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MrCheap
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Flash drive (SSD) laptop question

submitted on October 9, 2008 by MrCheap in "Products / Gadgets"
Does anyone know if flash media in these ASUS Eee PC's fast enough for office use? Will I notice significant slowdown?

I am looking for an inexpensive laptop mainly for internet browsing and office application. Size is the most important factor. It needs to be small and very lightweight with screen size at least 9".

Most importantly - flash storage instead of the hard drive. Yes, I have had with hard drives - two crashes in the past year not mentioning they can get very hot inside a laptop.

Here is a perfect configuration but the price is not quite there (my target it around $250):

Aspire One A110-1295 Atom N270 1.6GHz 512MB 8GB Flash 8.9" WSVGA Linux White
http://www.buxr.com/deal/aspir.....white_8832
 

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  • 7316
    Solstice
    professor
    1 6 2
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    Posted by Solstice on October 9, 2008 [reply] 1 1
    I can help you a bit with that question Mr.Cheap. (Part 1)

    Flash Storage is a glorious thing, with the only detracting factors being cost and the sizes of storage available fot he practical computer user.

    Flash storage, or better called "solid state drives" (SSD) has many factors that can make it preferable to use depending on what you need it for.

    1. Faster read/write speeds than a standard mechanical hard drive.

    2. SSD can also withstand larger force stresses without risk of damage or writing errors, which makes it better for laptop and travel uses. Standard hard drive have moving parts, but essentially an SSD is one single piece with no moving parts. This also makes less likely to physically break over time.

    3. SSD run at lower operating tempatures that regular hard drives, thus extending both their own life and that of the unit they are located in.

    4. SSD require less power to function, and thus extends the life of your battery lifetime, and the time you can spend on the battery before a recharge is needed. It simply has a much lower power draws than mechanical drives.
  • 7320
    Solstice
    professor
    1 6 2
    11 4 1
    Posted by Solstice on October 9, 2008 [reply] 1 1
    (Part 2) Sorry, ran out of allotted comment space.

    5. Cost (Bad Stuff): Cost is the minor of two two issues in my opinion, and as of right now you will spend more for a SSD of equal size than you would for a mechanical drive on a strictly per megabyte basis. Frankly though, if you can afford its almost always the way to go.

    6. Sizes Available (Bad Stuff): The affordable drives are usually between 16-64 Gigabytes which can be limiting depending on what you need the computer to accomplish, as well as what operating system you want to run on it.
    - If you're going Linux its a non issue pretty much
    - You would probably be fine with XP on a 32GB Drive
    - With Vista I would highly recommend not going less than 64GB (Its a huge system hog and eats up a lot or storage space for just the O/S itself)

    Then, after the whole O/S issue is out of the way ask yourself what you intended to do with the computer. If you are just checking e-mail, doing light word processing, and the internet I would not worry as these don't take up much storage. However, if you intend to put the entire YouTube database of movies in storage on the computer, or have massive amounts of files saved on it, then the cost of SSD storage makes it impractical at this point.

    Hope this helped. Even if it didn't tell me it did, because it took forever to write Smile
  • 7361
    MrCheap
    professor
    2
    1 1 1
    Posted by MrCheap on October 10, 2008
    [reply] 2 0
    Thanks for all the tips! This is the most comprehensive explanation I have seen so far.

    Do flash drives really have faster read/write speeds than standard normal hard drives? I heard from someone they can be slow on the writing part. It was a while back though and it could be they improved since then...

    I think I will try Linux. I plan to use the laptop for internet browsing and some doc editing - all can be done with Ubuntu and Open Office
  • 7431
    MrCheap
    professor
    2
    1 1 1
    Posted by MrCheap on October 10, 2008
    [reply] 2 0
    Here is the answer to my question:

    "Computerworld compared four disks, two popular solid state drives and two Seagate mechanical drives, for read/write performance, bootup speed, CPU utilization and other metrics. The question asked by the reviewer is whether it's worth spending an additional $550 for a SSD in your PC/laptop or to plunk down the extra $1,300 for an SSD-equipped MacBook Air? The answer is a resounding No. From the story: "Neither of the SSDs fared very well when having data copied to them. Crucial (SSD) needed 243 seconds and Ridata (SSD) took 264.5 seconds. The Momentus and Barracuda hard drives shaved nearly a full minute from those times at 185 seconds. In the other direction, copying the data from the drives, Crucial sprinted ahead at 130.7 seconds, but the mechanical Momentus drive wasn't far behind at 144.7 seconds."

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/a.....29/1528205
      7473
    • Solstice
      professor
      1 6 2
      11 4 1
      Posted by Solstice on October 10, 2008 [reply] 1 1
      Wow! This would be totally contrary to both my personal experiences and understanding of SSD technology, so I looked closer at the testing scenario and other commentary. In short it was a really bad testing set-up and should not be taken as definitive. But I hope whatever you decide, that you're happy with your selection.
    • 7480
    • MrCheap
      professor
      2
      1 1 1
      Posted by MrCheap on October 11, 2008
      [reply] 2 0
      Here is one more source (scroll down to the disadvantages chapter):

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ssd_drive

      Slower write speeds – as erase blocks on flash-based SSDs generally are quite large (e.g. 0.5 - 1 megabyte)[4], they are far slower than conventional disks for random writes and therefore vulnerable to write fragmentation,[18] and in some cases for sequential writes.[9] SSDs based on DRAM do not suffer from this problem.
    • 7513
    • Solstice
      professor
      1 6 2
      11 4 1
      Posted by Solstice on October 11, 2008 [reply] 1 1
      That Wiki article has serious issues, don't rely on it at this point.

      "This article is in need of attention from an expert on the subject."

      "This article needs additional citations for verification."

      However, I looked at the citation for the section you are referring to (Citation #4), and if you use the link to go to that article you find that the commentary on it is of interest again.

      What is interesting is that SSD technology to my knowledge is actually more efficient at storing data, and you actually get less fragmentation that what can occur with a standard drive (I will explain partially why later.) However, oddly enough it is often recommended that you do NOT defragment SSD as it generally does not require it, and depending on the design structure can actually damage the device.

      So to the why less fragmentation part. On SSD drives you do not get what is sometimes called "data drag" or "data drift" (Its called various things) Over time the alignment of the mechanical arm that writes data on a standard drive eventually gets slightly off kilter. Also when you read/write over time on a mechanical drive, the arm actually passes over all the other information on the disk, and sometimes it will "drag" a bit of it out of its data block. This can cause data fragmentation as well as corruption to occur. An SSD drive does not suffer from these issues as it has no moving parts.

      Note: A great program to remedy the above on a standard drive is called "Spin-Rite" or "Spin-Write", as it literally reads all the data on the disc, copies it, erases it, and then re-writes it bit-by-bit, so that it comes back into alignment with itself and the mechanical arm.
    • 7515
    • Solstice
      professor
      1 6 2
      11 4 1
      Posted by Solstice on October 11, 2008 [reply] 1 1
      I would love to convince you that SSD is the wave of the future for data storage (At least until they perfect crystal storage that is cheap and functional.)

      At this point though its up to you Mr. Cheap, but I still encourage it at least for laptop use.
  • 7494
    LadyZaxxon
    beginner
    Posted by LadyZaxxon on October 11, 2008
    [reply] 2 0
    I HOPE YOU HAVE SMALL FINGERS MR. CHEAP. THE KEYBOARDS ARE CRAMPED. IN FAIRNESS I HAVE THE SMALLER ASUS, MY FRIEND.
  • 7598
    Tarun
    novice
    Posted by Tarun on October 11, 2008
    [reply] 2 0
    Windows 7 is where all the SSDs will truly do well. I know that Vista has some issues with SSDs because of how flash memory is handled, though it is being fixed.

    Personally, I would love to try an SSD and see how much faster everything works. Though the technology is new I think the changes would be awesome. I only tried XP on a RAMdrive (much like an SSD) and Windows XP was loaded and desktop ready in about 30 seconds to a minute.

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