For years we’ve heard a lot of hype about SSDs and how they’re going to change computing, but their progress has been slow, and the masses have been getting impatient. Well CES 2012 will be the start of SSDs officially entering into mainstream use thanks to Apple Inc. The best purchase I made in 2011 was when I replaced my MacBook Pro with the new 11″ MacBook Air. Not only is the MacBook Air lighter than any laptop I’ve owned, it’s also powerful enough to do some really awesome things I’d never thought possible on a miniature computer (like playing graphic intensive games like Star Wars the Old Republic). Most of these technological marvels are all thanks to Apple’s inclusion on SSDs in the MacBook Air lineup. Of course, Apple didn’t invent the SSD, nor were they the first company to use them, but they’re responsible for bringing SSDs to the masses at an affordable price.
Why Are SSDs Awesome?
The proliferation of SSD’s in consumer machines are part of the growing trend in technology that is cleansing electronics of all moving parts. More than ever, companies are making electronics with the fewest moving parts possible. Think about the cellphone. Your cellphone five years ago might have included 20-30 moving parts, but now, your iPhone has only 5 parts that move ever so slightly. SSDs are part of this growing trend as they replace old mediums of storage. Hard Drives Disks (HDDs) contain spinning disks and movable read/write heads, which make them more vulnerable to failure. Contrasting the old technology of data storage mediums, SSD’s include no moving parts. Because there are no moving parts, SSD read/write speeds are a lot quicker than HDDs. They turn on quicker, which means your computer’s boot-up time is almost instantaneous. Another added plus for SSDs is that they’re drastically thinner than HDDs because they don’t have spinning disks, motors, and read/write heads, which also means they break less-often and have lower fail-rates. Utilizing SSDs provides computer users with a storage medium that is quicker than an HDD while also allowing devices to become thinner without sacrificing performance.
Who’s Making SSD’s?
The question at CES will actually be, “Who’s not making SSDs?” The tech world is in agreement that SSDs are the future. Every company focused on digital storage is fighting to establish themselves as the preeminent dealer or manufacturer of SSDs because this is a market that is about to explode. Over the next few years, computer manufacturers will be replacing the use of hard drives in their machines with solid state drives. Apple has already set the trend for SSD use in laptops by creating the MacBook Air that only comes with an SSD. We’re already seeing a ripple effect of SDD use across the portable computer space, and soon it will hit desktops as well. You can currently add a 250GB SSD to an iMac, and I wouldn’t be suprised if Apple comes out with a new iMac this year that comes with an SSD as the default storage choice.
At CES you can be sure to expect SDD’s popping up in unexpected places, from some companies you wouldn’t normally associate with SSDs. For example, Monster Digital, the guys that make those ridiculously expensive Dr. Dre Headphones and HDMI cables, are set to launch a new line of “Ultra Speed SSDs.” Intel is starting to invest a lot of resources into SSDs, along with traditional hard drive makers like SeaGate and Western Digital.
For the first time in their existence, SSD’s are on the verge of becoming economically competitve with HDDs. Traditionally, SSDs have been monumentally more expensive than HDDs, so much so that few computer owners have purchased them in the last five years. What’s the point of buying a $500 SSD with only 200GB of storage when you can buy 2TB of storage on a hard drive for $200? Even if the hard drive is a bit slower, the value proposition of SSDs has been lacking for years, but that is quickly coming to an end, as companies like OWC are now offering SSDs at competitive prices.
Pointing back to Apple and the MacBook Air, Apple has been able to force the price of SSDs down. The MacBook Air comes with an SSD, yet the entire machine only costs $999. Forcing companies to compete with them at lower price points, Apple has helped nudge the price of SSDs down by making the best laptop on the market at a price even a college student can afford. Companies are scrambling trying to offer the same features that the SSD MacBook Airs have, at a competitive price. This is awesome news for consumers because we get better machines that are faster, lighter, have lower fail rates, and come at an affordable price. The original MacBook Air was a completely overpriced joke, but thanks to Apple’s persistence in pursuing SSDs, the price has been cut in half and performance measures have increased four-fold over the first-gen models.
Every computer company that wants to be relevant in 2012 is going to have to offer products that utilize solid state drives to increase performance while also decreasing the dimensions and weight of their machines. While we won’t be seeing any new Apple products at CES, we will be seeing a truck load of electronics using SSDs. Even if you’re a PC guy, a lot of thanks needs to be given to Apple for making that new Samsung ultra-book a reality.