Traditional notebook hard disk drives may be on the way out. Memory card maker SanDisk today announced its first flash-based hard drive, and the drive will be launched at CES in Las Vegas next week.

The company is to produce fast 1.8-inch flash drives with 32GB storage capacity. Called SSD, or solid state drive, the drives will initially be included in business-orientated notebook computers.

A notebook computer with SSD instead of a standard hard disk drive is expected to cost around $600 (£309) more. SanDisk said it expects this amount to decrease significantly as it starts mass production.

A flash-based hard drive has many benefits compared to traditional hard disk drives. It is more durable since there are no moving parts. SanDisk said that the so-called meantime between failures (MTBF) in flash drives is two million operating hours, compared to around 300,000 for hard disk drives.

Flash-based drives are also quicker - at 62MB per second they are more than 100 times faster than traditional hard disk drives.

In SanDisk's in-house tests the SanDisk Ultra ATA 5000 SSD booted Microsoft Windows Vista in 35 seconds. The average file access rate was 0.12 milliseconds.

Another, unspecified, hard disk drive, managed 55 seconds and 19 milliseconds respectively.

Flash drives also use less power. SanDisk claims the power use is 0.4W, allegedly 0.6W less than a standard hard disk drive.

SanDisk said the drives should be available in the UK around March, but gave no information about what manufacturers would be using them.