Sandisk extreme II 240 GB solid state drive

Hot-rodding with solid state

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Like most media professionals, my annual spend on equipment is limited to replacing gear that fails rather than the constant upgrades available to early adopters and the insanely rich. My laptop is now four years old and weighed down with running fully-featured operating systems and booting heavy image-editing programmes. I often find myself rapping fingers on the desk while waiting for an application to load, or watching the hypnotic spinning colours of the beachball cursor marking the seconds of my day. Long ago I maxed-out the available memory slots, and other hot-rodding strategies recommended online have paid few dividends.

Today however, a review sample of a solid-state drive arrived on my desk, weighing in—for the first time—at a genuinely useful 240GB. After copying my operating system from my hard disk (the only technically challenging element of this heart-transplant) I popped the solid-state drive into the laptop and booted up off the new disk.

The difference was astonishing. Like suddenly running on some novel fuel, my 2009 laptop sprang out of the blocks, booting quickly, and opened Photoshop in four seconds flat. (To put that load time in perspective, Photoshop used to load in 16 seconds from my old hard disk drive.)

Solid state drives are smaller, much lighter, more power efficient and dramatically faster than their cousins with spinning wheels of steel. In a typical use environment they burn half the power—resulting in about 30 minutes more battery life in a laptop—and are more than four times faster. The seven-millimetre-thick SanDisk drive can read and write at some 550MB per second—the sort of performance that really comes into its own for photographers downloading memory cards from today’s high-resolution RAW-format DSLRs. That phenomenal write speed is what separates this drive from its consumer-level partners; it’s twice as fast.

As for my 2009 laptop, it felt snappy and powerful, like it could think as fast as I could for the first time in three years, and it’s nice to know also that it also has a new level of durability—I can toss it around with the same casual disregard that I’ve become accustomed to with solid state technology in mobile devices. Well I could, if I hadn’t dispatched the DVD drive to the dustbin of history and installed the old hard drive in its place with a $30 adapter, doubling the storage capacity of my laptop.

This review sample is something they’ll have to wrench out of my cold dead hands, because after solid state, why would anyone go back to the primitive world of spindles and spinning disks? Like contemplating computer programmes that were once punched into paper cards, moving parts suddenly seem archaic.

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