Toshiba Unveils 1.8-Inch 60GB Drive
Toshiba will begin mass-producing a 60GB, 1.8-inch hard disk drive before the end of the year--a boon to digital music players, subnotebook computers, and other devices that rely on the tiny disk storage. The new drive offers a 50 percent improvement in storage space over Toshiba's current highest-capacity 1.8-inch hard-disk drive.
Bigger Capacity, Same Size
The major contributing factor to this capacity boost is an advancement in a thin-film technology used for both the head and platter, says Midori Suzuki, a spokesperson for Toshiba in Tokyo. The new technology allowed Toshiba to increase the areal density at which data can be stored on the disk's surface, from 61.2GB per square inch to 93.5GB on the new models. This means each disk platter in the new drives can accommodate 30GB of data, as compared with 20GB in the current highest-capacity 1.8-inch drive. As a result, a two-platter drive can hold up to 60GB of data (versus today's 40GB).
The other trick to attaining higher capacity per disk platter: Toshiba reduced the size of the sliders that keep the drive's read/write head at the correct distance above the disk surface, Suzuki says. The new "femto" sliders are 35 percent smaller than existing "pico" sliders, meaning the head assembly can get closer to the outer edge of each platter and access more of the disk surface for data storage.
The new drive designs improve more than just capacity. The 30GB and 60GB models will decrease power consumption by an average 20 percent over current drives because of an adaptation in the way the disk spindle motor is controlled, according to Toshiba. Both drives also now utilize a fluid dynamic bearing motor, which Toshiba says should improve acoustics because the drives will operate more quietly and generate reduced noise during spinning.
Small Drive, Big Impact
Mass production on the new 1.8-inch drives is due to begin in the fourth quarter. Toshiba declines to provide prices for the drives, but the company says initially they will likely be sold at a premium in terms of price-per-gigabyte over the current drives. Toshiba expects products using the drives will be available by the end of the year.
For companies (like Toshiba) that manufacture drives for consumer electronics products, such advances in technology are one of the few ways they can answer customer demands for more storage space. Without them, Toshiba would have been forced to add an extra disk platter to get to 60GB, which would have made the drive thicker. In turn, this would have required any products based on the drive to be bulkier, an undesirable aftereffect that goes against the trend for smaller and lighter products.
Last month, for example, Apple announced the fourth- generation version of its IPod music player, which is 1 millimeter thinner than its previous models. Apple uses the current 20GB and 40GB Toshiba drives in its IPods.
With the new drive technology on the horizon, future consumer electronics products could slim down even further. Toshiba's existing 30GB drive relies on two disk platters and is 8mm thick; with the new design, the same capacity can now be achieved with just a single 5mm platter.
Wednesday's official announcement of the new drive is no surprise. Not only are hard disk drive makers constantly pushing technology to increase the storage capacity but at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan, in June a Toshiba representative said the company was planning such a drive. At the time Cindy Lee, deputy manager of Toshiba Digital Media Network Taiwan's hard disk drive division technical department, said Apple had already placed an order for the drives. Apple declined to confirm that it had placed such an order.