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Mini laptops with SSD- or how to make your netbook a lot faster

By Mark , updated on June 4, 2014

The first netbooks to hit the market a few years ago were mainly packing a small SSD drive with 4 GB of storage, which was enough to store Linux and a couple of very simple apps. It wasn’t long before traditional mechanical hard drives were used in netbooks because users started viewing these devices more as entertainment mini laptops and needed more storage for keeping their movies and music close by.

Also, the days of Linux were kind of over and Windows needed much more space to run properly than the open source OS. Considering that netbooks were and are perceived as budget devices (most of them, anyway), manufacturers prefer HDD because they are cheaper and a 160 or 250 HDD is much cheaper than a similar SSD.

Solid State Disk technology (SSD) is faster than HDD because data is stored directly on memory chips and access time and latency are lower (that’s a good thing). Also, because the drive doesn’t have moving parts is safer than HDDs, which can be irremediably broken if one of the sensible components inside gets broken if you drop your netbook. Another advantage of SSD is that it needs less power to run than HDDs- this partially explains the good battery life of most tablets, which come with this type of memory.

SSD drives are smaller and much safer than HDD

SSD drives are faster than standard HDDs, but way more expensive

So why don’t netbooks just use SSD all the time? Well, because they would get too expensive.. SSD sounds great and works great too (most of the time) and components manufacturers sure know how to price that. A 16 or 32 GB SSD can be more expensive than a 250 GB HDD and most of the time quality is swapped for quantity. But if you’re one of those willing to spend more for more, going for a netbook with an SSD is a good choice. Your computer will boot much faster, accessing files and launching apps will be also faster and your battery will be drained slower.

No wonder that top mini laptops like the Mac Book Air 11.6 inch and Samsung 9 Series opt for this type of storage- it’s the best storage (lots of) money can buy these days. Future coming ultrabooks will also have SSD storage by default, but all these are expensive notebooks well withing the price range of most users.

However, while netbooks do not come with an SSD by default, you can get one inside yourself. You’ve got two options: first, replace the HDD with a standard 2.5 inch SSD, and second, add a mini SSD to the play, next to your standard laptop HDD.

If you want to change your HDD for an SSD, you should know that the SSD connects to the motherboard using the same adapter as the HDD, so all you have to do is swap one for the other. This is easier said than done, as most netbooks are built in such a way that you can’t access the storage panel without removing the keyboard, a move that will cost you your warranty. However, you can do this at an authorized shop, but you’ll have to pay extra for it.

Maybe the best way to go, in terms of budget and functionality, is to pair up an HDD and an SSD. A 16-32 GB SSD isn’t that expensive, but it’s just enough to store on it the OS, essential files and programs you’re accessing often, while the slower, but roomy HDD can host all your movies, pictures, music and more. This way, applications will launch faster and the overall performance of your netbook will increase, without crushing your wallet.

However, you cannot use both an SSD and a HDD on most 10 inch netbooks and only some of the 11.6 to 12 inch devices can accommodate this combo, as you need a laptop with an unused and accessible PCI-E slot so you can place a mini SSD drive in there.

The 11.6 inch MacBook Air is one of the few netbooks packing an SSD

The 11.6 inch MacBook Air is one of the few netbooks packing an SSD

SSDs are the way of the future, but they’re too expensive right now in order to become the mainstream option for most netbooks.

So for now, if you don’t want to spend too much, you can either go for a smaller SSD and be very economical about how much you’re storing or go for a netbook with MeeGo or Chrome OS, which store most of your data online anyway.

Or, if you’re willing to splash some cash for a much faster netbook, just go out and buy a 128 or 256 GB SSD and just enjoy it.

Mark is an Editor here at tlbhd.com . He's studying Screenwriting and Production in "sunny" London and in his spare time, he works as an IT editor for a couple of mobile publications, like this one.

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