CES - Drive makers race to be first with 1TB drives

Hitachi and Seagate plan 1TB drives in the first half of this year, the companies said Thursday

Two of the biggest hard-disk drive makers, Seagate Technology and Hitachi Global Storage Technology, both said last week that they plan to have drives on the market with the first half of this year that are capable of holding a terabyte (1000G bytes) of data.

Hitachi said it would have a drive available in the retail market before the end of March for US$399. Models for use in digital video recorders and enterprise computer servers will follow in the second quarter when production volumes increase, said Doug Pickford, Hitachi's director of market and product strategy.

The 7K1000 drive, which will be on show at next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, will have five 3.5-inch disk platters on which to store data. It will carry a SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) interface on the retail version. A model with the older PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) interface will follow later, said Pickford. It will have a rotational speed of 7,200 rpm.

Seagate said in a statement that it plans to begin shipping a 1T-byte drive sometime during the first half of 2007 to major customers like system and PC vendors during that time-frame. It didn't provide any other details of the drive or its cost. Seagate also didn't address the retail market in its statement.

Terabyte drives, for long a goal of the storage industry, started to get within reach in the last year as drive makers began using a new technology called perpendicular recording.

Like the longitudinal recording that has been used until recently, perpendicular recording relies on magnetically charged particles for data storage. In longitudinal drives, the north and south poles of the magnetic particles run parallel to the disk, but in the new method they are arranged perpendicular to the disk. The result of this new arrangement is that each particle occupies a smaller area of the disk's surface and so more particles can be crammed onto the disk.

The new Hitachi drive will cram 148G bits of data into each square inch of disk space. In comparison, the company's current highest-capacity 3.5-inch drive, a 500G-byte model based on longitudinal recording, can only manage half that density.

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Martyn Williams

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