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Hitachi touts skinny drives for skinny devices

Who needs flash?

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Hitachi GST is making a major push this year into skinny 2.5in hard drives designed for skinny netbooks, laptops and emerging classes of portable devices .

It says that half of its Z Series drives in the market will be single-platter by the end of the year.

Single-platter drives are thinner than standard dual-platter drives, with a z-height of 7mm rather than the latter's 9.5mm. Typically they do not require fans for cooling.

The implication is that Hitachi has looked at the future of netbooks and notebooks and seen a need for low power requirements, thinness and lightness. Single-platter HDDs have roughly the same power requirements as flash-based SSDs, are the same physical size and deliver roughly comparable performance but hold much more data.

According to Nick Kyriacou, Hitachi GST's EMEA director, such drives will deliver near-flash performance but at much lower cost. This will open up the nascent tablet market for hard disk drives (HDDs) and prolong their use in netbooks, widen the market for ultra-thin notebooks like the premium MacBook Air, and provides scope for thinner consumer electronics devices such as set top boxes, media players, and personal video recorders.

There is a school of thought that says tablet computers will be all-flash and that netbooks will also go the flash route. Hitachi's market research does not see this happening at all, at least not over the next few years. Flash memory will be a premium choice for users wanting high IOPS performance, but it won't be the default storage medium. That will be hard drives and single-platter, small form factor drives specifically.

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