Print 14 comment(s) - last by heulenwolf.. on May 4 at 11:57 AM

Lexar announces USB 2.0-based ExpressCard SSDs in sizes of 4GB, 8GB and 16GB

For those looking for a cost-effective way to add solid-state storage to your notebook computer, there are a few options available to you. Transcend announced a USB 2.0-based 16GB ExpressCard SSD in early April that allows you to delve into the SSD world without opening up your notebook case.

Today, Lexar is also stepping into the fray with its own ExpressCard SSD with auto-backup software. As with the Transcend card, the Lexar ExpressCard SSD is USB 2.0-based so it supports ReadyBoost in Windows Vista to help improve system performance.

"The ExpressCard standard is the ideal form factor for leveraging PC card technology and providing notebook users with a simple, more reliable way to significantly boost system performance," said Lexar's Fashid Tabrizi. "With auto-backup software, the Lexar ExpressCard SSD will be especially appealing for traveling business people, small- and home-office owners, and anyone who wants a secure, hassle-free way to backup important documents and literally add more storage to their laptop."

Lexar's new ExpressCard SSD is currently shipping in capacities of 4GB ($129.99), 8GB ($199.99) and 16GB. Pricing information was not yet available for the 16GB model at press time.

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Not PCI Express?
By kelmon on 5/2/2007 10:47:51 AM , Rating: 4
I must be missing something here. A Solid State Disk (SSD) has the potential to be much faster than a traditional magnetic disk drive which in turn is faster than traditional external drives utilising interfaces like USB 2 and FireWire. Since they've gone to the trouble of putting the disk into the form required by an ExpressCard, why would you use USB 2 as the interface rather than PCI Express, which I thought was faster?

There's probably an obvious answer to this question but at the moment (and it has been a long and crappy day) I just don't see it.

RE: Not PCI Express?
By ninjit on 5/2/2007 11:21:07 AM , Rating: 2
To use the PCIe interface they'd have to include a drive controller in the card as well.
Using the USB2 traces allows them to rely on generic USB mass storage logic instead (much cheaper).

This is pretty much a USB thumb-drive flattened out and shelled in an ExpressCard casing.

RE: Not PCI Express?
By PandaBear on 5/2/2007 12:42:25 PM , Rating: 2
You have to put a controller of some sort in a NAND card anyways, it is not a memory mapped device and need a lot of special care for wear leveling and ECC. The only reason I can think of is they are behind and need to ship something, and in their lineup USB has the largest supported capacity or fastest speed so they just slap a bridge on it.

Looks like SanDisk have the edge as they (and their M-System division) already has SSD designed for both SLC and MLC, and are already shipping 40MB/S CF card (Extreme IV)

RE: Not PCI Express?
By Ajax9000 on 5/2/2007 8:49:25 PM , Rating: 2
You have to put a controller of some sort in a NAND card anyways, it is not a memory mapped device and need a lot of special care for wear leveling and ECC.

This is a very important point, but one I'm not clear on. Is the wear-levelling etc. in a "true SSD" smarter than than what you get in (say) a CF card?

If they are similar, you can build your own 8GB Expresscard "SSD" for less than half the price of the Lexar 8GB SSD -- use this Or go internal with this sort of thing .

They may be a bit slower than a dedicated design, but they'll do the job until SSD prices drop.

RE: Not PCI Express?
By heulenwolf on 5/4/2007 11:57:32 AM , Rating: 2
In addition to the controller being cheaper, as pointed out above, the USB interface adds compatibility. Vista will auto-recognize is as ReadyBoost capable. BIOS options for booting from USB devices should be able to see it and use it as a boot device without having to support yet another interface. I agree that I'd rather see them use PCIE to its full speed potential but the interface code to support it isn't ubiquitous yet.

By AnnihilatorX on 5/2/2007 9:18:52 AM , Rating: 2
I prefer to have PCMCIA cards utlized as a readyboost solution rather than USB on a laptop. The fact that you have to have a dangling USB plugged in a laptop is a nusiance

By Brandon Hill on 5/2/2007 9:30:48 AM , Rating: 3
It's not a dangling USB device. It fits into an ExpressCard slot, but the connection is USB 2.0 based instead of PCI-E based.

By wrekd on 5/2/2007 9:36:59 AM , Rating: 2
Another me-too-crappy-SSD-wannabe-device for notebook users.
You can put it in any form factor you want, its a USB Stick not an SSD.

By Flunk on 5/2/2007 10:02:53 AM , Rating: 3
This is a expresscard device that contains flash memory and a USB2.0 controller. SSD is a generic term for any Solid State Drive, interface does not matter. All of those USB flash drives are SSDs too.

halve the price pls
By Visual on 5/2/2007 12:06:04 PM , Rating: 2
if they halve the prices, they can expect something... but not now
i've been out of the loop lately and was pleasantly surprised when i checked where we are a couple days ago. my local shop has 8GB corsair voyager GT fast usb drives, reviews indicate 20MB/s writes and 30MB/s reads... for just $90. these guys may be offering a more comfortable form-factor for laptop users, but still its not worth it doubling the price. they don't mention transfer speeds too... might be way crappier.

is there any difference between these new ssd drives that are all the craze today and the old-fashioned usb drives? i heard something about wear-leveling, but doubt even that.

a problem with usb devices that i can imagine is that they share the bus, so have a combined max of 60MB/s... maybe, it could depend on the implementation though.

RE: halve the price pls
By PandaBear on 5/2/2007 12:51:02 PM , Rating: 2
The biggest difference between today's crazy cheap drive and SSD to be shipped is the write cycles and the speed. If you are building a cheap card today, you pretty much have to use MLC (around 5000 cycles if Toshiba/SanDisk, 500 worst case for Samsung). If you want fast and high duarability (>25MB/S and 100,000 cycles) you have to use SLC and they cost almost 2x per gb.

Even in USB as ready boost, it doesn't write 100k sectors in normal operation per day like in windows for HDd, so it can tolerate maybe 10 years with 300 bad sectors/blocks per year. If you are using it as a windows HD for booting, you are going to be royally screwed with that in a month. Sure, you can build one with 16 SLC chips in parallel to get 200MB/S and 128GB, but you need to charge $640 just for the NAND and after you add controller, manufacturing cost, and profit (everyone including DELL and Newegg got to survive, right), you are looking at $800-900 easily. Not many people outside the military and space industry are willing to pay for that.

USB's usable bandwidth is no where close to 100MB/S, and to actually take advantage of a 40MB/S device (like Extreme IV), you need a firewire.

RE: halve the price pls
By PandaBear on 5/2/2007 12:53:46 PM , Rating: 2
(cont. on USB bandwidth)

or use a CF to PATA adapter and use PATA.

By Ramshambo on 5/2/2007 11:35:07 AM , Rating: 2
Do most laptops allow you to point to the PCIMA slot for a bootable device?

RE: Bootable?
By goku on 5/2/2007 2:35:40 PM , Rating: 2
Well in the bios options I've seen, I'd say no. That said, it's possible to boot from PCMCIA devices if you boot from say a floppy that has the controller drivers for that interface. (Such as a PCMCIA/PC Card CDrom drive)

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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