Update: the price per gigabyte for a HDD has sunk to $0.07/GB in approximately a year and a half. Also see this comparison of HDD vs SSD trade-offs. But the most important trend is a slowdown in SSD drive cost/GB reductions forecast out to 2014. The improvements in cost/GB have already started to slow and will continue to do so. This means that the current $2/GB for SSD will see only modest reduction [versus past historical trends] to $0.20-0.50/GB by 2014. This averages at about 3 to 7 times current HDD drive prices. So what is becoming apparent is that HDD drives will become like backup Tape Drives for SSD drives. I have already bought a 1TB $100Can external drive as back up for my digital still and video images. However, my wait for a digital camera with a large, fast, and cheap SSD is on hold.
The original story is posted below with NO Editing of any data. Original was posted March 27, 2008
What you see above is a 256GB SSD – Solid State Drive. It has a capacity of 256GB and has an average access speed of 0.1ms. I have highlighted in yellow some of its other important operating specs. Lets compare this SSD to a regular hard disk drive-HDD used in most PCs, but less often in notebooks and laptops at 7200RPM [most laptop HDDs are at 5400RPM because they are more reliable]. Both drives will use a standard SATA connection to the device. The HDD-Hard Disk Drive will be a 7200RPM, 3.5″ drive used in some top-end laptops(better performer is placed first):
Maximum capacity – HDD 1000GB, SSD-850GB – not much difference here
Average Access Time – SSD 0.1ms, HDD-7MS – huge 70x speed advantage to SSD
Transfer Rate – HDD-75MB/sec, SSD-50-65/MB/sec – HDD has 15-20% faster data movement rate
MTBF – SSD 1Million hours, HDD – .6Million – advantage to SSD but note cautions below
Cost – HDD $1/GB, SSD $10-15/GB – decided advantage to HDD
So in just these five factors one can see the major trade-offs between HDD-Hard Disk Drives and SSD as used in photo equipment.
However there are some secondary factors to take into account. First, the technologies in SSD using Flash memory are relatively new where as HDD technology is at least 40 years old. Second there are some performance characteristics harder to quantify comparatively that give additional advanatges to SSD. Power consumption for SSD drives is 30-80% lower than HDD giving longer battery life and less heat. The SSD has virtually no noise. And finally the SSD is much better able to stand falls and high G force shocks than a hard disk. That is why SSDs are used in military and industrial applications.
On the downside for Flash-memory based SSD which have been used throughout this note is the fact that repeated writes to a memory cell in a Flash memory device can lead to write failures. Typically, the failure occurs after 1–5 million write cycles (for high usage files such as log files, file allocation tables, and other commonly used parts of the file system exceed this over the lifetime of a typical computer). However, new write leveling algorithms are improving this factor.
So HDD disk drives are already appearing in laptops (new MacBook air and the OLPC-One Laptop Per Child). Likewise in photo equipment both highend camcorders and SLR digital cameras are using SSD. It appears the constraint for wider usage of SSD will be the cost per GB and some other competing technologies like compact flash cards and more importantly SDHC cards popular in many point and shoot cameras, digital SLRs, camcorders and even laptops.
See here for a comparison of SSD versus the popular SDHC memory modules used in many digital cameras and camcorders. Again this trade-off between SDHC and SSD is a cost (advantage of about 8 to 1 for SDHC) versus speed and capacity (advantage of about 4 to 1 in both cases for SSD); however with both technologies have better reliability over HDD based devices.
Expect your digital camera and especially camcorders to add impressive speed and capacity in the next few years through both SSD drives. But also expect faster SDHC cards used in both digital cameras and camcorders. What does this mean to you the photo enthusiast? Camcorders in 1-2 years time that are able to store 100-200GB and the same for Digital SLRs. Watch for more cameras that will be able to to do things like the Casio EX-F1 currently does but at longer intervals and greater base image size. Expect bracketing and sports clips at 10-30 images per second for larger than 6MPixels and longer than 3-5 second bursts. In sum, there will a lot of performance improvements in digital camera and especially camcorders in the next 1-3 years; much will be in the back end where speed and capacity of recording images will improve by big factors of 50% or more for each new product intro.