Final Words

Let's start with a conclusion of the Chromebook SSD upgrade before we move on to the actual drive. The positive news is that the upgrade process itself has been made relatively simple and effortless. With the built-in recovery tool the migration is easy and even the physical upgrade is only a matter of removing a handful of screws (although this may depend on what Chromebook you have). Compared to a Windows laptop, I would say the upgrade is easier as you do not need third party cloning software and the whole process takes less time.

Unfortunately, the good news mostly ends here. Because Chrome OS is designed for a web/cloud environment, it does not play nice with local storage. While you can technically have some level of file management inside the downloads folder, it is a compromise and the user experience is far from good. There is no proper music player for instance, so you are limited to using the Files app (a Chrome OS take on the Windows Explorer) for song selection, which works but is nowhere near as convenient as using Windows Media Player or iTunes for playback with support for playlists and other common features. The experience just feels incomplete if you are used to using Windows or OS X because of the limited functionality.

Moreover, at least in the case of our Acer C720 Chromebook the warranty will be voided if the SSD is upgraded. If you have an older Chromebook that is already out of warranty anyway, that is not an issue, but I would not recommend buying a Chromebook with an SSD upgrade in mind if the warranty has any value to you.

Capacity 32GB 64GB 128GB 256GB
MyDigitalSSD Super Boot Drive M.2 2242 $33 $45 $79 $170
Transcend MTS400 M.2 2242 $40 $50 $77 $135

EDIT: MyDigitalSSD also offers a cheaper Super Boot Eco drive with Micron NAND in up to 128GB capacity.

The third issue is price. Ultimately the number one selling point of Chromebooks is the low price, so it does not make all that much sense to spend ~$200 on the Chromebook and then fork out another $170 for the SSD upgrade. The 256GB is not the only available capacity, though, and the smaller capacities are cheaper, but to be honest it just makes more sense to buy a USB drive or an SD card for offline media storage since they are generally cheaper. You will also get to keep your warranty and external storage can be used with other devices as well.

Obviously, Chromebooks are not the only market for M.2 2242 SSDs. As the PC industry migrates from mSATA to M.2, we will see more and more designs using the M.2 2242 form factor for space savings. While the MyDigitalSSD Super Boot Drive is fairly slow by today's standards, it is one of the only M.2 2242 retail SSDs available (with the Transcend MTS400 being the only other drive that I could find). Then again, the laptops that use M.2 2242 SSDs are usually not high-end in the first place, so for light use both the MyDigitalSSD and Transcend drives should be fine.

All in all, MyDigitalSSD's Super Boot Drive gives Chromebook users an option to upgrade the internal storage for those who need it. I do not think the market is big, though, because you will have to live with the Chrome OS limitations, but someone who likes to carry around more than just a handful of HD movies might see the value in the upgrade. Long-term, it's also worth noting that Chrome OS sees regular updates, so it's entirely possible we'll see a future release add features and functionality that improve the offline storage experience. However, until that happens the benefits of upgrading the internal storage are pretty limited.

As far as the MyDigitalSSD Super Boot Drive goes, performance is on the low end of the spectrum. That comes from the constraints discussed above (i.e. the M.2 2242 form factor). It's still substantially faster than a typical hard drive, and the power characteristics are good as well, but there aren't many use cases for M.2 2242 right now – most laptops support the larger M.2 2260 and 2280 form factors, which can offer higher performance among other benefits, not to mention 2.5" drives. The MyDigitalSSD Super Boot Drive and Transcend MTS400 are pretty much it if you need a 2242 size SSD, but they're not price competitive with larger 2.5" SSDs so there are better options for most users.

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  • hojnikb - Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - link

    Given the space constraints of the 2242, wouldn't make more sense to go with something like sandforce ?
    This is already designed with dramless in mind, so it would perform better. And at this point, these old controllers must be dirt cheap.

    Also one more thing. Given how many cheap laptops use eMMC instead of real ssds, would it be possible to test that aswell ? As i'm aware, eMMC solutions are usually not that fast, but i do wonder how slow they really are.
    Reply
  • III-V - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    eMMC 5.0 should be very fast, and should be surfacing in devices this year. Reply
  • noelbonner - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    I'd go for one of the top laptops on the market instead (like the rankings at http://tinyurl.com/msegfz9 for example). Reply
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - link

    Anandtech quote:

    While the whole netbook boom kind of died with the introduction of tablets, Chromebooks have been gaining more and more traction recently. The original Windows netbooks failed to provide a smooth user experience due to the lack of operating system optimization, and Windows was simply way too heavy to be run with such limited resources

    requires a BIG correction, AMD Brazos was and still is more then fine to run these netbook designs, a 7.2k or better SSD HD gives a very good daily usage of that device. It are the horrible ATOM all over the world thx to Intel and OEM designs that screwed the netbook usecases......
    just like first generation ATOM for tablet is useless and made th windows tablet flop.
    Reply
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - link

    Exactly. Hardware played a larger role in the failure of netbooks. It was simply too slow, and low power processors weren't "there" yet.
    Microsoft should make a huge comeback with Windows 10 in netbook form factor. Interesting will be the price and capabilities of these devices. Good performing $150-$250 Windows 10 netbooks will eat Chromebooks' lunch and make it seem they never really existed.
    Reply
  • titaniumalloy - Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - link

    I think the biggest problem is that they had stupid slow 320GB HDD. If they had used 16GB SSD, the machines would have been good. Of course, SSD were pricey 4 years ago. I believe if Microsoft come back into the netbook arena, they would perform well. Microsoft is usually way to ahead of its time or too far behind. Reply
  • hojnikb - Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - link

    Dont forget. Very first netbooks were fitted with ssds (very small ones though). Reply
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - link

    I owned 2 netbooks, one with an atom processor and a 1024x600 res screen, one with an amd c50 and 1280x720 screen.

    I hated them both. The keyboards were small and cramped, the screen resolution on both needed to be 768 minimum height. The hard disks were painfully slow, it took forever to get anything loaded. The amd c50 cpu was awful. It was cpu bound by all sorts of things and not nearly enough applications were gpu accelerated.

    Personally, I think the 11-13" laptop range is a much better size, with at least a 1366x768 resolution and an ssd. We have those today, but not for $200.

    I'd definitely rather have windows than a chromebook, but microsoft needs to get their windows updates streamlined and smaller...
    Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - link

    I've tried some of the new ultra cheap Windows 8.1 laptops with AMD E1 CPUs etc. and they are terrible. The CPU is so underpowered it runs at 100% the whole time. Poor HDD performance etc. Miserable experience. The problem is these are the new cheap laptops folks are buying. Makes you really appreciate a lowly Athlon or Celeron CPU, at least they worked. In comparison a Chromebook works far better for the average Joe. Reply
  • abianand - Thursday, October 23, 2014 - link

    Let us hope the laptop manufacturers stop pairing Windows 8.1 only with slow CPUs.

    Richland and Kaveri have many design wins and have many (I say many, keeping in mind I'm talking about AMD CPUs here) laptops in the US market but not in many other countries.
    Reply

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