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Samsung Control Pad In A Flash

By David Richards | Tuesday | 23/05/2006

Samsung could well have the solution to low cost controller screens with hybrid hard drives that combine a hefty chunk of NAND flash RAM with a traditional hard drive for better peformance and longer battery life.

The drives are being built into portable display devices that can be used as advanced controllers for a SmartHouse's. One of the devices is already in Australia and Samsung executives believe that the portable display screen will be available in Australia by the end of the year.

The Samsung Q1 and Q30 will be available next month in South Korea, and will have 32GB NAND flash-based solid state disks instead of hard drives. The Q1 is an Origami-type device with a 7" 800x480 display powered by a 900MHz Intel Celeron M 353 CPU. If you're looking for a new laptop, Samsung's Q30 is a full-fledged subnotebook with a 12.1" 1280x768 display and a beefier 1.2GHz Celeron M753. Both devices come with a single 512MB stick of DDR2.

Using Flash NAND for storage means better battery life and faster data access. Samsung claims that Windows XP will boot up to 50 percent faster on the Q30, and that data access (rated 53MBps) will be up to three times faster than using a hard drive. The write speed is 28MBps, which Samsung claims is a 50 percent improvement. Your tradeoff is a lower storage capacity for the subnotebook, with most such devices now shipping with at least 40GB or 60GB of storage capacity. Also, flash memory still has a finite number of reads and writes before it fails. However, that number has gone up significantly over the years, and chances are good that an average hard drive will fail in the time it takes a solid-state limit to hit its read/write ceiling.

As we reported last week, Samsung will also start shipping NAND-hard drive combos with 128MB and 256MB of NAND during the third quarter. Intel has also been working on its own hybrid solution. Robson is a similar technology that the chip maker showed off during March's Intel Developers Forum. Robson caching works with any SATA hard drive, although the drives will need an Intel-supplied driver to control the prefetching and caching.

How much extra battery life will an all NAND flash storage system translate into? Samsung isn't providing any estimates, but it's certain that the battery life will be closely scrutinized once the systems ship. Unfortunately for those of us who are curious, a spokesperson for Samsung tells us that the company has not yet decided when the Q1 and Q30 will launch internationally. When it does ship, be prepared to pay dearly for the all-solid-state storage solution: the Q30 laptop will run US$3,700 while the Q1 will retail for US$2,430.



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