Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The future of computers is Solid, if only the consumer knew it.

For a long time the general public has been savvy, but not savvy enough.

While consumers may be driving the demand for faster computers they are not necessarily driving in the right direction.

You see most computer buyers now know the basics: More ram is better, a bigger hard drive and a faster processor. But thats not always the case, and hasn't been for quite some time.

You have been able to get dual processors since the 90's (probably the eighties actually). In fact it was interesting to me that you used to be able to buy two processors than ran at 75% of the speed of the top processor of the time, for the same price. The reason it wasn't widely adopted was two fold, firstly the motherboards were too expensive. This was a catch 22, the price would have gone down if more units were sold, but they weren't selling that fast because of the price. The second reason was that the public and even enterprise was focused on faster processors.

The only reason that we have duel core processors now, is that the processor manufacturers are having a more and more difficult job of making the processors faster. In order to satisfy the consumers need for something better, AMD and Intel finally started going towards more processor cores.

Fast forward to today and we have the same problem as in the 90's. The computer consumer has enough knowledge to drive the technology, but is interested in the wrong thing, or doesn't know which direction will truly benefit their computing experience.

Today for example we have massive hard disks capable of storing far more than we need (unless one needs to archive large amounts of data like servers, or Peer 2 Peer file sharers). But most people don't need all that and there is an alternative which is much faster than a conventional magnetic hard disk – solid state hard disks.

You can think of a solid state hard drive as more RAM which appears as a hard disk. The access time and loading time for data off solid state hard drive is very little because there are no moving parts. The catch? Solid state hard disks are expensive,... or are they?

Thanks to digital cameras and the mp3 player revolution flash memory prices have plummeted. There is now more than enough available solid state memory technology to have facilitated cheaper solid state hard drives. Yes, they are still more expensive, but the move to using term in our computers is a move that the consumer has to take.

The consumer needs to understand that if (hypothetically) the price for a 500gb conventional hard sick and the price of a 80gb solid state hard disk are about the same, we should all use solid state. This would increase the performance more than faster processors do. Also as with the 90's example, the price would soon plummet and before long a standard would be established.

So what would I buy?

I don't have a big budget and am looking for my next computer right now. The computer I would like to buy would be restricted by my budget. I would like to have one of the slower (a good speed rating at an economical price) processors available but with a fast bus speed and fast RAM (yes RAM comes in different speeds) and a fast(ish) graphics card (I play games). Lastly I as the one thing I would incorporate is a Solid State hard disk. I have other Hard disks I can use for storage, but I want my operating system and programs to be store on solid state.

Probably the first company to provide such computers will be Apple. Apple has been building desktop computers using components normally found in laptops (iMacs). They do this to mac the computer so small it fits stylishly into a single unit (that looks like just a monitor). They are even already offering solid state options with their mobile line, because solid state also offers one amazing advantage to conventional hard disk thats great for mobile computing. No moving parts mean vastly lower power consumption.

I don't think it will be long before Apple notices that solid state hard disks offer a noticeable performance increase and choose to take advantage of that to use as a marketing ploy.

Unfortunately for me, I will have to save my pennies, because if there is one thing Apple is not good at, it's making entry level machines for budget consumers (especially gamers). While other manufacturers lower the cost of their entry level machines, Apple just increases their entry level specification (and price), but thats another post....

So be educated, look out for solid state hard drives appearing in more and more new computers. Don't be easily tempted with a big hard drive when a solid state hard disk my give you the fastest computer on the block.

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