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Samsung Electronics has announced that its hard disk drive (HDD) featuring NAND flash cache will emerge on the market in large quantities starting next year. Theoretically, such a hard drive will boost performance and improve batter life in notebooks, however, it will face competition from Intel’s NAND technology of HDDs, which has similar conception.

Microsoft Corp. and Samsung demonstrated the so-called hybrid hard disk drive (HHD) at the last year’s WinHEC. The hybrid hard drive incorporates Samsung’s 1Gb (128MB) OneNAND device that connects to the HHD’s chipset using NOR interface as a cache and storage for data operating system writes in the process of its work. This allows the drive to halt the spindle motor when there is no need to access it, saving up to 95% of power consumption  and preserving the drive even in case of a physical shock, according to Microsoft and Samsung. The companies also believe that the hybrid drive design also can provide significantly faster boot times when a computer running Windows Vista starts up.

Every time the cache is filled, the rotating drive spins to “flush out” or transfer data from the cache, spinning only a few seconds every 10-20 minutes. The Samsung HHD architecture uses the fastest flash device on the market as cache: Samsung’s OneNAND flash with 108MB/s read and 18MB/s write data-rates. The HHD saves between 8 and 25 seconds of boot-up time and extends battery life by about 8-10% depending on the model of computer, Samsung indicated.

Intel is also proposing a similar technology code-named Robson, but Intel places the flash cache on the mainboard, which means that any hard disk drive, even without flash memory on it, benefits in terms of performance and power saving. Intel is planning to push its Intel NAND technology into the market in early 2007 along with its mobile platform called Santa Rosa. Samsung says its HHDs will be provided to its customers beginning Q3 2006 and it the company will ship hybrid hard drives “in large quantities” by January, in conjunction with the Windows Vista rollout.

“Hybrid hard disks and Windows ReadyDrive Technology are integrated advancements that improve the performance and reliability of computers using Windows Vista, especially notebook computers,” said Mike Sievert, corporate vice president, Windows Client Marketing at Microsoft. “We are very pleased to see Samsung moving so rapidly with HHD technology to prepare for high-volume production in time for the Windows Vista launch.”


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