Electronic Design

Samsung HDD Touts Highest Storage, Smallest Footprint

It’s astonishing to say the least. Samsung’s Spinpoint M6 hard-disk drive (HDD) packs 500 Gbytes of storage into a single 2.5-in. hard-disk drive (HDD) in a standard 9.5-mm height with a 3.0 Gbit/s SATA interface, in what may be the best pound-for-pound HDD out there (see the figure). The drive fits into the chassis of commercial and multimedia notebooks and some laptops (not all general-purpose laptops, though). This is an industry first ladies and gentlemen!

This is great for laptop users who require vast amounts of storage space for data, video, and music files. According to Samsung, the M6 enables the storage of up to 160,000 digital images, 125 hours of DVD movies, or 60 hours of video images. Two such babies installed in a notebook designed to accommodate a pair of HDDs can give you 1 Terabyte of storage capacity. Wow!

Let’s put things in perspective. Hitachi has already introduced a 500-Gbyte drive, but this one, the 5K500, achieves this feat in a 12.5-mm height format which suits larger computers like desktop-replacement laptops. But not notebooks. Even Fujitsu has announced that it will begin shipping 500-Gbyte HDDs in 12.5-mm heights but Fujitsu hasn’t been clear as to when said product will come to the market. Moreover, market reports this month indicate that Western Digital will also offer a 500-Gbyte HDD amid other reports that Fujitsu is looking to sell its HDD business to Western Digital. Will Western Digital’s product be the Fujitsu product? Who knows, but for now it seems like Samsung has a choke-hold on this technology.

The M6 Spinpoint HDD, like the Hitachi and Fujitsu drives, consists of three 167-Gbyte platters and has 8 Mbytes of cache memory. Like the Hitachi unit, it spins at 5400 rpm (the Fujitsu unit clocks in at 4200 rpm). Both the Samsung and Hitachi units feature similar average latency times, though the seek time for the M6 is 12 ms compared to Hitachi’s 5.5 ms seek time for its HDD. Average power dissipation levels for the M6 are slightly higher than those for the Hitachi HDD. The M6 also features an optional fall detection sensor.

The M6 has other unique features up its sleeve. For example, it meets Microsoft’s Fast Design requirements and supports ramp load and unload operations at up to 600,000 times/s. It also includes Samsung’s Flying-on-Demand read/write head technology that improves recording stability over changing temperature ranges.

How Did They Do It?
The secret recipe behind the Spinpoint M6’s performance in such a small package is Samsung’s vertical magnetic recording technology (also known as perpendicular magnetic recording). It consists of an under-layer between a substrate and a magnetic recording layer for inducing perpendicular orientation of the magnetic recording layer. Compared with conventional longitudinal magnetic recording, perpendicular magnetic recording arranges magnetized cells vertically, not longitudinally or horizontally (see the diagram). The result is the ability to record a larger number of data bits in the same area. The longitudinal method is limited in densities by the phenomenon of super-magnetism, wherein magnetized materials moving closer to each other interfere with each other and become unstable. Whereas Samsung believes that longitudinal recording can achieve storage capacities up to 200 Gbyte/in. levels, the perpendicular approach can reach 1-Tbyte/in. density levels. Slap a $299 price tag on it, and you’ve got yourself one serious HDD.

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