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Seagate launches new 2 TB thin drive for notebooks

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February 16, 2016

Seagate has made good on its September 2015 promise by delivering a new 2 TB thin drive for notebooks that uses 'shingled magnetic media' to get to that higher storage capacity limit.

The 2.5 inch hard disk drive is 7 mm thick and weighs only 3.17 ounces. It has two platters, a 12 MB data cache and a 6 Gbit per second SATA interface.

The peak input/output rate is 600 MB/sec but the maximum sustained IO rate is 100 MB/sec. It uses drive-managed shingled magnetic recording (SMR) and not HGST’s older, host-managed version.

The constraint with SMR is that you get a capacity boost from having partially overlapped write tracks. The narrower read tracks within the write tracks are not overlapped.

But whenever fresh data needs to be added to a block of previously written write tracks, the entire block of data has to be read into the drive memory again, the new data added to replace the now defunct data, and the block written back to the disk.

As could be expected, this has a number of drawbacks. First, rewrites are slower than fresh writes, and slower than rewrites to non-shingled media.

Secondly, when the disk is occupied with what is effectively a block read-erase-write cycle, it is not doing other work, therefore creating more overhead and slowing things down a bit.

Both these things mean that SMR drives are not best suited to high-performance or write-intensive use but are well-suited to read-intensive, write-light, capacity-focussed applications running on notebooks, tablets and other mobile devices.

We think this is the first 2.5 in form factor shingled drive. Seagate says it is the lightest, fastest and most power-efficient 7 mm drive in the industry.

It also confirms it is 25 percent lighter than the previous generation Seagate mobile drives and combines new mechanical firmware architectures, with state of the art heads, media and electronic design.

If 3D NAND's cost/GB comes close to this drive then with flash's far faster performance, space-efficiency and power-efficiency, we might see the demise of notebook and tablet disk drives coming down to earth.

Overall, 2.5-inch notebook mobile HDDs accounted for about a 41.9 percent of total HDD shipments in 2015, or less than 48 million units, down 26 percent in Q4-2015, reflecting lower notebook shipments.

DigiTimes estimates that total notebook shipments would decline by 16 percent sequentially during 2016's first quarter.

Since tablets typically use flash rather than disk drives then it's relatively easy to see the notebook HDD market shrinking a bit faster over the next few years.

That presents a nice decision point for Seagate and other disk drive manufacturers. Should they invest in more expensive, higher-density HAMR recording for mobile disk drives if cheap-enough 3D NAND SSDs and flash cards are going to kill the mobile disk drive market?

The new Seagate 2 TB Mobile HDD has a two-year warranty and is available to Seagate's OEM customers now.

Expect it to appear in notebook computers towards the end of 2016 or early in 2017.

Source: Seagate.

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