Storage technology, for most people at least, is not especially sexy. But the results when storage technology works well can really make a difference to our day, and indeed our lives. See all storage reviews.
It’s become apparent to me only in the past few years how our computers were being held back - not because Intel was slow to fulfil its side of the Moore’s Law contract, but because storage technology was, compared to 21st-century CPU developments, from the iron age.
Solid-state drives fitted inside desktops and laptops can now at last fast-forward the same PC into the future. Well, the 2010s at least.
But where the storage industry failed for so long to deliver genuinely nimble performance, it more than made headway in shovelling on sheer capacity. So while the spinning iron-oxide platter of a hard disk may not be delivering its bytes significantly faster than it did 10 or even 20 years ago, it can at least hold orders of magnitude more data in the same old 3.5- or 2.5in package.
The problem for ravenous 2010s man is that we’re now used to wallowing in hundreds of gigabytes of personal data. We’re all hooked on buckets of space and we can’t afford to trade up from big and cheap hard disks to equally big but expensive and zippy SSDs.
That situation has been easing in the past three or four years; SSDs are getting bigger and cheaper. Not so long ago at £2/GB, current prices are more like 60p/GB. Crucial was the first to go big with its roomy 960GB SSD at around £450. But we’re still spoiled by cheap hard disks at one-tenth of that price.
So new breakthroughs such as Samsung’s grooming of a cheaper flash memory technology is welcome, even if its terabyte-sized SSD is currently no cheaper than Crucial’s. Prices will drop again, though, within months of this release.
And external flash drives are finally getting quicker, too, as we found not only from LaCie’s reasonably speedy XtremKey thumb drive, but new contender Axtremex’s Micro SSD drive. Read our review to see how it brings SATA-like speed to USB 3.0.