updated 11:05 am EDT, Thu July 9, 2009
SSD Notebooks Hurt
The economic crunch is making a major impact on the viability of solid-state drives in notebooks, according to new research from iSuppli. As prices for the NAND flash memory that form the heart of these drives have in some cases more than doubled -- 128 percent for a 2GB chip -- the costs for the SSDs themselves have gone up proportionately, making it difficult or occasionally impossible to offer an SSD option in a given notebook. The jump is the result of a known shortage triggered by the economy, as companies producing memory deliberately cut production to raise prices and save money.
At this stage, the difference is enough to affect even less expensive drives based on denser and at times shorter-lived multi-level cell (MLC) memory, which is most often used for third-party add-in drives as well as some newer built-in drives.
"Even a 32GB MLC SSD represents a major addition to the final price of a notebook," iSuppli senior analyst Michael Wang explains.
The costs pose a major problem for companies like Apple, Lenovo and Toshiba, all of whom have one or more notebooks where the SSD comes standard. The ThinkPad X301 always comes with an SSD, while the higher-end MacBook Air and dynabook SS RX2 (Portégé R600 in the US) also have the enhanced storage built-in. Apple in particular is sensitive to prices and notably passed on using a 256GB or larger SSD in its most recent MacBook Air update; these drives are only listed as options for the MacBook Pro.