SSD prices for hybrids, ultrathin laptops to flatten next year

A shortage may stall SSD prices, but the cost-per-gigabyte will continue to decline

A shortage of solid-state drives for ultrathin laptops and hybrids will cause prices to flatten next year after dropping for the last several years, with lower prices coming again in 2016, according to a market analysis.

Although SSD prices may be flat into next year, the cost-per-gigabyte will go down as storage capacity of drives continues to increase on a yearly basis, said Fang Zhang, storage analyst at IHS.

Most thin-and-light laptops typically use SSDs that are closely bolted to the motherboards, much like in the MacBook Air. That differs from the SSDs in mainstream laptops, which can be plugged into bays and are easily upgradeable.

Storage typically makes up 8 to 9 percent of the cost of building portable devices, Zhang said. SSD price drops have contributed to lowering laptop prices over years, but may not help reduce ultrabook or hybrid prices in 2015, Zhang said.

PC makers may instead resort to adjusting other features to reduce the cost of building ultrathin devices. Profit margins on PCs can be thin, so computer makers have reduced DRAM capacity, lowered screen resolutions or removed webcams to reduce costs and laptop prices.

The price stabilization is measured based on the average storage density of SSDs used in ultrathins, which will continue to increase. The price of SSDs for ultrathins will average US$111 for 197GB this year and 264GB in 2015, and then drop to $109 for 340GB in 2016, Zhang said. The price will then plummet to $93 for 405GB in 2017 and $79 for 465GB of storage in 2018, she said.

NAND flash makers are dedicating more factory capacity to producing smartphone and tablet storage, which is another reason ultrathin SSD prices won't drop next year, Zhang said. Manufacturers such as Samsung and Sandisk next year will shift some capacity to make flash storage for ultrathins, which will contribute to the SSD price drop in 2016.

Meanwhile, the average prices of SSDs for regular-sized laptops will continue to decline. IHS is projecting SSDs with average capacity of 190GB to be priced at $110 by the end of this year, dropping to $104 for a 243GB drive by the end of next year. SSD prices will be $89 for 275GB by 2016, $73 for 310GB in 2017 and $60 for 345GB in 2018.

The laptop SSD price drop will come as more people move from hard drives to SSDs, which are faster and draw less power, Zhang said.

IHS is also projecting prices of 1TB laptop hard drives to come down by around $2 by the end of this year. The average 1TB hard-drive price in the first quarter was $57, which will come down to $55 by year end. Prices will continue to fall in the coming years, Zhang said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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