TORONTO – SanDisk is looking to making SSD upgrades mainstream by targeting average notebook users with its Ultra II.
While SanDisk has put a great deal of effort into building up its enterprise SSD portfolio in recent years, it also sees a growing demand for SSDs from consumers, as they have come to expect in the “instant on” experience thanks to their daily interaction with tablets and smartphones. As they look to upgrade their hard drives to prolong the life of their PCs by adding a new drive with more storage, they’re also ready to consider replacing slower spinning disks with an SSD. In addition, users that have already bought into SSD-based notebook are ready to upgrade as well.
Jared Peck, senior product marketing manager at SanDisk, said upgrading to Ultra II will give users a performance boost of up 28 times that of a spinning disk and as much as 15% battery life. The drive features sequential read speeds of up to 550 MB/s and write speeds of up to 500 MB/s, allowing for faster boot up time and shorter application loads associated with tablets and smartphones.
Peck said longer battery life has become a more important part of the buying decision as users as expect devices to last longer and not have to cart power supplies everywhere. And whether it’s for work or fun, they’re doing a lot of multitasking. “Quick response and random response is important.”
Earlier this year, SanDisk released its Extreme Pro SSDs for high-end users and early adopters, including software to make it easier to migrate data over and maintain the health of the drive. That software also comes with the Ultra II, said Peck, giving users the ability to create an exact replica of an old drive, including the OS, programs, and settings, with third-party EZ GIG IV software from Apricorn. The SanDisk SSD Dashboard displays the drive’s performance, has the ability to do manual or scheduled TRIM, and firmware updates.
One of the barriers to SSD-based notebook adoption is the higher cost for less storage capacity, but Peck said SanDisk has priced the Ultra II at a range that should be appealing to consumers with 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB options, with the 240GB targeted at 50 cents per GB at launch, which he said is enough storage for most notebook users. The Ultra II uses SanDisk’s X3 NAND flash technology, which uses cheaper TLC NAND, and can replace any SATA 3 HDD ranging from 7mm to 9.5 mm.
Gregory Wong, principal analyst with Forward Insights, is not as bullish on the market for mainstream user SSD adoption. While businesses might see some value in migrating a fleet of client devices over to SSDs, the average consumer still needs a lot of education on the differences between spinning disk and solid-state storage, he said. For example, they must understand that an SSD needs an OS that supports TRIM and doesn’t require defragging, a process that would actually negatively affect endurance, particularly TLC, which Wong said will become mainstream for client SSDs.
He added consumers aren’t likely to appreciate the benefits of SSDs, and are still generally focused on attributes such as CPUs, screen size and storage capacity when buying a PC. “Consumers have come to expect more and more storage,” Wong said.
Adoption of SSDs by businesses makes more sense as capacity is not as crucial since data is often not stored locally on the client device, said Wong. If they are migrating from XP, it would make more sense to buy a new computer, but there might be ROI in upgrade a three-year-old computer with a newer OS to an SSD.
A report released earlier this year by IHS Technology found the HDD segment is struggling due to the rise of smartphones and tablets, particularly in the consumer PC market. However, recent reports by Gartner and IDC indicate that the decline of PCs has slowed. Last month, Gartner reported worldwide PC shipments experienced flat growth in the second quarter of 2014 with shipments totaling 75.8 million units, a 0.1% increase from the second quarter of 2013. IDC came up with similar numbers, reporting worldwide PC shipments totaling 74.4 million units in the second quarter of 2014, which, according to the research firm’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, was a year-on-year decline of 1.7%.