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New 4 TB hard drive will sell for under $350

When it comes to computing there are several things that enthusiasts can never get enough of. One of those things is storage; we can always use more storage space. Western Digital has announced that it has added a new 4 TB capacity drive to its line of Black hard drives.

These drives are aimed specifically at enthusiasts and gamers and are 3.5-inch 7200 RPM units. Western Digital is shipping a new 4 TB capacity drives immediately and notes that the drives have a 64 MB cache. The drives also feature WD dual actuator technology and use the SATA 6 Gb/s interface.

The new 4 TB hard drives include a dual processor controller, IntelliSeek to calculate optimum seek speeds and lower the power consumption, and StableTrac.  The drives also have NoTouch ramp load technology so that the recording head never touches the disk media for significantly less wear, extending the lifetime of the drive.

The 4 TB Western Digital Black WD40001FAEX hard drive will be offered through select distributors and resellers for $339. The drive includes a five-year warranty.

Source: Western Digital

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RE: Why?
By bill.rookard on 11/21/2012 10:23:04 AM , Rating: 2
Laws of physics apply. When encoding magnetic 'dots' on a disk, you run into several problems relating to being able to differentiate between a bit which is on or off at high rotating speeds. The tighter you pack the bits, the smaller the dots are, and thus the harder they are to read since you're trying to read a magnetic blip. Eventually, because the dots are closer together, you run into the problem of reading a neighboring bit by mistake so there's a minimum distance you need between them.

You're also limited then by the form factor - as a standard 3.5" hard drive is 1" tall by 3.5" wide and limited in length. In there you have to fit a motor, the disks, the spindle, bearings, the read arm and servo, and some electronics to control it all and a casing to keep it all together.

Remember, about 10-12 years ago, the largest drives you could affordably buy were 100GB drives, and now at the same price point you can get 3TB drives - in other words, capacity has doubled every 2 years (100GB/200GB/400GB/800GB/1.6TB/3.2TB).

I don't think that's unreasonable from a development standpoint at all, especially since much of the focus these days is away from traditional spinning hard drives and towards SSDs. Heck, these days you can get a 1TB -laptop- drive in a 9mm 2.5" format.

If you really wanted to increase the capacity of the drive, we would need to move away from a 3.5" format to something slightly larger (perhaps a 4" format?) as this would increase the area of the disk platters by a substantial amount (area increases with the square of the radius) - in fact, a 3.5" disk has 19 sq inches (top and bottom), while a 4" disk has 25 sq inches - or about 25% more capacity per platter (ok, rough numbers not accounting for the spindle, it would probably be a greater percentage increase in usable space since you're adding area to the OUTSIDE of the circle).

That would bring other challenges though as you're increasing the mass of the platters, stronger platters would be needed since centrifugal forces would increase with larger diameters etc, wobble would need to be accounted for, etc.

Just as a comparison, going from a 3.5" to a 4" would result in the following numbers:

3.5" drive (seagate 3tb, 3 platters) = approx 38.1 sq in readable area = 3tb.
4.0" drive (theoretical, 3 platters) = approx 58.1 sq in readable area = 1.5x larger = 3TB * 1.5 = 4.5TB.

At this point, the new 4.0TB drives could be increased to 6TB just by going to a larger 4.0" size with no increase in technology.

RE: Why?
By lagomorpha on 11/21/2012 2:01:53 PM , Rating: 2
Iirc the old 5.25" Quantum Bigfoot drives only spun at 4200rpm. So long as you're only using the mechanical drives for long term storage I could see the performance penalty being worth huge capacities. If hdds don't switch to a larger format, its only a few years until ssds catch up to them in cost/GB.

RE: Why?
By Guspaz on 11/21/2012 4:05:16 PM , Rating: 3
Why enlarge the drive size? We can do five platters per 3.5" drive (there are such drives on the market), and we can do 1 TB per platter (again, there are such drives on the market). Hence, current technology without any modifications enables 5TB per 3.5" drive. There may be 1.33TB platters out there, not sure.

The reason we're stuck where we are is simply lack of demand, I think.

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