When it comes to computer hard drives there are only two companies that come to mind, Western Digital and Seagate. With the increasing demands of consumers for more storage in their devices, hard drives do seem the obvious choice for manufacturers to increase storage capacity without causing prices to skyrocket. While hard drives do provide superior storage capacity when compared to solid state drives, their reduce durability, inherent size and higher latencies have prevented them from entering the market of tablets and smartphones as a storage medium, with the only device in recent memory utilizing one being the original iPod. Seagate however claims they have made a new hard drive that is perfect for the needs of today’s tablet and laptop manufacturers with their new 5 mm thick 2.5 inch hard drives; in comparison a normal laptop 2.5 inch hard drive is 7 to 10 mm thick, while the Nexus 10 is 8.9 mm thick, hence why current tablet don’t utilize such a drive since there simply isn’t enough room. The new ultra-thin HDDs will come in their a 320 GB or 500 GB configuration, significantly higher than the 32 GB internal you find on most tablets.
Historically hard drives aren’t as durable as flash storage because it is a mechanical design with moving parts which means shocks and falls can cause irreparable demand to the device. Seagate has addressed these concerns by opting for a steel casing instead of the standard aluminium one to increase durability, during demonstrations Seagate’s Vice President and Managing Director of the Asia-Pacific Region and Japan, Banseng Teh showed off a prototype tablet featuring the drive that was capable of playing video while being shaken without frames skipping or damage to the device; he also noted that the hard drive has a Zero-G sensor so when the hard drive detects itself to be in free fall it would automatically shut down to prevent damage.
Despite these innovations, hard drives still don’t offer the instantaneous responsiveness and raw performance of solid state storage, however there are workarounds as Teh noted that “OEMs could still design them with onboard flash memory” similar to some current laptops that utilize hybrid drive technology to get the best of both worlds, flash storage could also be used specifically for storing the OS, while media is stored on the hard drive like many desktops computers assigning tasks to their respective strengths.
Priced at $89 for 500 GB of storage does seem to be a tempting propositions, especially when an equivalent solid state drive would cost in-excess of $350. Currently ASUS, Dell and Lenovo have announced their commitment to using these hard drives, however there are no dates or confirmation on whether they will be used in tablets or only in ultra-thin laptops. Would you be interested in a tablet with an ultra-thin tablet? We would love to hear your thoughts.