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Notebook storage gets a boost

Fujitsu and Hitachi introduce hard drives with 80GB of storage for portables. HP has already signed up to use the more spacious disks.

Notebooks will soon gain more onboard capacity for storing data, thanks to new 80GB hard drives introduced this week.

Fujitsu on Monday announced its new MHT line of notebook hard drives that offers manufacturers the ability to boost their notebooks' maximum storage capacity from 60GB to 80GB. A new drive family from Hitachi Global Storage Technologies provides a similar boost.

The new 80GB drives arrive as notebooks are becoming more popular among businesses and consumers, and are gaining more data-intensive multimedia capabilities such as DVD burning.

Fujitsu created the 80GB device by increasing the drive's areal density, or the amount of data that a hard-drive platter--a small, thin disk--can store per square inch. Hard drives hold data on one or more platters, and the data is written by a special head mounted on an arm that hovers above the spinning platter that resembles a miniature record player.

The new Fujitsu drives feature a density of as much as 69.3 gigabits per square inch, good for data capacities of up to 40GB per platter, the company said in a statement.

Though notebook drives have gotten a boost from areal density, they lag behind their desktop counterparts, which have reached capacities of 200GB to 250GB. Notebook drives feature fewer, smaller platters--for reasons including power consumption, durability and cost--than their desktop counterparts, resulting in lower capacities.

Fujitsu's new MHT family will be available in five capacities: 20GB, 30GB, 40GB, 60GB and 80GB.

Meanwhile, the Hitachi storage unit has also introduced a new drive family, including an 80GB model, the Travelstar 80GN. Hitachi also reached the higher capacity by increasing areal density.

Hewlett-Packard will be first to use the new Travelstar 80GN, in a forthcoming Pavilion ze5300 notebook, a "desknote" portable machine that will feature a 15-inch screen and Pentium 4 processor. The new Travelstar family also includes 20GB and 40GB drives.

When it comes to delivering data, the two new drive lines offer speeds of 4,200 revolutions per minute, as opposed to some of the fastest 60GB notebook drives, which turn at 5,400rpm, thus allowing them to read and write data more quickly. Hitachi works around the shortcoming by offering 8MB of cache as a buffer to boost performance.

Where HP has already signed on for the Travelstar 80GN, other PC makers are likely to adopt the new drives a little later, once they become more readily available. Both drive manufacturers expect to increase their output, making larger quantities available possibly by late March.

Dell Computer, for one, has said it will offer an 80GB hard drive in its Dimension 8500 notebook as soon as possible.

Neither Fujitsu nor Hitachi announced prices for their new devices because, unlike desktop hard drives, notebook drives are sold mainly to manufacturers, not marketed as upgrades.