Toshiba Announces 1.8-inch HDD for Tablets, Media Devices

Toshiba has introduced three new high performance 1.8-inch hard disk drives with large capacities for use in embedded applications such as tablets and camcorders.

Toshiba announced three new 1.8-inch hard disk drives aimed for embedded applications. The three MKxx39GS series drives are available in capacities of 160 GB, 200 GB, and 220 GB, Toshiba said.

All three drives, introduced on Jan. 24, feature low-insertion-force (LIF) SATA connectors instead of mico-SATA connectors, Toshiba said. They reduce the overall space required by the drives, which is critical when the drives are designed for use in consumer electronics such as camcorders and portable media devices, Scott Wright, a product manager at Toshiba Storage Device Division, told eWEEK.

The drives have a single platter that rotates at 4,200 rpm and have a seek time of 15 ms, according to the published specifications. Toshiba also increased the buffer size from the more common 8 MB to 16 MB. The LIF SATA connectors also help send data to the host faster than micro-SATA, boosting the drive's performance, Wright said. While actual data transfer rates or areal density were not disclosed, Wright said these drives delivered largest capacity and performance in a 1.8-inch form factor.

The increased buffer sizes expand the possibilities of what manufacturers can do with their devices, such as letting a device stream high-definition video, Wright said.

"If your device is faster than your system, then you are just introducing latency," Wright said. The drives were designed to reduce, or avoid, that type of circumstance, he said.

These MK2239GSL, MK2039GSL and MK1639GSL drives are different from the kind of drives typically used in a notebook, Wright said. Laptop drives have hot-pluggable connectors, letting users replace or upgrade drives. The latest Toshiba drives are designed to be embedded, so they aren't "field serviceable, but factory serviced," Wright said. They may even be used for tablets, since tablets require high capacity and rugged drives, Wright said. These drives can withstand the "demands of day-to-day usage" and offer "vibration robustness, low power consumption and quiet operation," Toshiba said.

"You don't really think about swapping out drives on a tablet," Wright said.

While Wright did not say so outright, the inclusion of tablets in the list of possible embedded applications for these drives was significant as the company showed off a Toshiba Android tablet at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January.

LIF SATA connectors, by their nature, have low power requirements, said Wright. The 1.8 inch drives consume only 0.35 Watts of power at low idle, he said. The MK2239GSL 220 GB drive uses 30 percent less power than previous models, Toshiba said.

For manufacturers, Toshiba thinks it's important to provide a "migration path" that maintains the previous form factor they picked, while increasing capacity and performance, Wright said. They built their devices based on the 1.8-inch size and should not be forced to use smaller drive sizes that requires them to redesign their devices, he said.

Even though solid-state drives may be the future, until capacities go up and prices fall, demand for hard disk drives will remain strong in consumer electronics. The higher-end devices tend to have higher storage and performance requirements, so these drives enable vendors to expand their products, Wright said.

Toshiba shipped more than 92 percent of all 1.8-inch drives on a global basis in the third quarter of 2010, according to IDC. "The proliferation of devices targeted at media-savvy and media-hungry consumers and businesses have been a major factor in the continued demand for higher-capacity mobile hard disk drives," said John Rydning, research director of IDC.

They MKxx39GSL drives will be available for sampling in February with volume shipping by the end of the quarter, said Wright. Pricing was not disclosed.