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Apex 1

It’s fair to say that we are still waiting for SSDs to take over the world.  That’s partly due to pricing and also because most laptops shipping with them aren’t yet showing the earth-shattering benefits originally hoped for.

All the way from the lowly Asus EEE PC 2G Surf to the MacBook Air SSD, hopes of instant response performance and wild improvements in battery life have not quite materialized.  Why is this?

There are several reasons which mostly boil down to ‘you get what you pay for’.  In the SSD world, not every offering is ultra fast and low power.  The ultra fast end of the SSD spectrum has until recently been hideously expensive to consumers and OEMs alike.  This explains why not only the EEE Surf but also the original MacBook Air SSD failed to demonstrate groundbreaking performance improvements over traditional hard disk variants.

So should we still wait?  Actually I say no.  Apex temporarily installedThe way to do this is to find a computer you like and then find a great SSD to put in it.  That way you can find an ultra fast SSD bargain at one of the many e-tailers striving for your business in this hammered economy.  Best of all you pick the specs, not the OEM – and that’s crucial with the wide range of SSDs available at the moment.  Many things which say SSD on the box sound exciting but are not actually anything spectacular.

With Windows 7 RC on the horizon I recently bought myself a 230MB/sec read OCZ Apex 60GB SSD for $149.  By comparison Ars Technica benchmarked the Rev A MacBook Air SSD at just under 50MB/sec.  My EEE and Acer Aspire One never even came close to 50MB/sec, let alone a wild 230MB/sec.  Until recently 230MB/sec reads have been simply unattainable.  After finding a free SATA port (as you can see my computer is a spaghetti of wires – do not mimic my setup) and the customarily breezy Windows 7 install, this thing simply flies.  Random file and application access is really really fast, even on my ancient single core Pentium 4.

It’s a great time to look for a fast drive, prices have fallen and some great spec SSDs are going cheap.  On a per GB basis they’re still very expensive, mine cost the same as having two 1TB spinning drives in a RAID setup.  But if you choose wisely the performance gain is huge.  I just hope the interior of your computer is a little more organized than mine!

Neil Berman

May 24, 2009 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Reviews | , , | 4 Comments

Update to ‘MSI X340: Now priced-out by the MacBook Air?’ Acer throws an $899 curve ball

Acer 13" P7350Wow this bout just got a whole lot more interesting.  After initially pricing the X340 at $1,099 MSI are now listing it at $899…and several mainstream e-tailers are taking orders for $799.  That kind of pricing makes the whole proposition turn on its head.  Even as a refurb, the MacBook Air Rev A looks too expensive in this company.

On the downside for the X340, initial reviews have been mixed.  Praise for its battery life and video performance have been tempered by concerns about chassis quality and a poor keyboard.

There is another curve ball mixing up the X340’s home run plans in the form of Acer’s recently released 13″ AS3935-6504.  At 1.3lbs heavier than the X340, it offers a full power P7350 2GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 3GB RAM, DVD-RW and the same Intel GMA4500MHD 1080-capable GPU.  And the Acer looks and feels great.

At 2.9lbs and $799 the X340 would be my choice if running Windows 7 RC, but those needing more power or running the out-of-the-box Vista Home Premium I’d have to recommend the Acer for the greater horsepower.  Price/performance-wise the MacBook Air needs to do more to move out third place in this contest.  Especially as you could swap out the hard drives in the MSI and Acer with latest gen SSDs and still save megabucks compared to the MBAir.

Neil Berman

May 23, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Mobile, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

MSI X340: Now priced-out by the MacBook Air?

mba-999I was excited to talk to MSI in January about their upcoming X320 and X340.  The ultra-light 13″ laptops closely resembled the MacBook Air with the bonus of offering a removable battery and better connectivity.

It seems the $700-1,000 price target is hopefully looking accurate for when the X340 starts shipping.  The HDMI equipped X340 briefly appeared on MSI’s website recently at $1,099.  The lower powered X320 is likely to be in the $700-800 range.

In January this pricing seemed sensible…until MacBook Airs started appearing for $999.  This week MacMall and Apple were both listing Airs starting at $999, although these may be refurbs.  Given that the Air has a way faster CPU than the X340, this looks like MSI is going to have a difficult job convincing buyers to choose their laptop over the Air.

The only sore points for the Air continue to be the weak connectivity and low capacity battery, which is outperformed by many similar weight netbooks for runtime.

On the plus side $999 now buys a super-svelte 3lb 1.6ghz Core 2 Duo MacBook Air, which a year ago cost almost twice as much and is capable of running OSX and Windows.  Nice.

Neil Berman

May 2, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Mobile, News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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