Hitachi Launches Its First Perpendicular Hard Drives

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Hitachi Global Storage Technologies will soon begin selling its first hard drives based on perpendicular recording technology, the company said yesterday.

Perpendicular technology was recently introduced and can help increase the amount of data stored on each disk platter.

In doing so, the company joins several other major drive manufacturers in using the technology. Within the next few years almost all hard drives are expected to transition to perpendicular recording.

The method is similar to the longitudinal recording used in today's drives in that it relies on magnetically charged particles for data storage. In today's 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.

Product Plans

The Travelstar 5K160 drives, Hitachi's first 2.5-inch drives to employ perpendicular recording, can hold up to 160GB of data, compared to up to 100GB on the current longitudinal recording-based Travelstar 5K100 line of drives. The 2.5-inch drives are typically used in laptop computers.

They are available in bulk to PC makers and will be launched in the retail market in the middle of this year, the company said. A 160GB drive will cost $269.

The drives also employ a new drive-head coating that Hitachi said makes them twice as reliable as current drives.

"We've had prototypes in the field for one and a half years with no returns," said John Best, chief technologist at the San Jose, California, company.

With the 2.5-inch drives launched, the company will now turn its attention to employing the technology in 1.8-inch drives, said Best. Those are expected to be available later this year, although he was unwilling to provide a more specific launch date or details of the drives.

The 1.8-inch drives are used in an increasingly wide range of consumer electronics products. Most notably they are used in Apple Computer's popular iPod digital music player.

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