By Shawn Soni
Periperhal devices based on solid state technologies are becoming more prevalent for use as both external devices and internal drives for both portable and desktop computers. The low power consumption of SSDs (solid state drives) is especially relevant when you have a laptop running solely on battery power and you're moving data off for storage.
Lexar’s Crucial line has an interesting entry into the market with 32- and 64GB drives that work even while being shaken up by a paint shaker (see the YouTube video here). Although that’s not a recommended way to treat a drive, it’s instructive to know that it “takes a licking…” and still functions at 110 percent. The practical application of a device like this is its usefulness for storing critical data (pictures), particularly in extreme situations, after transferring the images from a memory card to a computer.
The Lexar drive as tested arrived with some assembly required. The drive itself requires mounting in a case that has an external USB interface on it. The assembly process takes about 10 minutes and a small Phillips-head screwdriver (not included). A drive enclosure/bracket kit is included and can be added into an available drive bay on a desktop computer if desired, allowing you to insert the SSD device into the computer for use as a “removable” device.
I tested the drive on both a Windows XP desktop and a Macintosh computer and neither had any difficulty recognizing the drive or mounting it as a removable device.
File copy times were not noticeably better than other hard drive devices, but that is not due to the SSD technology, but rather the USB interface. The device is capable of using an e-SATA interface, which is faster than USB for data transfer, but not all users have an e-SATA interface card or native connection on their computer.
The biggest limitation of the Crucial SSD is not the technology itself but the size of the drives available. SSD technology is probably the way most drives will go, given their ruggedness, low power consumption and relative reliability. An SSD drive of 250 GB or greater would be a most useful device, especially if it was the same physical dimensions as this Crucial drive, e.g. shirt-pocket sized.
This drive is worth a look as a really rugged and reliable piece of technology for photographers who need to make sure that they always have “one good copy” out of the studio environment.
Just as with CompactFlash, as these SSD devices will become less expensive and everyone will probably have more than one, and in sizes that fit each person’s workflow and storage requirements. Until then, the 32GB and 64GB sizes are useful if somewhat limited for anything beyond intermediate storage solutions for keeping a reliable backup copy of work before moving onto a permanent archive.