The inexorable march of areal density continues with this week’s release of two breakthrough two-platter hard disk drives:
- First up is Seagate, with their next-generation 3.5″ “7200.12” drive family. Boasting 500 GB per platter, the drives are initially offered in 500 GB, 750 GB, and 1 TB versions, but we expect a 1.5 TB three-platter and perhaps a 2.0 TB 4-platter version to arrive shortly. Seagate claims a new areal density achievement with 329 Gb per square inch. Rumors are that Seagate is winding down development of 3.5″-platter disk drives, however, in favor of the 2.5″ form factor.
- Western Digital is also shipping a new two-platter 500 GB Scorpio Blue mobile drive in volume. Unlike competing products from Samsung and Hitachi, WD was able to achieve the 500 GB mark in the WD5000BEVT with only two platters, comfortably fitting into the common 9.5 mm laptop drive cavity.
So why is a 2-platter design important? Simply put, fewer platters equals less power and heat, and more density equals more performance. But there’s more to it than power and heat: As Tom’s Hardware points out, greater platter density moves the sweet spot of the market to a new capacity threshold. Since manufacturers prefer to offer inexpensive single-platter drives in their mainstream products, these products point to a new 250 GB and 500 GB standard for inexpensive laptops and desktops, respectively. Further, expect to see 250 GB portable and 500 GB desktop external drives drop to new rock-bottom prices.
All of the major drive manufacturers are moving forward, of course. Hitachi GST has already announced 375 Gb per inch technology, and Western Digital is expected to launch a 2 TB 3.5″ drive unit soon. The 250 GB/500 GB 2.5″/3.5″ per-platter threshold should last through the year in shipping products, but expect announcements of 320 GB/750 GB or higher through 2009.
Maybe I’ll swap out my MacBook Pro’s 320 GB internal drive for a new 500 GB unit once these hit the stores! And today’s imminent announcement of a 1 TB 2-drive Mac Mini suggests that Apple will be offering 500 GB 2.5″ disk drives in their products starting now.