Toshiba to use perpendicular recording in new HDDs

Toshiba is close to commercializing a new data storage technology that could significantly increase the capacity of hard-disk drives, it said Tuesday.

The company plans to put on sale in the middle of 2005 two 1.8-inch hard-disk drives that use the technology, called perpendicular recording. Like current drives, the new method relies on storing data in magnetically charged bits. However, unlike current longitudinal recording in which the bits lie flat on the disk surface, in perpendicular they stand upright and thus take up less space. This means there is room for more of them on the disk and so the storage capacity is higher.

The first two drives planned by Toshiba to use the technology will have a recording density of 133G bits per square inch, which is 37 percent greater than current drives, said Junko Furuta, a spokeswoman for Toshiba in Tokyo.

They will be 1.8-inch drives of the type used in portable consumer electronics products, such as digital music players. One of Toshiba's best-known customers for its 1.8-inch drives is Apple Computer Inc., which uses them in its iPod family of music players. The greater recording density could help Toshiba's customers produce thinner and lighter products.

For example, one of the two drives will have a single disk platter and be capable of storing 40G bytes of data. Toshiba's current 40G byte drive requires two platters to achieve this capacity. The drop from a dual to a single platter means the overall drive falls in thickness from 8 millimeters to 5 millimeters. Toshiba's second drive will pack two platters and offer a total storage capacity of 80G bytes -- the highest yet for a device of its size.

Other major specifications of the drives, including the weight, average seek time and rotational speed, remain similar to Toshiba's current 1.8-inch drives.

Toshiba won't provide an estimate of the likely price of the drives. It said sample drives are available now and cost YEN 120,000 (US$1,145) for the 40G byte model and YEN 150,000 for the 80G byte model.

In the future, it also wants to use the technology in its 0.85-inch drive. Employing perpendicular recording along with other new technologies will raise the capacity of the drives from between 2G byte and 4G bytes to between 6G bytes and 8G bytes, said Furuta.

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