Samsung today announced that it will launch two portable computers that use flash memory in place of a hard drive for data storage next month.

Flash memory has long been eyed as a potential replacement for hard-disk technology because it's faster, lighter and more shock-resistant, but it's still more expensive than a hard drive. But despite the costs, flash memory chip prices are coming down to a range where some specialist users might be willing pay for the benefits.

Samsung has built 32GB of Nand flash memory into a case the same size as a 1.8in hard drive. The so-called SSD (solid-state disk) has the same interface as a hard drive, so it can be directly substituted with little extra work required.

There are several benefits to using flash memory, according to Samsung. The flash drives can withstand about twice the impact that would cripple a similar hard disk, and are much less affected by harsh environmental conditions. Read speed is 300 percent faster and write speed 150 percent faster than a hard drive, so Windows boots faster and data can be loaded more quickly. The SSDs also make no noise when in use.

Until now Samsung has been coy about the price of the drives, but with the announcement of the two new computers – versions of its Q1 ultramobile PC and Q30 laptop – the price premium is clear.

The Q1-SSD will cost 2.3 million won (about £1,300) and the Q30-SSD will cost 3.5 million won (£2,000). Equivalent models of the same computers with hard drives cost 1.2 million won (£700) and around 2.6 million won (£1,500) respectively, putting the SSD premium at about £500 to £600.

Samsung said nothing has been decided regarding an overseas launch of the SSD-based computers.

Other computer makers are expected to announce computers with flash memory-based drives soon. Samsung, which is a leading maker of flash memory, has started offering the drive to its customers. Sony last week said it plans to use an SSD in a new version of its UX50 portable PC due out around the middle of this year.