Many people ask me why I chose the MacBook Air as my personal choice. Apart from wanting to finally try and make a run away from Windows was one of the reasons, but the main reason was to take advantage of SSD’s (that’s Solid State Storage if you don’t know).
Hard Disk drives you may not know have been around since 1956 and introduced by IBM. Hard Drives have grown in both strength and size. They now have shock protection, parking of heads all built-in but also incorporate imminent failure warning systems. The sizes have grown massively over the years, and we’re now into terrabytes for some users or gigabytes for most users.
SSD’s are the newt way forward, they’re Solid State Drives, e.g. no moving parts. No latency on having to spin the disk up to speed, e.g. 7200 rpm (revs per minute) and then having to have a head (needle) touch the disk (which can sometimes scratch the surface and damage it under movement/shock).
Think of SSD’s like a memory chip in terms of Solid State, they’re efficient, their quick, there’s no need to spin up a disc, there’s no need to have a head touch the surface. If you try to access it, it’s there and ready. When you take an average laptop that can take easily 45 seconds to 1 minute to boot up to the Operating System, be it Mac OS X or Windows 7, swap the Hard Disk Drive out with a Solid State Drive, and you’ll then see speeds of around 13 seconds boot time to the Operating System. That’s about 3x times faster than a manual Hard Disk Drive.
The speed gain isn’t only seen on boot up, try to run any large weight application like Word, Excel, PowerPoint on Windows and you’ll find that it loads in <1 second. If you try to do anything that does very heavy Hard Disk Drive access then this is really where you will see great improvements in reduced wait times.
SSD’s aren’t all that rosy though. They’re still new for one thing, there’s still no average as they’re new on how long they’ll last. Most manufacturers of SSD’s claim that they will most likely last less than a regular Hard Disk Drive. Likewise if they start to die, the suggestion is they will die quickly as opposed to a spinning Hard Disk Drive, although I’m not too sure of that. On average I find my hard drives in laptops last around 2 years or less, so if an SSD were to last 18 months, then I would still be happy if I could get the speed gain that I really crave as a power user.
The other problem with SSD’s is both price and size. As they’re new, prices are still high although SSD costs are coming down. Likewise 256gb SSD’s are within the grasp of most end users but if you want something larger than that, they start to get really expensive.
Which manufacturers make Solid State Drives? Well there’s a good article over at WikiPedia that shows a comparison of which manufacturers make Hard Disk Drives vs Solid State Drives.
Now both my MacBook Air run an SSD and my Toshiba Windows 7 based SSD laptop, and I’m seeing huge amounts of speed enhancement over regular Hard Disk Drives. I’ve been running the Macbook Air for around 9 months and the Toshiba for about 1 month. I simply couldn’t go back to a conventional spinning Hard Disk Drive. The only problem with costs still being high is that both the MacBook Air and the Toshiba both only have 128gb SSD’s and not 256gb SSD’s. This really isn’t enough and for a lot of my ‘other’ documents that I tend to have in archive as well as mail PST backups, I tend to still have to plug in a removable 512gb Removable USB Hard Disk Drive, but at least most of my programs are running directly from the SSD speeding up the disk access times.