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  • Apple Begins Killing the Hard Drive


    Apple calls the new MacBook Air "the next generation of MacBooks," in an indication that they are planning on incorporating the innovative features of the refreshed model in all Apple laptops. Chief among these is the solid-state drive (SSD) flash storage that replaces the hard drive, cutting weight and extending battery life. Apple has telegraphed in a number of ways that the 'instant-on' capability of the MacBook Air and iPad will become standard on MacBooks - if not on all Macs - in the future.

    "All notebooks will be like this someday," Jobs said on the stage yesterday, calling the MacBook Air "the future of the MacBook." In the press release accompanying the Air launch, Apple strongly asserted that "the first of a next generation of notebooks which will replace mechanical hard disks and optical drives with Internet services and solid state flash storage." So it's clear that they intend to standardize on flash storage as opposed to mechanical hard disks. Apple is already the largest buyer of NAND flash memory in the world, snapping up so many of the silicon wafers that it's single handedly caused worldwide shortages time and time again. However, their purchasing power has also enabled them to get flash at a good price, and further driving the price down by forcing manufacturers to increase production.

    So is this a good development for the future of the MacBook, as well as the notebook industry in general? For one thing, the lack of moving parts eliminates the number one killer of hard drives: head crashes. Also, start-up time and access time is faster in solid state memory than in mechanical hard drives, again because of no moving parts. Heat buildup is limited and power usage is much lower. On the downside, the high price makes storage larger than the 256GB in the 13-inch Air impractical, though as production ramps up we should see prices come down. One major drawback is that there are a limited number of write cycles with flash memory; mechanical hard drives can be rewritten as many as ten times more than flash chips.

    Technical and price shortcomings will doubtlessly diminish over time, and for a user who needs a light, medium-duty laptop - and has money to spare - the current crop of MacBook Airs are a fine choice. For those who are looking for a more affordable, durable option and are not rabid early adopters, waiting a year or so might be appropriate.

    image via Apple
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Apple Begins Killing the Hard Drive started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 92 Comments
    1. MetallicaFan1991's Avatar
      MetallicaFan1991 -
      I want a 320GB+ SSD in my MBP but I think the cost will be too high...
    1. KartRacer's Avatar
      KartRacer -
      Apple isn't beginning to kill anything, that is useless drivel. The thing holding back SSDs is price per gigabyte, size, and wear of the blocks. Apple doesn't have anything to do with this. They may buy the most chips by volume but they aren't in the hard drive/storage business. They benefit from better tech but they aren't the driving force behind advancements in storage technology. Instant on was around before the Air and it'll be around after they don't sell large volumes of them. Apple isn't the leader and innovator most make them out to be.
    1. KartRacer's Avatar
      KartRacer -
      Quote Originally Posted by piston597 View Post
      What are the pro's and cons of ssd vs hdd?
      Pros: massive speed increase, much faster boot times and load times, less heat generated, less power usage (I believe)

      Cons: ridiculous price per gigabyte (think dollars per gig rather than cents), nowhere near comparable hard drive storage sizes, SLC vs MLC performance is too great and not many people know the difference, reliability, and wear of the drives. Plus the OS should support TRIM at some point because they suffer massive performance losses if not managed right. And I mean MASSIVE.

      Currently anything of useful size and performance isn't worth the money. Having 60 gig for an OS is nowhere near enough, especially when using BootCamp. Wait 2 years and they'll be worth it.
    1. nbsmatambo's Avatar
      nbsmatambo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Doran View Post
      I'm not liking the fact that they took the memory out of it's HDD housing..... How am I suppose to upgrade my storage if the chips are on the board?? I understand you can get an external HDD but that's not the answer for me.....
      maybe im wrong but i dont think you could ever upgrade a MacBooks memory in the firstplace
    1. hollow0's Avatar
      hollow0 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mardinn View Post
      I seriously hope Apple will fail. They think they can control everything. One day, and that day will come soon I will see Apple crumble for trying to control everything. Pathetic Steve Jobs..
      What exactly are they controlling in this article?
    1. Tyronal's Avatar
      Tyronal -
      Quote Originally Posted by mardinn View Post
      I seriously hope Apple will fail. They think they can control everything. One day, and that day will come soon I will see Apple crumble for trying to control everything. Pathetic Steve Jobs..
      Troll much today Mr Gates? Damn that Henry Ford for killing my buggy building business....
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      Quote Originally Posted by nbsmatambo View Post
      maybe im wrong but i dont think you could ever upgrade a MacBooks memory in the firstplace
      yeah, you are wrong :P
    1. anekin007's Avatar
      anekin007 -
      Is it me of is this article stupid? Apple is not the one that is going to make ssd popular. It has been popular and already been installed in other laptops. Reason it'd not that popular now is because is price/size ratio. Apple is not going to drive the price down it's the ssd manufactures. Recently price has really drop but not enough for people to rush in stores and buying them. Couple years ago a 60Gb ssd would run you $500 but in the past year it has drop to about $100. 40gb is very little now of days it's only good for installing the operating system and a couple of program u may often use. Ssd around 200gb are still going for $500. With a regular hard drive you can pick up a 500gb for under $50. Hardrives like the WD black can perform better then some of the lower end ssd. I wouldn't give up on the current hard drives yet especially for people that needs tons of storage. Ssd prices should be dropping in the years to come but NOT because of apple it's because technology is improving and manufacting ssd will be cheaper.
    1. j.eck.art.3d's Avatar
      j.eck.art.3d -
      This isn't ready to replace the HDD any time soon. As you mentioned for one, flash has FAR fewer write cycles. And one thing that wasn't mentioned was that flash is a linear saving format (which has many pros, but one HUGE con). This means as soon as one bit get's corrupted or fails, literally... 1 bit, 1 thousandth of a K, the whole drive fails and there is no way (at least to my knowledge) to get any device to read past that one bit. Unlike a HDD, were even with a head crash, if need be, you can recover a large amounts of the data from the drive (sure it could cost thousands to do in worst case scenarios, but at least it is still an option if you are storing vital data). Ultimately, if Apple wants to use flash as it's sole internal storage media until those issues get resolved, I highly recommend using time machine with a good ole external HDD to constantly back up your flash-only devices.
    1. Rokesomesmeefer's Avatar
      Rokesomesmeefer -
      Quote Originally Posted by nbsmatambo View Post
      maybe im wrong but i dont think you could ever upgrade a MacBooks memory in the firstplace
      Apple would like you to believe that you can't upgrade anything and that you have to either pay Apple to upgrade it for you or buy a newer model. The Mini one of the first hints that this was the direction they were headed. Unfortunately for Apple at the time, it was discovered that nothing more than a putty knife was needed to open the case.

      I'm hardly surprised they would do this. Take, for example, the iPhone/iPod/iPad - it is practically impossible to upgrade the storage in any of them. Apple would love to do away with user-upgrades completely, forcing you to buy the next hardware revision every time you want to upgrade something.
    1. masteroc's Avatar
      masteroc -
      SSD's do not extend battery life, this is a common misconception and I am glad that Apple (read:Jobs) did not say it would in his keynote. OP, take a hint from Steve and revise the opening paragraph.

      Source: The SSD Power Consumption Hoax : Flash SSDs Don?t Improve Your Notebook Battery Runtime ? they Reduce It
    1. cranie's Avatar
      cranie -
      Quote Originally Posted by vruls View Post
      It wouldnt be a bad idea, as long external hardrives are still made.
      Yes, as long as USB or Firewire is available on them and they don't go the path of the iDevice.
    1. FlyingJoey's Avatar
      FlyingJoey -
      Now tell us how you really feel... and please don't hold back.

      I remember having paid almost 500 dollars for a 425megabyte yes you read it right... 425 megabyte hard drive that was back in the windows 3.1 days. Now 500 dollars will get you Ts of storage. Give SSDs enough time and they we all we'll have them everywhere and yes they will be Ts in size.
    1. awesomeSlayer's Avatar
      awesomeSlayer -
      This sounds good. I want to have SSD.
    1. blueblaze4444's Avatar
      blueblaze4444 -
      Quote Originally Posted by masteroc View Post
      SSD's do not extend battery life, this is a common misconception and I am glad that Apple (read:Jobs) did not say it would in his keynote. OP, take a hint from Steve and revise the opening paragraph.

      Source: The SSD Power Consumption Hoax : Flash SSDs Don?t Improve Your Notebook Battery Runtime ? they Reduce It
      The point was that they were smaller in size (physical) and would allow more room for a larger battery.
    1. cmwade77's Avatar
      cmwade77 -
      For a Hard Drive, I need a minimum of 500GB (2 TB would be preferred though) internal, so SSD is not an option for me at this time.
    1. Rob2G's Avatar
      Rob2G -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmwade77 View Post
      For a Hard Drive, I need a minimum of 500GB (2 TB would be preferred though) internal, so SSD is not an option for me at this time.
      Same here.
    1. moon#pie's Avatar
      moon#pie -
      Quote Originally Posted by masteroc View Post
      SSD's do not extend battery life, this is a common misconception and I am glad that Apple (read:Jobs) did not say it would in his keynote. OP, take a hint from Steve and revise the opening paragraph.

      Source: The SSD Power Consumption Hoax : Flash SSDs Don?t Improve Your Notebook Battery Runtime ? they Reduce It
      one, that was 2 years ago. two, did you read the last paragraph? kthxbai
    1. VBLUE42's Avatar
      VBLUE42 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mardinn View Post
      I seriously hope Apple will fail. They think they can control everything. One day, and that day will come soon I will see Apple crumble for trying to control everything. Pathetic Steve Jobs..

      Some people just don't get it and should reframe from comment altogether.
    1. EskimoRuler's Avatar
      EskimoRuler -
      This is the future. It maybe going slow. But it has to start somewhere and I think the air was the perfect computer for that. A basic Mac but still potential for many tasks at the same time. Anyone with a need for more storage is going to buy a pro anyway