Seagate is one of the world’s most-successful hard disk drive companies, consistently ranked first in overall sales for a decade. The company is respected for their high-end products, but is aggressively moving into the world of smaller hard disks for laptops and portable storage as well. The company’s mainstream “Momentus” portable hard disk family has kept pace with the industry, but Seagate will soon break away with a major jump in areal density. Using public information, and the first product in this line, we will consider what Seagate’s eighth-generation Momentus family will look like.
Looking Back (5400.6 and 5400.7)
The sixth- and seventh-generation Momentus families were solid performers, selling fairly well especially in Seagate’s own line of FreeAgent portable USB hard disks. The company has always named its Momentus families using the speed and generation. Thus, the sixth generation of 5400 rpm drives was 5400.6 and the seventh generation was 5400.7.
|Seagate Momentus 5400.6 Family|
The successful sixth-generation product reached 250 GB per 2.5″ platter, or an areal density of 394 gigabits per square inch. The “small form factor” drives in this family included a variety of riffs on the same theme of 125 GB per “surface” or head. Therefore, we had a 500 GB 2-platter drive, a 250 GB single-platter drive, as well as 320 GB and a 160 GB offerings.
|Seagate Momentus 5400.7 Family|
The current Momentus products belong to the seventh generation, though Seagate appears to be de-emphasizing the “5400.7” name. Although the name is mentioned on the web site, Seagate appears to want the entire Momentus line to appear more coherent and less generational. The product manual is pretty hard to locate, too.
The drives themselves feature 507 gigabit per square inch for nearly 320 GB per platter. This yields the 640 GB, 500 GB, and 400 GB 2-platter offerings as well as the single platter drives with 320 GB, 250 GB, and 160 GB.
One major differentiator for the 5400.7 family was the introduction of 4K “Advanced Format” offerings. These use larger sectors for increased efficiency, larger capacity, and better data protection but could be incompatible with certain older computers and operating systems. All hard disk drive manufacturers, including Seagate, have committed to using Advanced Format for new drive models introduced after the first of January, 2011. Although offered as part of the Momentus 5400.7 family, the Advanced Format drives were apparently only sold preformatted and in portable drives that would not likely be used incorrectly.
The areal density of the Momentus 5400.7 line was impressive, but 640 GB was just not much of a step up from the 500 GB capacity point of the previous family. So it received relatively little attention.
Introducing the Terabyte Laptop Drive
Seagate needs to move forward with a major new capacity point, and they appear to be doing exactly that. As noted last week, the Seagate GoFlex family now includes a slim 1 TB portable drive. This unit includes the next-generation hard disk technology, and we expect an impressive new family of products to appear shortly. We aren’t sure if the “5400.8” name will be applied, but these new Momentus models will push capacity all the way to 1.5 TB (with 3 platters), and the increased areal density will push the cost per GB to a new low.
After being briefed for my previous writeup on Seagate’s GoFlex 1 TB, the company offered to send me a drive for evaluation. I accepted, and was eager to connect it to my test rig and take a look. Although the drive information is obscured by USB and FireWire connections, eSATA reveals that it has a very Momentus-looking name: ST91000420AS. This name includes a new family identifier (the “4” in “420”) and confirms it as a 2-platter unit (the “2” in that number), as if the thinness of the FreeAgent wasn’t enough proof. The company confirmed that the new 1.5 TB GoFlex portable drive contains a 3-platter variant of this same family.
|Seagate Momentus 5400.8 Family?|
A little deductive reasoning suggests that this new Momentus family will include, in addition to the known 1.5 TB and 1 TB models, offerings sized at 750 GB, 500 GB, and 250 GB. We may also see a 1.2 TB model, though the value of that capacity point is questionable. Given the naming for the 1 TB model, we have suggested names (in italics) for the rest of the family.
It is likely that every model will feature 4 K “Advanced Format” sectors internally. Since Seagate has developed their own “SmartAlign” in-drive sector size compensation technology (more on that another day), it will not be necessary to call out the difference anymore.
Given that the 5400.6 had 394 Gb/in and 250 GB platters and the 5400.7 has 507 Gb/in and 320 GB platters, this new family likely has about 790 Gb/in for its 500 GB platters. This is a very impressive number, easily besting rivals Western Digital and Hitachi GST.
This new product family will really shake up the portable storage market. It will single-handedly alter both the high- and low-capacity limits found in everything from laptops to portable drives. And other drive vendors will have to scramble to reach the nearly-800 Gb/in technology Seagate is using.
Seagate already had the most-desirable laptop disk, the killer 500 GB hybrid Momentus XT. Now they will be introducing another lust-worthy drive, the 1 TB Momentus 5400.8. With 2 platters, 9 mm thinness, and low power usage, I expect this to quickly become the top capacity offering for laptop makers. And the fact that each platter side has 250 GB means that the 160 GB capacity point will vanish in favor of 250 GB as the minimum configuration.
And one final note: Applying this technology to a 3.5 inch form factor gives us over 1 TB per platter in a drive like Seagate’s 5900 rpm Barracuda LP series. Since those cases already hold 4 platters, we could see a new line of Barracuda LP drives with 4 TB of capacity very soon!