SSD Technology by Team
The first solid state drive to enter our labs is Team Group's 16GB solid state disk. It is based on the Ultra ATA-6 interface and notebook 2.5-inch form factor measuring 100mm (length) x 69.85mm (width) x 8.45mm (depth) - in practical terms, a little longer and wider but not as thick as a deck of cards.
Based on notebook drive standards, it uses a 44-pin connector which passes not only data but also power. After some hassle, we managed to get hold of a 44-pin to 40-pin IDE connector (with Molex power connector attached) to test in a desktop computer - after which we were up and running, just as if we were installing a regular IDE hard drive. Of course, this SSD is designed for notebooks, so it will just plug straight into any notebook which supports IDE Ultra ATA 2.5-inch drives. You will also notice four extra pins near the 44-pin connector for jumpers to choose between Master and Slave settings - without any jumpers, Cable Select is enabled by default. Being designed for notebooks, there is little to no need to have jumpers. However, if you are interested and it works for your requirements, you will be able to eventually buy these drives at retail, and, like a regular IDE hard drive, you will be able to set them up in RAID configurations, if that pushes your buttons.
As far as weight goes, the drive is very light. We held the Team SSD in one hand and a Seagate 320GB SATA drive in the other, and found that it is like comparing a large rock and a pebble. The Team SSD comes in at just a few grams and you can imagine that if you had the option of carrying around a notebook equipped with an SSD versus a regular hard drive you would start to appreciate the lighter load. Sure, there is a vast difference in the two storage capacities but it does not really matter from a technology perspective.
As flash memory chips and controllers improve and storage capacities increase, SSDs will still only weigh about the same as they do now as the density of the flash chips will just grow greater. Team's SSD weighs just several grams yet the 320GB Seagate drive weighs much more at 635 grams - over 120 times as much. Sure, notebook drives are much lighter than desktop drives but even the smallest 40GB Momentus 5400.3 from Seagate is about 20 times heavier than the Team SSD at 98 grams. It is fairly obvious why we are seeing notebook-sized solid state drives appear first and it all has a lot to do with weight especially with notebook companies fighting against each other to make their notebooks lighter than those of the competition.
Since there are no moving parts inside an SSD, the reliability and operating shock resistance is much higher than those of hard disk drives. The Team SSD is able to withstand up to 1000G of operating shock whilst most notebook drives are only able to withstand 300G. This means an SSD can theoretically take up to almost four times as much shock (for example drops to the ground) than a notebook hard disk drive. Is it pretty obvious that, despite industry improvements in this area, if you drop a regular notebook on the ground from any sizable distance, it will be a miracle if your hard drive is not harmed in some way. An SSD can stand up to that type of rough treatment much better. Moreover, since there are no moving parts inside an SSD, wear and tear is virtually nil and that also means little to no heat being generated by the drive. Workable operating temperatures are also improved - for instance, Seagate's current notebook and desktop drives are able to operate between 0 and 60-degrees Celsius while Team's SSD is able to operate from as low as -40 to more than 85-degrees Celsius, improving its status yet again as a very versatile storage medium.
Team's SSD is constructed using black coated aluminum which is used to protect the SLC (single layer cell) flash chips inside - that is right, Team uses higher grade and more expensive SLC compared to MLC (multi layer cell) chips, which are not as fast and cannot handle as many total read and write cycles. Team decided to use Samsung SLC NAND flash and inside there are a total of 16 x 8Gb chips, which make up a total of 16GB unformatted capacity, 15.5GB typical once formatted. While we are a little unclear on details at the moment, we are told that the chips are arranged in a method similar to RAID 0, which will result in improved performance.
Team will also sell SSD drives ranging from 4GB up to 32GB, and a 128GB IDE model is scheduled to be released later in 2007, just before Christmas. There is no word yet about SATA models or desktop versions but Team is working on them (SATA) as we speak, so they cannot be too far away. When asked if Team would sell the drives into the channel (on shop shelves), it was mentioned that drives would first be seen in consumer products such as notebooks but other brands have already began selling into retail outlets for early adopters.