Solid-state drive prices continue to fall, and SanDisk is doing its part with a new 240GB laptop drive for $450. But don't expect to pay that kind of price when getting an SSD directly from Apple or Hewlett-Packard.
Flash memory-based SSDs are the storage of choice in cutting-edge, weight-sensitive designs. They're standard in all the new 2011 MacBook Airs and will populate the new wave of Ultrabooks due later this year. Drives of 256GB capacity from first-tier suppliers such as Micron Technology were more than $500 earlier this year, so a new drive from SanDisk with comparable capacity for $450 means SSD pricing continues to head south.
SanDisk is marketing its Ultra SSD, announced today, as a "drop-in solution for technology enthusiasts" looking to upgrade their own laptops. SSDs are typically faster at reading data--often much faster--than the standard magnetic hard disk drives that ship with laptops.
The SATA II SSDs are rated at speeds of up to 280 megabytes per second (MB/sec) sequential read and 270 MB/sec sequential write. Intel, by contrast, has published read and write speeds for SATA II of 265 MB/s and 240 MB/s, respectively (PDF).
SanDisk is also selling a 60GB Ultra SSD for $129.99 and a 120GB model for $219.99. All Ultra models are offered as 2.5-inch form factors, which is the standard height for laptop drives.
But don't expect this kind of pricing when you configure a laptop from Apple or Hewlett-Packard with an SSD. Apple tacks on $600 if you opt for a 256GB SSD in a MacBook Pro instead of the standard 500GB hard disk (5400RPM). HP lists a 256GB SSD upgrade at $550 for its EliteBook 8560p. (And Apple's top-of-the-line MacBook Air with a 256GB SSD is listed at $1,599--$300 more than the identically configured model with a 128GB SSD.)
How does that pricing stack up against other retail 256GB drives from a first-tier supplier? Micron's Crucial branded 256GB drives generally retail for about $450.
Finally, note that real-world performance can differ from published read and write numbers, as this benchmark of the 2011 MacBook Air's SSD shows.