Seagate's giant hard drive expands HD capacity universe

Seagate announced Wednesday that it is shipping its 750-gigabyte Barracuda 7200.10 drive. This drive represents an increase in capacity of 50 percent over the previous industry maximum of 500GB and is the first 3.5-inch internal drive in the industry to achieve 750GB using perpendicular magnetic recording technology.

"We started shipping into [US] distribution last Tuesday. It's not our first perpendicular drive -- the 2.5-inch Momentus was the first -- but this is our first 3.5-inch," confirms Joni Clark, product marketing manager at Seagate.

A product data sheet was inadvertently published last Friday on Seagate's site, teasing those who stumbled upon it with the prospect of a 750GB hard drive. You can read that product overview PDF here.

Seagate actually moved up its ship date on the Barracuda 7200.10 750GB drive. "It wasn't supposed to launch for another couple of months, but we're finding perpendicular improves yields and reliability right off the manufacturing line," Clark revealed.

What Is Perpendicular Technology?

Perpendicular recording -- a shift from the longitudinal magnetic recording process used for the past 50 years -- increases areal density by changing the way data is recorded to the drive. "Everything changes, from the type of media to the type of head," says Clark. "At the drive level, you space your bits farther apart because they're standing on end vertically into the media, which makes them more stable and closer together as compared to longitudinal. So now you have more data bits which will slide underneath the heads as [each] head reads and writes."

"When you pack more data onto that platter, you're able to get to similar or identical capacity points as longitudinal drives [but with fewer platters and heads]," says Clark. "This reduces the number of components within the drive to go wrong, and it takes less power consumption" than with longitudinal recording.

Low Price Per Gigabyte

Surprisingly, Seagate's 750GB drive won't carry a high premium, even though it's first to market at this capacity--and using a new technology at that. In the past, many new hard drives have debuted at US$1 per gigabyte; the first 500GB drives sold for US$500 at launch.

The SATA version of the 750GB Barracuda 7200.10 drive, however, will debut at US$590, which works out to US$0.79 per gigabyte. The drive will have four platters and eight heads, just as today's 500GB drives do. The drive will be available with either 16MB or 8MB of cache, and in parallel ATA-100 and serial ATA versions (the shipping drive is set for SATA-150, but you can change a jumper setting to make it work at SATA-300, with support for advanced SATA capabilities like native command queuing.

A 200GB 7200.10 drive is expected to sell for US$104.

Seagate plans to keep longitudinal recording around for its smaller-capacity drives, but the company will phase out redundant higher capacities in its current 7200.9 line.

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