Western Digital drive creates dilemma for laptop buyers

With Western Digital's new 1TB Scorpio Blue hard drive for notebooks, are solid state drives still the undisputed choice?

It's pretty much a given that solid state drives (SSDs) are the future of PC storage, and that hard drives are on the way out. But if you're buying a laptop today, which option is best?

The latest notebook drives, like Western Digital's Scorpio Blue 1-terabyte model, are astonishingly huge and relatively cheap. Priced at $250, the 1TB Scorpio Blue has more storage than most consumer laptop users will ever need. Amateur filmmakers shooting HD video may want a 1TB drive, but the rest of us could get by with a lot less space. Even the 750GB Scorpio Blue, which sells for a very reasonable $190, is probably overkill for the average user.

Smaller and less expensive hard drives are always an option, of course. But if you're shopping for a premium notebook in the $1500-and-up range, the SSD vs. HD debate may be the hardest part of configuring your system.

Which Is Best?

Solid state drives are faster than hard drives, at least most of the time. Microsoft recently announced it has fine-tuned Windows 7 to run faster on SSDs, although it hasn't worked out all the kinks yet. For instance, older and cheaper SSDs running the new OS may perform worse than conventional hard drives. But Windows 7 notebooks with the latest SSDs should have a performance edge.

Unlike whirring hard drives with their spinning platters, SSDs are silent and use less energy. Since they have no moving parts, they're far more rugged too. They're slimmer and lighter than hard drives, and manufacturers are finding ways to trim them even more. Samsung, for instance, recently launched a line of SSDs for netbooks that weight only 7.5 to 8.5 grams, considerably less than the 75 to 85 grams that 1.8- and 2.5-inch SSDs weigh.

But despite SSD's advantages, today's premium laptop buyer would likely choose a hard drive. Because even with recent price drops, solid state drives are still too expensive for mainstream, consumer use. Example: Intel recently touted the affordability of its new series of X25-M SSDs. The 160GB model costs roughly $AU1000. Compare that to Western Digital's 1TB Scorpio Blue at $US250.

Which would you buy?

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Jeff Bertolucci

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