We saw Seagate dive into the 7mm hard drive space back in December with the Momentus Slim so why is Hitachi only announcing its plans now? Perhaps because it is doing it properly...
Six months on from Seagate's announcement not a single Momentus Slim has appeared on shop shelves despite a January timeframe and we have no updates about why. By contrast Hitachi seems to be making up for lost time.
The company has unveiled its first 7mm HDDs today and plans to have them on the market before the end of the month. The models include the 7mm Travelstar 'Z Series' for mainstream use, self encrypting variants targeted at enterprise and a CinemaStar model for thinner set-top boxes.
Capacities of up to 320GB will be available across all three lines and perhaps most impressively Hitachi says there will be no price premium compared to matching capacity 9/9.5mm drives which currently dominate the market. How come? Because Hitachi plans to shift all its 2.5in HDDs to 7mm form factors (they use the same fixing connections) so mass production will eat it away.
Interestingly there will also be no performance cost to the smaller size (which actually amounts to a substantial 30 per cent reduction in volume) as both 5,400RPM and flagship 7.400RPM Z Series Travelstars will be available from day one. In terms of power they use little more than an SSD consuming only 1.8W when active and 0.8W idle.
I spoke to Nick Kyriacou, EMEA director of Hitachi's Global Storage Technologies business unit about the announcement and he explained the reasoning behind the move. "Ultra portable laptops have largely dropped the CD-ROM and the hard drive is the next highest in determining the thickness of a laptop... it will be a big gain to manufacturers optimising designs."
What Kyriacou says makes a lot of sense, but it is a strategy also fuelled by necessity. Intel has just announced its 32nm Core processors which co-incidentally allow for "32 per cent slimmer laptops" and HDDs don't want to be the kill joy stopping laptops from making the most of these benefits. Of course with SSDs getting ever lower in price (the 32GB OCZ Onyx launched in March for just $99 and solid state looking at a move to the vastly smaller mSATA form factor) HDDs had to react.
So yes HDDs aren't likely to be in the slimmest of ultra portable laptops for long, but 7mm HDDs will keep the wolf from the door a little longer and based on what Hitachi is proposing that's no bad thing.
Hurry up Seagate!
Link: Hitachi GST