Western Digital rolls out ultra-slim 5mm Ultrabook drives

The drive towards dirt-cheap Ultrabooks is getting a big boost with the release of Western Digital’s new ultra-slim spinning hard drive, a barely there piece of hardware that is even thinner than the iPhone 5.

WD’s new WD5000MPCK, as it's clunkily called, is a 500GB traditional hard drive that measures just 5mm (0.20-inches) thick. Part of the mid-range WD Blue lineup, the hard drive is 0.10-inches thinner than the current iPhone and around half the depth of typical 2.5-inch notebook hard drives.

WD says it is able to offer such an impossibly thin hard drive because of advances in shock protection and a motor shaft that can reduce internal vibration and stabilize drive platters. Beyond depth and capacity, WD’s new ultra-thin hard drive features a 5400RPM rotational speed, 16MB cache, 6Gb/s SATA interface, and weighs 0.16 pounds.

What the new hard drive loses in bulk, however, it makes up for in price with an MSRP of $89. At less than $100, the new hard drive is still really cheap, but comparable 9mm-thick drives with a faster rotational speed of 7200RPM are priced around $50-$60.

Then again, whether you consider the WD5000MPCK overpriced or cheap depends on your point of view. If you’re looking for a super-slim Ultrabook with 500GB of onboard storage, then WD’s new drive would certainly drag down prices. Until now, solid-state drives were the only viable option for the thinnest of laptops, and pure SSD drives packing a 500GB capacity cost hundreds of dollars.

That’s notable since Intel recently said it hopes to see the price of thin and light touchscreen laptops drop to around $200 later in 2013. Premium components like WD’s ridiculously thin hard drives won't fit into those machines, but they will be right at home as a cost-saving option in mid- to high-end Ultrabooks.

WD’s new 5mm hard drive is shipping now to computer makers, as are its pricier 5mm hybrid drives, which sport onboard flash memory and ship under the premium WD Black brand. The company didn’t announce which OEMs would use the new drives first. In September, PCWorld reported that both Asus and Acer planned on using WD’s 5mm hybrid drives in upcoming Ultrabooks.

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