Samsung Flash Solid State Disk review

17 May 2007

Silent, robust and with occasional speed benefits, but expensive and slow in real-world use.

Price when reviewed: 
261(&more
3

While hybrid hard disks are finally beginning to appear, there's a part of us that feels it's a somewhat interim step. Jamming in what amounts to a large, non-volatile cache is ultimately a rather unsubtle way to overcome the problems of mechanical disks, especially when compared to this wholly flash-based storage device.

Take a look under the plastic casing of this Samsung "disk" and you'll see a simple circuit board with 16 2GB flash chips attached, plus a large I/O controller chip to ferry data to and from the IDE interface. The circuit board itself is plain, unadorned by any fiddly routing and supremely elegant in its simplicity.There's no need to be precious with it either, as there isn't a single moving part inside - a major plus point.

The other key benefits of a solid-state hard disk, in theory, are faster access times - which should lead to greater performance overall - and lower power consumption. The former certainly proved true where boot-up and hibernate times are concerned; our test system booted in 51 seconds, which is 10 seconds faster than with a standard 5,400rpm notebook drive. The system was also quick to hibernate and wake, taking a shade under 6 seconds.

We were hoping application performance would be similarly good, but our HD Tach test (www.simplisoftware.com) showed it to lag behind mechanical disks across the board, and the overall application benchmark score of 1.23 on the same test rig as the Samsung FlashON (which scored 1.56) was similarly disappointing. Samsung is planning a SATA version in the future, which might resolve this problem, as well as the issue that IDE is all but extinct in modern notebooks. Out of the dozens in our Labs, not a single one would accommodate the disk, so we were unable to perform any meaningful battery tests on it.

But the biggest problem for adoption now is simply the cost: about £9 per gigabyte. While you might swallow that for the sake of an ultraportable notebook, we'd be inclined to wait for 64GB SATA versions to appear later in the year. The future of notebook storage could well be solid state, but we're not there yet.