The world's largest hard drive manufacturer announces 2.5" notebook hard drives using perpendicular technology

Just a few weeks ago, Seagate made a startling announcement to acquire Maxtor, its largest competitor in the hard drive business. The buyout certainly made waves throughout the industry and increased Seagate's market share in hard drives to a staggering 40%.

Too boost confidence in the company even further, today Seagate becomes the first manufacturer to announce an entire line of perpendicular hard drives for notebooks. Called the Momentus series, Seagate is manufacturing them in 2.5" form factor, which is standard notebook size. What's not so standard however is that the Momentus series will be introduced with a flagship unit sporting a capacity of 160GB -- the largest capacity for notebook computers ever.

Seagate achieves the Momentus' capacity breakthrough by using a method of recording bits called perpendicular recording. Traditionally, data is recorded onto a hard drive's platter by arranging magnetic bits horizontally -- or parallel -- to the surface of the platter. This method has been successful for quite some time, giving us desktop capacities that range from 400GB to 500GB on standard 3.5" hard drives. However, at those capacities, data integrity becomes an issue.

As hard drive manufacturers try to cram bits more closely together, the magnetic fields on each pole of the bits begin to interfere with adjacent bits. When this occurs, the read/write head in a drive begins to have difficulties discerning the orientation of the bits. Perpendicular recording alleviates this barrier by recording the bits standing up, which allows more bits to be recorded in a smaller area. Manufacturers will be launching perpendicular technology in small form factor hard drives like those for notebooks first, thanks to their smaller read/write heads. However, with strong development occuring for desktop and server drives, perpendicular drives should not be too far off.

To compare:
Seagate 5400.2 model HDD using parallel bit recording: 91Gbit/square inch
Seagate 5400.3 model HDD using perpendicular recording: 135Gbit/square inch

With superior areal densities, perpendicular technology is clearly the next-generation hard drive recording standard. In future desktop models, manufacturers are expecting upwards of 1 terabyte capacities to approach  in a 3.5" drive.

Seagate's flagship 5400.3 160GB Momentus will offer performance that will match current high performance 5400 RPM 2.5" drives all while offering battery performance of drives that rotate at 4200 RPM. Seagate also tells us that as perpendicular matures, we can expect to see even better performance for the same rotation speed as well as increased capacities.

Currently, perpendicular technology will only be offered in Seagate's Momentus 5400.3 160GB model, but the company plans to transition all models and release drives ranging from 40GB to 160GB capacities in 20GB increments by the end of March. Seagate also indicates that by June, it will have perpendicular SATA notebook drives as well. Although Seagate did not specifically indicate when desktop drives will make the transition, it did say that we can expect perpendicular desktop drives to arrive later in 2006.

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