Friday, February 22, 2008

Who needs SSD?

This baby is going straight to the top of the Do Want list.

I haven't gotten an Eee PC so far for two reasons: the screen is desperately tiny, and it has preposterously little storage. An ultraportable device is, by definition, a device I will use for entertainment on the road, and that means music & video. I can handle a lack of an optical drive, but I need more storage than that. Even an SDHC card would not bring the Eee PC's total storage levels to an acceptable level.

I keep getting into these discussions regarding music players. I've always had to stay ahead of the curve in terms of music storage; at first it was a portable CD MP3 player - a Samsung YP-55 that had the worst skip protection ever. But in '02 I went to California and was introduced to Fry's Electronics, which I walked out of holding a Creative Nomad Zen.* It had an aluminium shell, magnesium frame, and a 2.5" laptop hard drive inside. Ever since I have not been satisfied with any device carrying less than 20gb. I went on to have a couple of Archoses after that.

People keep saying that hard drives are inferior to Flash memory, because solid-state storage has no moving parts and is therefore shock-resistant. Here's the thing: today's 1.8" hard drives, the ones designed for pocket devices, seem absolutely good enough. Not only have I never had a 1.8" drive fail on me, I have never heard of anyone who had a drive failure. The hard drives that I saw crash and burn were all fullsize 3.5" inch ones that spent their lives in stationary tower cases. Actually, that's not quite true: the HD in my Dell laptop started making weird noises and was replaced under warranty.

Both my Archoses are fine, and the Nomad Zen was perfectly operational when I crashed my car and left it somewhere in the twisted wreckage.

A 1.8" hard drive, currently available in sizes up to 80gb at least, is good enough for any ultraportable device. It's also cheap.

SSD is expensive and small. It is also shorter-lived than a hard drive, because solid-state memory is designed for a limited number of read-write cycles - this is a big reason why the Eee PC ships with Linux; Windows XP's constant swapping shortens the SSD's lifespan. And it doesn't really provide any more real-world reliability.

Now, SSD is still a cool technology that deserves to be developed further and made cheap & ubiquitous. But as long as the price per gigabyte is an order of magnitude higher than a hard drive, I don't want it. I want an Eee PC with a bigger screen, more RAM and at least 20GB onboard; HP's case design is a nice bonus. I don't care if it really has a VIA C7 instead of an Intel chip; I spent four years running XP Pro on a Duron 1300 with 128mb RAM and onboard graphics. If they can really sell the HP Compaq 2133 for $630, I want one.

Whitey's going down.

* I was in San Diego on a business trip, and got two hundred bucks in per diem (the company wasn't allowed to pay me a salary, since I was there on a B1/B2 visa). Since they also provided food, board and entertainment, I hardly ever needed to spend my own money on anything. So I used that, along with my own cash, to stock up on electronic toys. The funny bit was that the cashiers at Fry's had absolutely no fucking idea how to ring up $500 worth of merchandise without a credit card. Looking back on it, I expect they thought I was paying with drug money.


Alan Mendelevich said...

Maybe I just don't travel that much but can hardly imagine needing more than 16gb of "entertainment" in my pocket on a daily basis. But it sure depends on your habits and inability to decide beforehand on what would you want to watch/listen on that 3 hour trip :)

antyx said...

The music collection I keep on my Archos 204 is about 9gb (the rest gets filled up when I use it for file transfer). Obviously I will never, ever be in a situation where I will have the opportunity to hear all of it one after another, or even a reasonable fraction - but there's tons of various stuff there and I like to be able to have all my stuff to hand.

Now, video - even at 350mb per hour, which is about the standard torrent bitrate (we can use the compact bitrate here because we are presuming playback on a small screen where high definition will not be fully appreciated - though the HP in the article has the resolution to play 720p content), all I need is a season of a TV show and a couple of films to fill up my Archos. On my Eurotrip, I had a few DVDs with me that lasted a couple weeks' worth of fast train service and lonely nights at the hotel.

Now, in the context of an ultraportable laptop, let's say I also want my emails on the go - my Outlook archive file is easily pushing five gigs - plus my documents, including multi-reviewed DOC files with change history and lots of pictures, plus various final PDFs...

I can fill up twenty gigs with plausibly important crap, no doubt.

Kristopher said...

Whitey's going down.

I think you dropped something. Let me get my magnifying glass -- yep, it's a glove.

OK, OK, I concede this one. I like the moulded look of the HP and the numbers are great.

Still, how about the MacBook Air in the ultralight category...? I hear that it's so thin that it is invisible viewed from most angles, and it ships in a first-class envelope for standard postage.

antyx said...

The Air is ultralight, but not ultraportable - it's a 13.3" screen, which makes it only marginally smaller than my Dell, which does require a fullsize messenger bag to cart around.

The Air has a big "ooh, shiny!" factor, but just like with mobile phones, the thinness doesn't add any practical value, while detracting heavily from battery runtime, making an optical drive impossible, etc.


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