The memory sector has grown in leaps and bounds over the last five years, in terms of both market value and the sheer range of products. Once limited to storage, RAM and floppy disks, the development of innovations like flash memory and USB ports have opened up the category in a way that was previously thought impossible.
Although cloud and network based options are increasingly available, a significant proportion of the consumer market still likes to put its trust in storage that they can see and hold onto – and fortunately the channel is in a position to meet this demand and the technology is becoming more refined with each generation.
“SSDs are now gaining more mass market appeal due to a greater understanding and adoption of their key benefits, such as quieter running, better cooling and faster performance than traditional hard disks,” notes Kingston Technology’s European product marketing manager, Steve Hall.
“Other than that, two new technologies are becoming more relevant; SATA 3.0 for SSDs and USB 3.0 for USB drives. These newinterfaces basically offer increased bandwidth for faster Flash-based internal (SATA 3.0) and external (USB 3.0) drives – bandwidth that traditional HDDs can only dream of reaching.”
In addition to refinements in the technology behind solid-state devices, the capacity that such products can offer is increasing all the time, with SanDisk soon to be releasing an SD card with storage of up to 2TBs.
“We’re doing something called SDXC, which is the next generation of the ubiquitous SD card used in cameras,” elaborates SanDisk’s product marketing manager, Gerry Edwards. “SDXC stands for SD Extended Capacity, so it covers anything above 32GB right up to 2TB.”
Edwards notes that much of the demand for larger storage capacities has been generated by the explosion of video content, boosted by smart phone cameras and HD content.
“From a flash memory point of view, smart phones are a very big driver and HD video, is another big driver, too,” continues Edwards.
“More recent changes are things like the iPad, which started a whole segment that wasn’t there before. The iPad doesn’t have an SD expansion slot, but there are manufacturers coming out with products that do.
“While they are used mainly for transfer, it adds to the environment. It’s not just for cameras any more, you can transfer anything you want using SD or any kind of flash memory,” says Edwards.
Realtime’s product manager Daniel Bennett has noted the penetration of solid state in to the consumer market, which has been driven by falling prices: “With manufacturers bringing out new solid-state hard drives at lower prices, we have seen the introduction of solidstate hard drives into the consumer market. Consumers can now enjoy a much faster, silent, less power hungry and secure form of storage.”
Although solid-state drives have come down enough in price to enter the mass market, the likelihood of them replacing traditional spindle hard drives is low. The capacity offered by spindle drives can now commonly be seen in sizes of two terabytes or more, and the price point for these devices is still highly competitive.
“Kingston Technology’s view is that SSD and HDD can and, in many cases, should co-exist in desktop PCs,” says Hall. “Take a standard desktop for instance; it makes a lot of sense to store the OS and application executables on a super fast SSD, while everyday data files are stored on a traditional HDD. With this set up, users will see a significant speed increase for system start up, application responsiveness and stand-by recovery.”
Edwards concurs with this view of co-existence dependent on usage: “I think both formats will be able to live side-by-side, and I think it’ll come down to how they’re used, to be honest. Things like tablets, netbooks and notebooks may come to use NAND Flash memory – that is what we’re predicting – but there will still be demand for hard drives, purely because of the capacity they offer. So, they will be used on devices that aren’t required to be small and portable.”
Over the course of this year, it is probable that we’ll see the continued expansion in the capacity available for hard drive storage. As Edwards noted, the demand for high definition video and photographic content is higher than ever before, and we are seeing vendors migrating RAM storage over to DDR3.
“Over the next twelve months I think we will see SSD becoming a more mainstream product, and also continued growth of the capacity of hard drives, including 1TB 2.5-inch hard drives and 3TB 3.5-inch drives,” predicts VIP’s product manager Darren Jackson.
Meanwhile, Edwards forecasts strong growth for the memory market, driven by the consumer’s demand for digital media content on devices like MP3 players, cameras, smart phones and tablet PCs.
“We see the memory market in terms of flash memory as really growing,” he states. “I think we’ll still see growth in capacity and I think video will be driving it. With the SDXC cards, you’re going to be able to get Blu-ray movies on there. One day you’ll be able to put an SDXC card in the side of your TV and just press play. That’s the kind of technology that we see as apparent very soon.
“Smartphones and tablet computers – these are the drivers, and I think the future is very bright. In terms of the amount of gigabytes the markets going to use – it’s going to grow exponentially.”
A-DATA SH93 PORTABLE HARD DRIVE
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HITACHI SIMPLEDRIVE 2TB
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PNY ATTACHÉ FLASH DRIVE
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CORSAIR NOVA SSD 128GB
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KINGSTON SSDNOW V-SERIES 128GB BUNDLE
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CORSAIR REACTOR SSD 60GB
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Specs: USB 2.0 external connectivity, SATA II internal connectivity, max. write speed 170MB/s, max. Read speed 250MB/s, latest generation JMicron JMF612 controller and MLC NAND Flash
Distributor: M2m Direct
They say: G.Skill has been continually working to develop the ultimate high performance memory in order to satisfy the demands of top overclockers and PC enthusiasts worldwide. This device pushes the hardware limit even further than ever
Specs: DDR3, 2000 MHz, includes three 2GB modules, fits Intel X58 chipset
CNMEMORY MISTRAL 400GB EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE
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CORSAIR 64GB FLASH VOYAGER
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WD SILICON EDGE BLUE 128GB SSD
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Specs: 128GB capacity, up to 250MB/s read, 170MB/s write speed, high tolerance to shock and vibration
Distributor: M2m Direct
They say: G.Skill Ripjaw Gaming Series Memory is designed to optimise the high performance DIMMs for reliability in order to get gamers consistently fantastic FPS, while maintaining a solid overclock to prevent a mid-game PC failure from memory errors
Specs: DDR3 dual-channel, up to 1899MHz, heatspreader design, fits Intel P55 chipset, up to 8GB capacity
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