Recent European PC Market results clearly reflect the global move towards mobile computing. With this growing reliance on mobility comes an increasing demand for speedier notebooks with a longer battery life.
"Vendors are nevertheless still constrained in having to balance technical possibility with financially feasibility," says Gustavo Pinto, product manager for Fujitsu Siemens Computers at ChannelWare, "and despite the developments chipmakers are making in driving processor performance upwards, they are clearly not keeping up with user demands.
"The same goes for the advances that are being made in battery technology," he continues. "While each year vendors squeeze an extra couple of minutes from current batteries through clever power saving techniques, it's not enough to satiate user demand – every new technology simply gets snapped up."
Pinto adds though, that the new technologies that aren't directly related to processor designs or the chemistry inside the batteries are coming to the fore and helping vendors skirt these challenges.
"Given that they're not directly related to the processor or battery design, they deliver a competitive advantage that is sorely needed by notebook vendors today," he adds.
"One such development is the revival of Solid State Disk (SSD) storage – SSD combines a high storage capacity with the speed and reliability of flash technology, giving you storage that responds quickly, quietly, and reliably. Having no moving parts, SSD theoretically presents a far lower risk in terms of hardware failure – good news indeed for those of us who live in fear of the loss of data that sometimes occurs after the failure of a conventional magnetic disk drive.
"Nevertheless, SSD is not ready for the prime-time space yet. When a conventional hard disk drive fails, data recovery can be attempted, however, when cells of a solid state disk fail, the data contained in those cells are permanently destroyed.
"For those of us who are willing to take the risk though, a 32GB or 64GB SSD offers a 9% improvement in power consumption, approximately a 37% performance improvement (including a seek time of up to 15 times faster than the best mechanical hard disks currently available), and a demonstrated 50% reduction in Vista boot time," says Pinto.
"SSD pricing has also improved significantly, from around 10 times the cost-per-megabyte of conventional drives, to just 30% more. This has largely been due to the acquisition of Lexar Media by memory manufacturer Micron earlier this year, as part of Intel and Micron's joint venture to produce cost-effective solid state storage.
"Seagate's PSD Hybrid Drive technology offers an alternative option, combining non-volatile memory with magnetic storage to provide an affordable enhancement to power-consumption and response-time, while also offering a reduction in failure-rates by reducing platter spin frequency. The best part is that these advantages are available for just 10% more than what you would expect pay for a decent mobile HDD. Seagate is considering 512MB of NVRAM on their next generation of hybrid drives, depending on the market's response to their current 256MB hybrid offering.
"Beyond SSD and PSD," Pinto says, "flash also brings a much-needed performance enhancement for notebooks using Intel's new Santa Rosa Platform, now renamed Centrino Duo or Centrino Pro: Turbo Memory, essentially a flash module housed on the motherboard, enhances response and accelerates boot-time by up to 20%, according to Intel," he adds.
"While awaiting further price-drops and improvements that are likely to render SSD the storage medium of choice, smart buyers would do well to hedge their bets on PSD Hybrid drives and to take advantage of the innovative use of Flash memory that Intel's Santa Rosa platform offers. These two technologies currently represent the best offerings for the mobile market," Pinto concludes.
32GB solid state storage is available from Fujitsu Siemens Computers on the Lifebook P1610 ultra-portable convertible tablet at a recommended retail price of R17 499.00 including VAT and R19 699.00 including VAT.