Ultrabooks give SSD shipments a boost

Solid-state drives are becoming the storage of choice in more PCs

Shipments of solid-state drives (SSDs) rocketed in this year's first quarter and the technology is now becoming the storage of choice in thin and light laptops.

SSD shipments totalled 11.5 million in the first quarter, growing from 6 million units shipped in the same quarter last year, said technology research firm IHS iSuppli in a new study.

Shipments grew partly because of ultrathin laptops and ultrabooks, which largely use SSDs as primary storage and cache. Of the SSDs shipped, 5.9 million were used in ultrabooks and thin laptops during the first quarter, around three times the 1.9 million units shipped in the year-ago quarter.

Some ultrabooks and laptops are available with up to 512GB of storage, though 1TB SSD models are available in the open market. PC makers are also placing small SSDs of up to 32GB on motherboards and the storage units act as cache to help PCs boot quickly.

As computers are made smaller and thinner, SSDs are also replacing hard drives, iSuppli said. SSDs are smaller and faster than hard drives, which helps ultrathin laptops and ultrabooks offer long battery life.

Shipments of SSDs that were installed in PC tablets increased to 1.6 million units from 542,000 in the year ago quarter, iSuppli said.

According to DRAMExchange, the price of 120GB SSDs from different companies averaged US$115.50 to $127.50 on July 26. Prices of some SSDs at the end of 2012 ranged from $92 to $149.

The SSD growth affected hard-drive shipments, which fell to 135.7 million units during the first quarter, a year-over-year drop of 7 percent.

Hard-drive shipments suffered due to a drop in PC shipments, iSuppli said. In the upcoming years, PC makers are expecting ultrabooks to take a larger share of overall PC shipments as buyers move to thinner laptops.

The hard-drive shipment drop mainly came in the consumer segment, where shipments fell to 93.3 million during the quarter, down from 105.3 million a year ago. Enterprise demand for hard drives was healthier, with shipments growing to 16 million units during the first quarter, up from 14.9 million units in the year-ago quarter.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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