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Alienware m9750  (Source: Alienware)
Alienware embraces solid-state disks for its notebooks

The use of solid-state disks (SSDs) continues to expand with the announcement that Alienware will offer the speedy drives in its Area-51 m5550, Area-51 m9750 and Aurora m9700 notebooks.

Alienware is offering customers a wealth of options when it comes to SSD configurations. Customers can choose a single 32GB SSD, a 32GB SSD combined with a 200GB 7,200RPM HDD (which should provide a nice compromise of speed and storage capacity) and dual 32GB SSDs in a RAID-0 configuration (for maximum performance). The dual-drive configurations are only available on the Area-51 m9750 and Aurora m9700.

"Alienware's new flash-based solid state drive solutions dramatically accelerate performance for mobile storage applications," said Alienware Associate Director of Product Marketing Bryan de Zayas. "From blazing load times to rock-solid durability, all the essential features that customers look for in a notebook are maximized in Alienware mobile systems loaded with solid state drives."

The new SSD options are currently available from Alienware's online website. A single 32GB SSD will set you back $500. Stepping up to the 32GB SSD combined with a 200GB HDD costs $800. Going full bore with dual 32GB SSDs will add a whopping $920 to your total bill.

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Good Grief
By Cobra Commander on 7/24/2007 2:58:00 PM , Rating: 2
Are ANY of you impressed by this (RAID0 SSD) in the slightest???

RE: Good Grief
By Mudvillager on 7/24/2007 3:00:44 PM , Rating: 4

RE: Good Grief
By AstroCreep on 7/24/2007 3:04:03 PM , Rating: 5
Honestly, at the price point SSD is at right now, I'm not too impressed - period. Haven't read any benches on striped-SSD arrays, but the price would probably put me into a coma.

Ask me again in a year.

RE: Good Grief
By wordsworm on 7/25/2007 3:09:46 AM , Rating: 1
Is your data worth $920? Some of my unique data is irreplaceable. Having solid state drives would greatly enhance the safety of that data. I do backups, and I would continue to do so. However, having the extra durability is *almost* worth the price.

RE: Good Grief
By theapparition on 7/25/2007 7:59:18 AM , Rating: 3
If your data is so irreplaceable (as is mine), you don't want to go with RAID-0!

RE: Good Grief
By TomZ on 7/25/2007 4:59:49 PM , Rating: 2
If your data is irreplaceable, you should have good backups, and then choose any RAID configuration you like. While it is true that RAID0 does increase your risk of having a problem, just using a HDD in the first place also carries considerable risk.

Therefore, the only rational way to mitigate that risk is through a good backup system, and that logic applies equally well to RAID0, no RAID, or RAID1.

RE: Good Grief
By theapparition on 7/26/2007 9:14:16 AM , Rating: 2
Backups are only valid to the last backup. Even daily backups can potentially cost a full day of work. That, in my view, is completely unacceptable for a long term strategy. Plus, there has never been an instance of backups going bad, has there???(/sarcasm)

Adding another drive in Raid 1/5/10 (plus a good backup plan) is signifigantly better since there is no downtime.

With a mirrored array, you are not decreasing your odds by half, they are decreasing exponentially since the odds that both drives fail at the same time are so much higher than a single failure.

For true data security, you should have redundant hardware, make frequent backups, and then store the backups in an insured/climatecontrolled/fireproof facility. I have a service that takes our backups and stores them.

RE: Good Grief
By Kamasutra on 7/26/2007 6:47:18 AM , Rating: 2
It is true that the RAID0 would halve the MTBF, but he also said he backs his data up anyway. Just curious, do you know the failure rate of these SSDs? I'm not sure if it's really that much more reliable as I haven't researched the subject, but it appears he's just making the argument that the convenience would be worth it to him.

RE: Good Grief
By FITCamaro on 7/24/2007 3:15:28 PM , Rating: 2
Given the $920 price tag for 64GB of space with questionable longevity and average performance (compared to RAID-0 with 7200 rpm drives), no.

Most notebooks don't even cost $920. I can't imagine spending that just for hard drives. Not when I'm getting barely more space than my 3 year old laptop has.

RE: Good Grief
By TomZ on 7/24/2007 3:26:24 PM , Rating: 2
The price is high, but the performance is almost certainly higher than any mechanical hard drive.

Here's an article that shows some quick (but not thorough) testing the PATA version of the drive. Basically the drive was faster than everything they tested, plus it delivered the near-zero seek times that you would expect from a SSD:

I don't think the longevity is a question at all. Flash drives have been used for at least 10 years in lots of applications, it's not like it's a new technology. They should easily outlast mechanical HDDs.

RE: Good Grief
By Mudvillager on 7/24/2007 3:35:13 PM , Rating: 2
+ they use some kind of algorithm to stop the drive from writing in the same cell twice.

RE: Good Grief
By omnicronx on 7/24/2007 3:46:39 PM , Rating: 1
I do not see how this would make a difference though, all flash drives have a maximum amount of times they can be written too, whether or not they have an algorithm to evenly disperse where the data is being written too or not.

I wonder if any hardcore testing has been done on ssd drives with many small files being written over and over again.

RE: Good Grief
By Mudvillager on 7/24/2007 4:56:30 PM , Rating: 2
If the drive were to write at the same spot every time, it could kill those cells within days.

RE: Good Grief
By TomZ on 7/24/2007 5:06:22 PM , Rating: 4
That's impossible.

1. You cannot write directly to a particular sector over and over. The wear-leveling algorithms will store the data in a different location each time you write.

2. Typical NAND flash, assuming nothing special used, is guaranteed for at least 1,000,000 write cycles. Typical longevity will actually be much higher.

3. Bad blocks are automatically marked by the drive and not use again.

There is no factual basis for believing SSDs will be less reliable than HDDs - it is a total myth.

I should point out that SSDs are regularly used in mission critical applications - the same applications where HDDs are deemed to be not reliable enough.

RE: Good Grief
By wordsworm on 7/25/2007 3:19:11 AM , Rating: 2
100,000 times is a lot. I think I read somewhere that it equates to about 5-10 years life. That's long enough for most of us.

RE: Good Grief
By TomZ on 7/25/2007 9:01:04 AM , Rating: 2
These drives use NAND flash.

The endurance of NAND flash is much greater than that of NOR flash (typically 1,000,000 cycles vs. 100,000 cycles).

RE: Good Grief
By FITCamaro on 7/24/2007 4:16:35 PM , Rating: 5

1) The difference between the SSD and a 7200 rpm drive is not that big.

2) That test shows nothing for write speeds.

Until I see that SSDs can last for years operating as a main drive for a PC OS (which is constantly writing to the page file on the hard drive), I'm not going to get one. And even if they prove they can, I'm still not going to get one at a price of $15.62/GB. I wouldn't spend $400 a 1TB drive (considering I can get 2 500GB drives for $200) so why would I spend 25% more for 3100% less?

RE: Good Grief
By spindoc on 7/24/2007 4:07:31 PM , Rating: 2
About 6 years ago, before I bought my house I bought a Seagate Cheetah 36GB U160 SCSI drive for $900. I sold it for $20 last week.

The point is that if I had money to burn today, I might consider those drives. Since I'm homebroke or mortgagebroke or whatever you want to call it, I'll stick to the "hot deals" section on tigerdirect.

RE: Good Grief
By UBB on 7/25/2007 5:44:47 AM , Rating: 2
You're better off shopping at zipzoomfly or newegg. There's no such thing as "hot deal" at tigerdirect.

Faster, But Costly
By AggressorPrime on 7/24/2007 3:45:22 PM , Rating: 2
There is a noticeable difference between SSD and HDD. Unfortunately, 64GB for $1000 just doesn't make sense. Even just 64GB is not enough for today. Wait until 160GB SSD drives come out and prices to drop to $2/GB and you will have a reasonable offer.

RE: Faster, But Costly
By Brandon Hill on 7/24/2007 4:04:58 PM , Rating: 3
My Samsung Q1 Ultra UMPC only has a 60GB hard drive and it serves as my only mobile computer. Its has Windows Vista Home Premium installed, Photoshop CS2, OpenOffice 2.2 and various other small applications. Even with about 5GB of movies onboard, 3GB dedicated to my pagefile and all of my pictures and documents, I'm only using 30GB total.

I agree that the price is high, but I don't think that space considerations will affect most people unless you carry ALL of your movies and music on the go.

RE: Faster, But Costly
By spluurfg on 7/24/2007 4:17:45 PM , Rating: 2
Games are big though... 5GB/game is not unusual, and I suppose if you have some super-duper laptop you'll want to play some super-duper games.

Though I'm sure you could just carry media around on an external anyway. And I suppose seek times won't drop abysmally on an SSD when you use the entire disk unlike regular hard drives.

RE: Faster, But Costly
By aos007 on 7/24/2007 6:52:47 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. I have Toshiba R-100 ultraportable which has only 40G drive and I have never used more than half of that - and only when I was traveling so I needed to store some videos on it. I cannot imagine people would use a laptop as their only PC - which would be the only reason to demand huge capacity. And if they do, or they need the space for video editing or something similar, then the laptop wouldn't be an ultraportable anyway.

But this is a different situation - Alienware is a very powerful gaming PC and is anything but ultraportable. Games are big and I would think the space is an important consideration. I don't think some speed savings during game load are worth when you consider the price and lack of capacity.

Personally, my next laptop (naturally, ultraportable) will have SSD. Considering that I paid over $200 for the privilege of having 40G 1.8" drive 3 years ago, paying $400 or less by the end of the year for 32G does not seem outrageous at all especially considering that not only it will be faster, but lighter, more reliable and provide longer battery life. I already replaced my 1.8" HDD twice in 3 years - I cannot imagine a SSD being less reliable than that.

RE: Faster, But Costly
By TomZ on 7/24/2007 7:48:44 PM , Rating: 2
I cannot imagine people would use a laptop as their only PC - which would be the only reason to demand huge capacity

Tons of people use a laptop as their only PC, both for home and business use.

I just loaded up a new laptop, and I loaded just the "essential" apps and data (no multimedia yet), and that used 100GB out of the 250GB drive. There's probably another 40-50GB of apps that I'll be loading as I need them, plus my 10GB ripped CD library. I also use Vista which has a slighly larger disk footprint compared to XP.

RE: Faster, But Costly
By InternetGeek on 7/24/2007 10:08:47 PM , Rating: 2
I cannot imagine people would use a laptop as their only PC - which would be the only reason to demand huge capacity

They are called [i]Desktop Replacements[/i]. They feature full-size keyboards, numeric and scroll pads, etc. I dumped having a full pc for a desktop replacement, and have not looked back anymore. Any laptop that's 17" Widescreen can be a good desktop replacement.

RE: Faster, But Costly
By TomZ on 7/24/2007 10:37:49 PM , Rating: 1
I agree. The new laptop I described above is an Inspiron 1720, 17" display, 1920x1200, dual HDDs, dual monitor support. I'm considering pitching my desktop machine, especially since the laptop performs as well as my 955EE desktop (!). It could easily replace my desktop, even for the engineering-type apps I typically run. It would be nice to just have one main computer and not have to synchonize gigabytes of data files.

RE: Faster, But Costly
By InternetGeek on 7/24/2007 11:31:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I can tell you it is indeed very convenient. Travelling around might be a bit of a hassle, unless you know you're arriving to a hotel or somewhere to place the PC (can't really call desktop replacements 'laptops' can we?).

In my case I have a Toshiba P105-S921. You might remember it because it was used to launch the GeForce Go 7900GS. Only drawback is the HDD which might be a little bit faster. Otherwise I can run Oblivion full-out on Vista. The rest of the apps I use are Office, VS.NET, Photoshop, etc. Unless, I'm travelling I don't really think about a smaller laptop. Which is when the wife's comes in handy.

Since I have it, I stopped seeing desktop-oriented parts at all. And the next 'PC' will be another desktop replacement. Hopefully, I will be able to configure it in more depth (a-la-desktop).

RE: Faster, But Costly
By aos007 on 7/25/2007 12:03:02 PM , Rating: 2
That's fine guys, but those desktop replacements are BIG. It doesn't make sense to use flash drive instead of HDD just yet. Right now it makes sense for either for portability or performance and neither applies to a desktop replacement. I can't see buying a $500 drive to speed up by a little bit a machine that is not otherwise decked-out CPU and graphics-wise as a smart decision, especially since as a primary machine you would be definitely writing on that disk (which is slow), not just reading from it.

I'm not saying that there's not an element of insanity present in an enthusiast - I spent a lot of money on 150G WD Raptor myself, and I don't think it was wise. Still, I'd say it is a bit early to buy into this.

RE: Faster, But Costly
By TomZ on 7/25/2007 5:16:48 PM , Rating: 2
I understand what you're saying, but I think you are underestimating the performance of top-end desktop replacements. I also think you are overstating their size - there is no reason you can't put a 17" laptop into a bag and travel wherever you want.

By gramboh on 7/24/2007 3:55:51 PM , Rating: 2
Does SSD save battery by not having to spin the drive?

On an unrelated note, man Alienware stuff is so ugly. I remember loving their cases back in the 90's but it's so cheesy and bulky looking now (mobile and tower). I guess my taste now is to more subtle looking cases like Antec P180 or Apple's notebooks.

RE: Battery?
By Parhel on 7/24/2007 4:41:07 PM , Rating: 2
I typically prefer the more conservative looking computers as well. But, their laptops aren't nearly as over-the-top looking as their desktops are.

My friend has one, and it's actually pretty tame. You wouldn't be at all out of place bringing one in to a conservative office setting. Even the light-up eyes on the alien face don't look silly.

RE: Battery?
By TomZ on 7/24/2007 6:21:02 PM , Rating: 2
Does SSD save battery by not having to spin the drive?

SSDs feature far greater reliability, faster boot times and faster application start-up times than hard disk drives. SSD can also improve battery life by up to 20 percent in notebooks.

By Griswold on 7/24/2007 3:14:10 PM , Rating: 2
A must have for all those who still believe they need RAID0 to browse the web and play their games (and there are plenty of them) - and now its not only just mobile, its a pair of SSDs too!

But who knows, maybe with SSDs this actually has a noticeable realworld impact.

RE: Excellent
By omnicronx on 7/24/2007 3:55:49 PM , Rating: 2
Would you even really benefit in games over normal raid0?
since ssd's have amazing seek times but lack in the large file department, you would think a normal raid drive would actually be faster or just as fast in this situation, loading all the large textures and all, and minimal HD use in game.

Alienware pricing
By spindoc on 7/24/2007 4:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
The notebooks have some reasonable price tags. Have they dropped prices since AMD takeover?

RE: Alienware pricing
By TomZ on 7/24/2007 4:51:53 PM , Rating: 2
Do you mean since the Dell takeover? :o)

Seriously, I'll bet there are a lot of R&D, manufacturing, and purchasing benefits to Alienware now they are part of Dell. They probably have a lot of components in common with, e.g., Inspiron 1721.

The AMD chips may cost a little less than Intel, but not enough to make such a large difference that you see in the pricing.

Just wait
By Nik00117 on 7/24/2007 6:28:25 PM , Rating: 2
I would assume to have a 32 gig SSD in my PC within 5 years. I expect to pay about 100 bucks for it.

RE: Just wait
By Souka on 7/25/2007 12:51:39 AM , Rating: 2
hopefully in 5 years you'd get more than 32GB for $100....

RAID controller latency
By therealnickdanger on 7/24/2007 3:02:20 PM , Rating: 2
I'm curious if their chosen RAID controller will be quick enough as to not hinder the benefits of flash's faster access time. Not sure why this thought came to mind, but I'm certain that they will be using run'o'the mill RAID controllers built with conventional HDDs in mind.

By WileCoyote on 7/24/2007 4:55:24 PM , Rating: 2
64GB is a lot, we'll never need more than that.

All joking aside, for those of you who don't have enough money, just keeping thinking "trickle down, trickle down, trickle down."

I'm sure most of you have been around long enough to remember 4x Yamaha CD-R drives for $1000. Sure it's expensive and not as fast as it could be, but it will get there. Sooner than you think.

By PAPutzback on 7/24/2007 5:15:40 PM , Rating: 2
There isn't a single benchmark on this laptop. I think most of you get two caffeinated in the afternoon and have the need to flap about nothing.

I'd save this useless banter for when the benchmarks come out.

2x 200gb
By Souka on 7/24/2007 5:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
two 200gb 7200rpm drives for me please....Raid-0

But as said earlier, lets see a variety of benchmarks with following configs.

200GB HD
32GB + 200GB
32GB + 32GB Raid 0
200GB + 200GB Raid 0

Also available - Blue Ray drive
By heulenwolf on 7/25/2007 8:15:40 AM , Rating: 2
I noticed that you can configure the Alienware laptops with a Blue Ray optical drive as well as the SSDs in RAID 0. So, if you want to double your storage, just put in a disc;)

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