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64GB flash hard disk brings laptop revolution

It's been predicted for years, but could flash memory finally start to take over from traditional mechanical hard disks in laptops?

Sandisk is showing off its new 64GB solid-state hard disk at Computex, claiming that the new product, which doubles the capacity of its predecessor, is enough to cater for the storage needs for most business users.

But business users are likely to be the only ones who go for a laptop with an SSD for some time - Sandisk didn't reveal the price of the new, high-capacity model, but said the 32GB version (which launched in January) adds around $450 to the price of a laptop.

The benefits of SSD are well documented. First of all, boot times and access speeds are much quicker. Sandisk says Windows Vista boots 1.5 times faster using an SSD-equipped laptop, while XP is 1.7 times quicker. On average, however, SSD access times are 100 times faster than traditional disks, the company claims.

Yet PR manager Ken Castle said the much faster boot/access times will only be of secondary interest initially. He said businesses place a much higher value in the durability of SSDs, which have no moving parts and are less likely to lose data if dropped. Many businesses will be prepared to pay the premium for a laptop that's far less likely to lose important financial documents or legal letters, he said.

So when will the technology reach the rest of us? Sandisk believes it will be three years before pricing drops to a level acceptable to non-business buyers, and even then only hardcore gamers who don't mind paying a premium for technology will show an interest.

But for those of you willing to splash out on a laptop with a faster, more durable hard disk, Dell is already selling machines with Sandisk's SSDs installed.

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