Introduction and Specifications
Solid State Storage products are obviously setting the computing market on fire as of late. There is little question that the writing is on the wall. Like the vacuum tube transistors of yesterday, spinning hard drives are bound to go the way of the Dodo bird. It's only a matter of time; not if, but when. However, the "when" in reality will likely not come for years yet of course. In the Data Center, where ridiculously cheap bulk storage is critical, there is just no substitution for the cost per gigabyte metrics of traditional spinning disk media. However, in the end user notebook and desktop markets, especially where performance is often times a differentiator, SSDs are making huge inroads. It's only a matter of time (and cost reduction) before SSDs are the de facto standard for notebooks and then comes the desktop. We won't make any grand predictions here but there's good reason why the major hard drive manufacturers are lining up now to get some skin in the game.
It's only natural that the major storage players are watching this market closely to align at the proper entry points. Let's face it, the storage model historically has been all about volume and razor thin margins. There's plenty of room for error with leading the curve in SSD technology, with the break-neck pace of evolution the product is going through currently. There's literally a new product arriving to market monthly it seems. And this time, the major storage players are going to be slugging it out in yet another razor-thin margin arena with the major memory manufacturers and that little company called Intel, gunning for their share of the kill.
So why would good ol' Western Digital want in on this mayhem? Because they have to eventually; it's that simple. Storage is going solid state and the move to acquire Silicon Systems back in March of 2009, was a very deliberate course of action for WD that spoke clearly about their intentions. We've heard rumblings of offerings forthcoming from WD's primary competitor, Seagate, as well but today WD makes it real with their new SiliconEdge line of SSD products. We've taken a 256GB SiliconEdge Blue drive out for a spin, or perhaps lack thereof, and have our impressions for you on the pages ahead of WD's first foray into solid state drive technology.
Western Digital's SiliconEdge Blue SSD lines up its storage capacities at traditional NAND Flash memory boundaries of 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. There is no usage of Flash memory space on the drive to accommodate for maintenance algorithms or caching. On board is a standard 3Gbps SATA interface along with what we would call "higher midrange" performance specifications. It's hard to believe actually, that 250MB/s read transfer rates and 170MB/s write transfer rates could be considered "midrange" but in reality random read/write performance is more of a measure these days for real world end user performance, versus burst transfer rates alone. That said, the numbers listed here at least give you a sense of what this drive is about. On paper, the SiliconEdge Blue is a firm competitor, but perhaps not setup for breaking benchmark records. Of course we'll try to help you be the judge of that for yourself, shortly.