments. The new
SandForce driven SSDs (64GB / 128GB) integrate
cache / SSD ASAP
software to dynamically manage the SSD in conjunction with standard
hard disk drives. When
used to support a pre-existing terabyte hard drive - the overall performance for
popular PC benchmar tasks can be 4x to 6x faster - as the
software learns the where the hot data is for that user's PC - according to
benchmarks and data in
related white paper (pdf)
. No data migration or OS installation is required.
2012 - iSuppli
said that the use of SSD as cache in ultrabooks would grow from just under
a million units in
nearly 26 million in 2012
and then may
growing to 120 million units by 2015.
May 2012 -
launched a new
small (50.8 x 29.8mm)
mSATA SSD aimed at the
market with upto 256GB (MLC) capacity and R/W speed upto 470/200MB/s and 50K
December 2012 -
acquired NVELO - an
SSD software company -
products for the
May 2013 -
Biwin demonstrates SSDs
for the ultrabook market using a new SATA sleep mode called DEVSLP
SLeeP (pdf) - which reduces the idle power in
SATA SSDs to 1% of
previously controllable levels.
June 2013 -
Samsung entered the
PCIe SSD market - with
models in a new form factor called M.2 optimized for notebooks. Samsung's
XP941 - which weighs less than 6g - has a sequential read performance of
1,400MB/s, and capacity up to 512GB.
|The User Value Proposition
of SSDs in the Notebook Market|
The text below appeared in
Penetration Model which was published in November 2005. That
article also described the 3 other other main markets for SSDs.
most analysts and IT and electronic publications doubted that flash SSDs would
ever be affordable or viable in notebooks. I disagreed. But I was too
optimistic about the timescale and the willingness of the PC market to
Warrior - Featherweight Notebooks - (weighing under 2lbs)|
|This market has not
started yet (in 2005) but will kick into play during 2006/7.|
wife is a marketer who travels a lot by plane (in Europe) and train (in London).
Running Powerpoint is critical - but so is the ability to pack a notebook PC and
a week's worth of clothes and paperwork into a lightweight bag.
manufacturers like Sony, Toshiba and Dell love this kind of customer. Her
lightweight notebooks typically cost 3 to 5 times as much as similar looking
luggables weighing 3 to 4 times as much. And she changes them every year -
because they never quite have enough performance.
In this part of the
notebook market customers pay a hefty price to get less weight and better
battery operation... And adding insult to injury - low weight notebooks also
have processor clock speeds which are typically 3 times slower than desktop
PCs (or luggable notebooks). The expensive notebooks also have slower hard
disks because that's another way manufacturers deliver longer battery life.
can flash SSDs do for this market?
flash solid state disk
can act as a speedup accelerator - complemeting a low power hard disk - so
that a 1GHz lightweight notebook processor delivers similar performance as a
3GHz desktop model. (As CPU clock rates rise - the benefit delivered by the SSD
How much will high powered road warriors be
prepare to pay for a flash disk which makes their featherlight notebook PC run
as fast as a desktop or a luggable?
that the cost, compared to a hard drive is not the relevant factor.
customer value proposition in the Road Warrior Featherweight Notebook
market is that the SSD provides desktop application performance in a low
weight, long battery life form factor which is impossible to achieve using
microprocessor technology. (Where high speed - means high power, fans etc.)
flash disks are on a steeply declining cost curve - and new entrants to the SSD
market apply learning curve pricing this application segment for SSDs will grow
to billions of dollars in the next 2 years.
10, 2006 - high performance Intel/SPARC notebook maker
announced it had qualified flash SSDs in its notebooks and mobile servers,
thereby becoming the world's first notebook maker to publicly offer an SSD
by Samsung (Q406) demonstrates the advantages of SSD accelerated notebooks
...Later:- 2 years after writing this article -
April 2007 Dell offered 32G byte SSDs as an option in its notebooks priced
a little over $500.
|upgrading old PCs with new SSDs|
Editor:- July 9, 2010 -
Old PCs with SSDs is a cautionary tale published on Denali Software's blog.
I've often told readers who asked me about this subject - that they
could be wasting their time trying to upgrade old notebooks with
SATA SSDs - because
most of the speedup benefits - if any - will be lost by the latency damping
effects of cheap and slow bridge
chips on the motherboard - and that - unlike in a server - notebooks have
precious little CPU headroom.
It's nice to see these views are
shared by the author of this article who works for an
SSD IP vendor.
what I said to a reader (Simon, in June 2010) who asked me for advice
about his Mac - which had a 4,200 RPM HDD and a lot more details supplied which
I'll skip here.
Servers have a lot of CPU and interface performance
Notebooks and PCs don't - because they are designed to meet strict
That means notebook interface
chips are cheap and slow and waste many tens of microseconds latency. That's
OK with the HDDs they
were designed to go with.
Installing a fast SATA SSD in most notebooks is a waste of money -
because most of the potential performance is lost between the CPU and the SSD in
a poor motherboard interface.
If you have a bus interface like
express card or
PCIe of some sort -
that could give better results.
All notebooks in the market today
are designed according to spreadsheets and formulas around HDD-aware chipsets.
There hasn't been any innovation in the notebook market for about 20 years. They
just follow the lead that Intel,
Gartner give them.
It's possible that a new generation of
Google OS notebooks will lead
to better chipsets for notebooks which will feed back into the Wintel and Mac
Until then the best starting place for an SSD notebook speedup is a
model which has been designed for the faster HDDs - like 7,200 RPM. In those
cases the chipsets will be slightly better.
emerged into the SSD market many years ago with a notebook SSD that was many
times faster than Samsung etc I spoke to the guys there and asked how they did
They said that instead of using standard HDD SATA chips in the SSD
they redesigned the SATA chip to make it faster for SSD. That difference made
their SSD the fastest at that time.
But if delays are already soldered into the notebook motherboard -
most advantages of an SSD will be lost.
|Problems with the Notebook
(this article was published in June 2009)
|There's a simple way to summarize my
view of the SSD Notebook / Netbook market.|
Lots of initial hype
and optimism that the market would deliver an astonishingly new product
experience to users, followed by dismay and disillusion due to a flurry of
poorly conceived, badly designed and ineptly executed products.
an analogy - think cars, gas and batteries.
cars are mostly expensive lifestyle trophies which don't solve the problem
of how to drive thousands of miles reliably or affordably - so too most SSD
notebook products have been expensive duds.
I commented on the failure
of the notebook PC market to design worthwhile SSD based products in an
Discussing it with readers since then- I've been able to get a better
understanding of why the notebook pc market is so bad at innovation.
so we get back to cars...
Everyone knows that the problems seen
recently in the car market didn't arise from the credit crunch and recession.
The roots go back decades. The auto market has paradoxically invested
amounts in R & D - but despite that - has failed to be innovative.
too - the pc market has developed into a lethargic mind set where the design
is driven more by spreadsheets- than by engineers.
- Intel or AMD bring out a new processor - tick the box for the next model.
The same old cycle for the past 27
- Notebook PC interfaces change in a major way only once every 10 years.
Broadband is over a decade old. USB changed from 1 to 2. Disk interfaces changed
from PATA to SATA (and
many didn't even make that change). PCMCIA changed to ExpressCard but most early
ExpressCard SSDs were slower than
- Market analysts
give you quarterly spreadsheets which predict how many models you can expect to
sell with different size screens, capacity, memory and battery life.
All these factors tend to stagnate
innovation - rather than promote it. The successful notebook makers have been
those who can recycle the same motherboard or chipsets and general IP through
multiple product generations - with little or no brainpower involved. Move the
mouse to import the new iteration of the technology - click click. Cut and
paste to next year's designs.
- Remember to load the latest image of the OS from Microsoft. The same old
cycle for the past 27 years.
In the rare cases recently when notebook
designers had to wake up and drink some coffee - they got burned.
hard disk makers
would create a new market segment. It did. But as StorageSearch.com predicted
(when the concept was mooted in
2005) - notebook
hybrid drives were mostly duds.
Microsoft promised notebook makers that
their Vista OS would help sell new models. That was a dud. Instead the user
experience of notebook users with Vista in the first few years was so
appallingly bad - that the lesson learned was - hang onto your old notebook as
long as possible - or if it dies - go out of your way to buy a rare new notebook
installed with XP.
The combination of the hybrid and Vista fiascos
being such recent memories - you can't blame pc notebook makers for being too
cautious about flash
Except I do blame them - because the badly designed and
poorly integrated solid state notebooks we've seen in the market in
2008 and the
first half of 2009
have tarnished the reputation of the SSD market.
And there were some
badly designed SSDs
in that mix to share some of the blame too.
I'm not sure if electric
cars are the future of personal transport - but I do hope that we'll be seeing
better designed SSD notebooks sooner rather than later.
notebook was ahead of its time
|SSDs for notebooks -
|For consumer facing SSD info such
buyers guides, reviews etc -
Consumer SSD Guide.
|In November 2002 - Bill
Gates, talking about Tablet PC's said:- "There are also a lot of
peripherals that need to improve here. ...Eventually even the so-called solid
state disks will come along and not only will we have the mechanical disks going
down to 1.8 inch but some kind of solid state disk... will be part of different
Rise of the SSD Market|
|"SSDs in notebooks
are not expected to significantly impact and displace HDDs in notebook platforms
until 2015 with adoption of over 24% penetration."|
| Alan Niebel
(June 2012) - in the exectutive summary of the latest
market report from Web-Feet Research.
|Where does all the money
go? - inside SSD pricing|
|SSDs are among the most
expensive (and complex) computer hardware products you will ever buy and
understanding the factors which determine SSD costs is often a confusing
and irritating process... ...which is not made any easier when market prices
for apparently identical capacity SSDs can vary more than 100x to 1!
|| Why is that? There are
good reasons for these cost differences. But more expensive isn't always better
for you. To find out what goes into the price - and whether you need it - ...read the article |
|What's a Notebook SSD?|
|Let me begin by saying
- there's no such thing as a "notebook SSD". |
But there are
plenty of different SSDs which go into notebooks.
Confused? - You
should be. Here's a list of SSD directories - any one of which - or all of which
include manufacturers of viable notebook SSDs. Depending on the size of the
notebook, other SSD options include:-
- 1.8" SSDs
- these are usually pre-installed by the original manufacturer. Available with
upto 128GB capacity, the fastest 1.8" SATA SSDs are as fast as the 2.5"
SSDs but are much faster than hard drives.
SSDs are available pre-installed by the original manufacturer and as user
installable upgrades. In the latter case most SSDs designed for the user
upgrade market include an additional
USB interface which enables
you to create an image of the original hard drive while the new SSD is outside
Here's a warning to users! Upgrading an old hard disk
based notebook with a new 2.5" SSD can be a disappointing experience -
because the SATA / PATA
interface path on the old motherboard wastes a lot of the potential latency
gain of the SSD. Try before you buy - or carefully read
benchmarks which you can trust.
SSDs - which also includes motherboard soldered SSD chips and modules.
These are mainly used in netbooks - because they can occupy a 75% smaller PCB
footprint than a traditional drive. A new standard in this market is
- ExpressCard - (now obsolete)
this was intended to be a user upgrade market. The performance of early
ExpressCard SSDs were disappointingly slow in comparison to 1.8" drives.
A new rev 2.0 standard - agreed for ExpressCard in June 2009 - was faster but
only offered similar speed to
- Mini PCIe cards - is another user upgrade market. In July 2009
brand of SATA Mini PCIe MLC flash SSD cards as upgrades for Asus Eee PCs. R/W
speeds are upto 155MB/s and 100MB/s respectively. The 64GB model costs
was a new form factor for consumer SSDs which started shipping in 2013. This
form factor supports both SATA
SSDs (for low power) and
SSD story - survival of the fittest?|
emerging size of
the flash SSD market as you see it today was by no means inevitable. It owes a
lot to 3 competing storage media competitors which failed to evolve fast enough
in the Darwinian jungle of the storage market in the
One of these 3 contenders is definitely on the road to extinction -
but could one of the other 2 still emerge to threaten flash SSDs?
recently published article -
SSD's past phantom
demons explores the latent market threats which hovered around the flash SSD
market in the past decade. They seemed real and solid enough at the time.
|| Getting a realistic
perspective of flash SSD's past demons (which seemed very threatening at the
time) may help you better judge the so-called "new" generation of nv
memory contenders - which are also discussed in the article. ...read the article|