Seagate cranks up notebook drives to 160GB

Hard drive maker starts shipping its first drive for notebooks based around perpendicular recording techniques. Photo: Seagate's mighty Momentus drive

Seagate Technology, the largest hard drive manufacturer in the world, has started to ship its first drive for notebooks based on perpendicular recording techniques, a shift that increases capacity by 25 percent.

The Momentus 5400.3, a 2.5-inch diameter hard drive shown off last year, is designed for notebooks that hold 160GB of storage, the equivalent of 40,000 songs or nearly three hours of high-definition video. The drive relies on perpendicular recording, in which the bits are stacked up vertically. This increases the amount of data that can be contained on a single platter. Prices were not released.

The drive makes 5,400 revolutions per minute. Seagate will later come out with drives that spin at slower rates (which lowers cost and energy consumption) as well as those that spin at higher rates for faster data retrieval.

Seagate showed off the drive in June 2005, along with other perpendicular drives. At the time, Seagate said it would release the drive in the winter.

The Scotts Valley, Calif.-based company will also bring perpendicular recording to its 3.5-inch diameter drives, used in PCs and digital video recorders, as well as 1-inch diameter drives, employed in MP3 players and phones.

Competitors such as Toshiba and Hitachi have already come out or are planning to release perpendicular recording drives for their various markets. The technology will become more prevalent as the year goes on. Drive makers hit on the idea of perpendicular recording a few years ago, but have only started employing the technology on mass-manufactured products.

Hard drive density--a measure of the amount of data a drive can hold--doubles around every 18 months and at times has doubled at an annual rate. The frantic improvement in the technology comes, partly, because of the difficult competitive environment. Often, drive makers lose money, so they are engaged in a constant race to improve their products.

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