Toshiba pushes hard-disk density higher

Toshiba has pushed its hard disk drive technology up one level with the unveiling of a new 2.5-inch drive that has the industry's highest capacity per platter, the company said Tuesday.

The new drive has an areal density of 48.8G bits per square inch (bpsi), which means 48.8G bits of data can be put into one square inch of magnetic recording space. This translates into a storage capacity of 30G bytes of data on each 2.5-inch-diameter platter. The new drive has two platters for a total capacity of 60G bytes, according to a Toshiba statement.

The new technology brings users benefits in one of two ways. Drives holding 60G bytes of data are already available, but the greater storage density means that Toshiba can build drives with fewer platters, making them around 25 percent thinner and 50 percent lighter than existing units. Drives with similar physical characteristics are also available, although Toshiba's new drive beats their data storage capacity by 50 percent.

The 2.5-inch drives are commonly used for mobile devices such as notebook PCs, although companies have recently begun using them in other types of mobile devices, such as digital music players like Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod, and consumer electronics products such as digital video recorders.

Following this trend, a removable hard-disk technology has been also developed by Canon Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., Phoenix Technologies KK, Pioneer Corp., Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp. and Victor Co. of Japan (JVC). Protected by a plastic case, the removable hard disk drive will allow users to easily upgrade the disk and transfer digital images, audio and video between computer and consumer electronics platforms, instead of buying an upgraded hard disk drive every time a new development is made in drive technology.

Toshiba has also demonstrated prototypes of such a system.

The new Toshiba drive has a maximum rotational speed of 4,200 rpm (revolutions per minute), data transfer rate of 100M bytes per second and average seek time of 12 milliseconds. The product measures 70 millimeters by 100 millimeters by 9.5 millimeters and weighs 99 grams.

Toshiba, based in Tokyo, starts sample shipping this week and plans mass production in late May, it said.

At research and development level, Toshiba has already demonstrated a prototype drive with an areal density of 52G bpsi on a 2.5-inch drive, and hopes to achieve an areal density of 100G bpsi before the end of 2003.