Solid State Drives, or SSDs for short, are taking the laptop world by storm. They've been most widely used in Apple's latest Macbook Airs, giving a solid performance boost to even the most basic configurations.
If they work well for a basic setup, then Dell is showing they should work great for a high-end one, announcing their M6600 mobile workstation can now be configured with up to two 512GB, SATA3 SSD drives.
The SSD Difference
SSDs have been around for a while, but are recently becoming more popular in laptops. The reasons for their popularity, and why Dell would include them in a high-end workstation are simple: performance, reliability, and efficiency.
First, an SSD has no moving parts, so it doesn't have to "spin up" like a hard drive does before it can access data. Spinning up can add 2 seconds or more to the time required to begin reading the drive. This makes the most difference in laptops where it's advantageous to spin down the hard drive to save battery life.
The second boost SSDs provide is in being able to read and write data at twice the speed of a typical spinning hard drive. Especially for working with large files, there is no substitute for raw read/write speed.
The third performance boost comes from the lack of fragmentation. On spinning hard drives, files can become fragmented, with various parts of a file being stored on different parts of the drive, so it takes longer to find all the parts and put them together. The way data is stored in SSDs eliminates this issue so files are stored and read in one piece.
Because SSDs have no moving parts, they are far more durable than hard drives with up to 15 times more shock, vibration, and impact resistance. This is especially important with laptops, which can easily be dropped or impacted in ways that can corrupt data on a spinning hard drive. Combine this with the SSD's immunity to magnetic fields, which can corrupt data on a hard drive, and you have a storage device that will keep your data far safer, in most cases negating the need for a RAID.
A hard drive contains spinning disks. For data to be read, a motor has to keep the disks constantly spinning, which of course takes power. With an SSD, there are no moving parts, the device is available instantly, which is why SSDs typically use less than a third of the power that a hard drive does. That may not make a big difference with a desktop computer, but in a laptop that can significantly extend the amount of work time your battery will provide.
Another benefit the SSD gives laptops is in generating less heat than a hard drive. Laptops are getting smaller every day, and designing cooling into them is a constant challenge. With less heat to remove, fewer fans are needed, resulting in less space and power requirements.
Dell's M6600 and M4600
Dell launched their M6600 mobile workstation in May. The powerhouse laptop is designed for artists, engineers, architects, media and others in creative fields where working with large amounts of data is common. They have a need to be on the road but still have the power to edit video files and run professional software applications.
Dell has boosted their ability to do this by adding 512GB SATA3 Mobility SSDs, capable of 500MB/s read and 300MB/s write times. Not only does the M6600 model have the option for two of these 512GB drives, but a user can also add 128GB more through a mini-card slot, providing over 1 terabyte of quick, reliable and efficient solid state storage.
To boost the capability even further, Dell also announced the M6600 will have as an option NVIDIA's latest professional mobile GPU, the Quadro 5010M, which contains 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory. As 64-bit hardware with Error Correction Code (ECC) Memory, the card should provide improved reliability and accuracy to professionals working with anything from high definition video editing to mission critical applications like computer-aided-design, finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics.
Pricing on the M6600 starts around $2000, with the optional SSDs adding over $1100 for one and nearly $2500 for two. The optional Quadro 5010M will add another $1600. All told, a maxed out M6600 can cost nearly $10,000, but for professionals with mobile, mission critical tasks, the M6600 appears to be a serious piece of hardware for those with serious hardware needs.