PC vendors are falling all over themselves to get hundreds of new laptops on the market, with most of the attention on the thin and light Ultrabooks built on Ivy Bridge that will dominate the market this year. Random examples: Dell has unveiled two nice looking 14” ultrabooks that will be available in the next few weeks, the Dell XPS 14 and the Dell Latitude E6430s.
Apple will likely announce a complete refresh of the MacBook lineup at its developer conference next week.
The air will be thick with marketing hype this summer: Improved performance! Longer battery life! Faster USB! Higher resolution screens! Thinner! Lighter! In fact, truth be told, all those things are true. This is a a big platform shift, the real deal, the kind that doesn’t happen very often.
Cut through the hype, though, and there’s one thing that will make more of an impact on your day-to-day experience than any of the other new components inside that thin case. A solid state hard drive (SSD) will replace the spinning hard drive in your next notebook. The difference it makes is so profound that it outshines all of the other technical wizardry.
If you’re not familiar with solid state drives, here’s a brief introduction to this important technology. It’s more or less like having a giant USB stick inside your computer instead of a spinning disk. A solid state drive can read and write data at a speed that eclipses the fastest conventional hard drive. SSDs are starting to be offered on many new notebooks – more expensive than conventional hard drives, less storage space, but offering a performance improvement that will take your breath away.
The speed and responsiveness of a system built with an SSD is apparent in every program but there is one characteristic that will change the way you will use your next notebook. When you open the lid of a notebook with an SSD and Windows 7, you will be at a useable desktop in 3-5 seconds.
Every notebook you’ve ever owned has had a long startup delay as the not-so-subtle disincentive to keep you from using it on the fly. iPads have become ubiquitous in part because it’s so appealing to pick something up that instantly comes to life. Windows 7 has improved things with notebooks but you probably don’t have a notebook in the kitchen that you can grab when you want to look up a movie time or check the headlines.
The SSD in your next notebook will make it much more likely that you’ll pull it out casually, to check something during a conversation or meeting, knowing that you’ll have the answer in a few seconds and you can close the lid and put it away again just as quickly.
The speed of an SSD doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Windows 7 is optimized for SSDs. The new Intel chipset is designed with SSDs in mind and complements their natural speed. Your next notebook will start and run more like a tablet than a computer.
Let’s just make this a grand pronouncement, shall we? You should not buy a notebook unless it is built with an SSD. That’s a generalization but you’ll have to convince me if you want to save a few dollars by getting a notebook with a conventional hard drive. You’ll have lots of choices in the next few weeks.