The second factor is whether a laptop can be designed around the SSD and optimized for its use, versus having an optional SSD component. "These laptops can be designed for tremendous power and battery life savings, and can use a slightly slower CPU but still get equivalent or better system performance, while saving on power and heat," says Beard.
Tests by Tom's Hardware have found that battery life and power can vary tremendously, depending on the particular SSD and the particular conventional hard drive model.
"The truth is that no general conclusion, such as 'Flash SSDs are more efficient,' can be drawn at this point for the majority of the Flash SSDs on the market," according to Tom's testers.
The article shows that the newer conventional hard drives, especially those for laptops such as the Hitachi Travelstar line, have several different power-saving states, making them very energy efficient. The tests at Tom's compared several different SSDs and conventional drives, and found that some SSDs, such as from OCZ, provide five times better performance per watt of energy consumed than the conventional drives. Where the SSDs become more efficient is when they are in use more often, such as playing a DVD, or serving up a transaction database.
"Flash SSDs do not inherently contribute to increasing battery life and better efficiency comes with the appropriate Flash SSD used for a specific application. 'Flash SSD' is not a qualifier for efficiency or performance."
Where SSDs do shine is in reliability, because they have no moving parts. They can be used in harsh environments, such as in hotter climates or places where PCs will be moved about frequently and subject to shocks and vibrations. Samsung claims that its drives have a factor of six times better failure rates, meaning that they will last longer and have lower support and replacement costs.
But any discussion about costs should take into account the overall cost of ownership and factor in support and other costs. IDC, in a report last year, estimates that SSDs can save each user about $176 a year from various elements, including support, power efficiency, and productivity improvements.
Samsung also has a total cost of ownership calculator on their Web site (samsungssd.com) so you can calculate your own savings, if you buy into the IDC analysis.
SSDs are here to stay, and the initial price differential will continue to close as the memory and electronics become cheaper. Certainly, they are worth a look. And, if you are going to contemplate buying them as a laptop standard, worth doing some additional testing to determine if the battery life will be a net gain under your own circumstances.
And for high-demand computing situations such as transaction servers, they might make a big difference, as the IC Source folks found out.