Hitachi to unveil 400GB drive

The disk drive maker is set to announce a massive drive to be used in the corporate market and in digital video recorders, a fast-growing arena for hard drives.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies plans to announce this week a massive hard drive designed to store corporate data or record about 400 hours of video for consumers.

The new drive has a capacity of 400GB, spins at 7,200 revolutions per minute and uses ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment) interface technology, according to a source close to Hitachi. The drive can come with either the parallel ATA interface long used in desktop computers or the newer Serial ATA interface. Dubbed the Deskstar 7K400, the drive is being tested by manufacturers and could be in digital video recorder (DVR) products available to consumers later this year, the source said.

Hitachi's product continues a push by hard-drive makers to play a larger role in the consumer electronics industry, which is using drives for devices, including DVRs and personal music players, like Apple Computer's iPods.

The company is billing the Deskstar 7K400 as the largest-capacity ATA drive with 3.5-inch platters. Currently, the largest 3.5-inch ATA drive is a 320GB product from Maxtor, according to John Monroe, an analyst at research firm Gartner. That drive, though, spins at 5,400rpm, which translates into slower performance than a 7,200rpm drive, Monroe said. He said 3.5-inch ATA drives running at 7,200rpm top out at 250GB.

Hitachi hopes that its whopper of a drive gets the attention of manufacturers in both the consumer and corporate markets.

In the latter, the drive is targeted at disk-based data storage gear called "nearline." That class of equipment has lower performance and is less reliable than systems with drives using the SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) or Fibre Channel interfaces, but it's faster for data recoveries than magnetic tape storage.

Hitachi recently announced a large-capacity 300GB drive designed for high-end storage devices, as well as a prototype of a small-size 2.5-inch drive for corporate customers.

The Deskstar 7K400 also aims to find a place in DVRs, which are devices that can record broadcasts as well as temporarily pause live programming. Hitachi already makes a 250GB drive that appears in DVRs. The roomier new drive is designed to store about 400 hours of standard broadcasts, or 45 hours of high-definition television, according to the source close to Hitachi.

DVRs are growing more powerful and popular. Monroe expects hard drives to play an increasing role in TV watching. "Every TV in the next five years will have a rotating magnetic device in it, on it or near it," he said.