Hybrid Hard Drives to Debut at WinHEC

Samsung said Wednesday that it plans to demonstrate a prototype of the first commercially available hybrid hard drive (HHD) at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle next week. The drive integrates NAND flash memory with the standard magnetic storage in today's hard drives.

The benefits, especially in the mobile space, are numerous. HHDs will be able to boot or resume operation up to twice as fast as a traditional hard drive, and are five times as reliable. Additionally, the drives provide an extra 20-30 minutes of battery life over their predecessors.

"We see the HHD as the most advanced and cost-effective means of improving the performance of a notebook computer's storage functionality," Samsung senior marketing vice president Jon Kang said. "The Samsung HHD addresses the two biggest consumer desires: extending battery life and improving boot and resume performance."

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Hybrid hard drives eliminate the need for the disk to spin continuously, which would contribute to a longer usable life as well as less risk of data loss from dropping or jarring. This is due to the NAND flash memory acting as a cache.

Either a 128MB or 256MB cache would act as the first step in storing data. The hard disk would only need to spin to save data when this cache is filled, roughly once every 10 to 20 minutes. The cache could also assist in allowing a PC to boot quicker.

Samsung says the first HHDs will ship next quarter. The company plans a more widespread rollout in January 2007 in conjunction with the launch of Windows Vista.

"We are very pleased to see Samsung moving so rapidly with HHD technology to prepare for high-volume production in time for the Windows Vista launch," Windows client corporate vice president Mike Sievert said in a statement.

This year's WinHEC is shaping up to be one of the biggest in at least three years. Along with the debut of new Vista-centric hardware products, Windows Vista Beta 2 will make its official debut and be available for download to the general public.

Contrast this with last year's event, which many considered a letdown. Technology pundit Chris Pirillo said at the time that Vista -- then code-named Longhorn -- was "far from impressive, and left me NOT wanting more - but wanting to walk away altogether."

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