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Seagate boosts hard drive space

The company claims a new record for cramming data onto a disk, announcing a new line of 3.5-inch drives that can fit 60 gigabytes on a single platter.

Hard drive maker Seagate Technology claimed a new record for cramming data onto a disk, announcing a new line of 3.5-inch drives that can fit 60 gigabytes on a single platter.

Seagate's 120GB, dual-disc Barracuda ATA V drives will be the first to support Serial ATA, a new type of connection for transferring data to and from a hard drive. Seagate will also make standard Barracuda ATA V drives.

Current drives top out at 40GB per platter, which are stacked up like flapjacks to make a complete hard drive, and density has been doubling roughly every year. But there are signs the density curve may slow a bit to keep pace with storage demand, said Jim Porter, president of research firm Disk/Trend.

"The capacities per drive are going up faster than the market has an appetite for," he said. "The industry may say, 'OK, it certainly doesn't make much sense to double the capacity per platter every year; maybe we should increase it 50 percent this year.' The industry may settle on 60GB per platter this year, considering that's enough to meet demand."

Porter said Serial ATA is destined to become the connection of choice for hard drives because it is faster than current connections. Serial ATA joins the hard drive to the computer with a simple cable, rather than a bulky ribbon connector, which will let PC manufacturers build smaller, less expensive boxes. Although it won't be mainstream for a while, PC makers have already incorporated it into their future designs.

"You're probably going to see more of it initially in the network storage area," Porter said. "But if you jump ahead a couple of years, it's going to be everywhere. Anything that saves a buck on a PC is going to get a lot of support."

"This interface option gives our customers greater design freedom and a whole new road map to performance," Brian Dexheimer, Seagate's executive vice president, said in a statement.

Versions of the Barracuda ATA V using the current Ultra ATA 100 standard are expected to ship next month, while Serial ATA models will arrive in the fall, according to Seagate's announcement. The drives have rotational speeds of 7,200 revolutions per minute, can transfer data at rates up to 570mbps, and use Seagate's SoftSonic motor to reduce noise.