Hitachi GST Claims Travelstar 500GB HDD Thinnest on Market

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies designed its latest Travelstar hard disk drive for OEMs and systems integrators that want to build trim, rugged servers and mobile devices.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies announced a new Travelstar 2.5-inch drive that it claimed was the thinnest hard drive in the industry on Dec. 15.

The new Hitachi Travelstar Z5k500 drive family hits the "sweet spot" for the mobile 2.5-inch market, Hitachi said. With a thickness of a mere 7mm, the Travelstar Z5K500 drive has a spin speed of 5,400 rpm.

"Ultra thin and light devices are, without argument, a growing trend," said Brenda Collins, vice president of product marketing at Hitachi GST.

Hitachi said these drives are designed to directly replace standard 2.5-inch 9.5mm drives that are currently used in "everything from external drives, laptops, netbooks and blade servers." The drives can be an alternative to solid-state drives as well as 1.8-inch 9.5mm HDDs, said Hitachi.

Hitachi expects the drive's low price will appeal to OEMs and system integrators. The broad Hitachi GST portfolio will support building thinner devices or devices with extra battery capacity, increased protection against shock and improved internal airflow, the company said.

Hitachi is "leading the shift" from the thicker 9mm drives to the thinner 7mm drives "across a broad range of market segments," said Collins.

The new drives are available in 250GB, 320GB and 500GB capacities, according to the Hitachi specification sheet. All the drives feature an 8MB cache and a Serial ATA 3G-bps interface. The thin drives are very quiet and draw very little power of a mere 1.8 watts when reading and writing and just a little over a half watt when idle. The drives will be available via "select distributors" this month, the company said.

Unlike competing drives currently on the market, the Z5K500 drive is also different in that it has only a single platter inside, instead of two in most drives of this size. Larger drives can have as much as three or four plates to store the data. The drive's thinness is the direct result of having just a single platter inside.

Seagate Technologies offers its thin 750GB Momentus drive, but it has two platters. The Momentus Thin, a single-platter drive, has a faster spin speed by maxes out at 250GB. Rivals Western Digital and Toshiba do not have any single-platter drives currently on the market.

Considering the number of 1TB and higher options hitting the market, a 500GB capacity appears a bit conservative by comparison. However, 500GB mobile 2.5-inch drives account for 22 percent of the hard disk drive market. This market segment is expected to grow 42 percent annually from 2010 to 2013, according to IDC.

Size is not the only factor, as end users need "rugged, reliable high-capacity hard drives that can withstand the rigors of a portable environment" and still satisfy their storage needs, Collins said.

The 320GB and 500GB models are also Enhanced Availability drives, designed and fine-tuned for applications with "always-on" protection in low transaction environments, such as video surveillance systems and network routers, Hitachi said.

These Travelstar drives also feature the Advanced Format technology. The technology increases the physical sector size on hard disk drives from old standard 512 bytes to the newer standard 4K. The increase improves drive capacity to larger sizes and enhances the drive's error correction capabilities.

Optional bulk data encryption is available on the drives for hardware-level data security. When BDE is enabled, data is first scrambled using a key while it is being written to the disk. The same key descrambles the data when it's being read, Hitachi said.

Hitachi also announced the G-Technology G-Drive slim case, which can turn the 500GB Travelstar Z5K500 into the thinnest external hard drive. The external case is also powered over USB. It is formatted for Macs and is Time Machine ready, said Hitachi. The G-Drive will be available early 2011, Hitachi said. Pricing was not disclosed. Hitachi GST is currently preparing for an IPO.