Western Digital builds 5mmthick hybrid hard drive, Ultrabook makers sign on early

Those 7mm-thick hard drives you've seen in some Ultrabooks are already looking a tad on the chunky side. Western Digital has started producing sample versions of a hybrid hard drive (you're not yet looking at it here) that measures just 5mm (0.2in) tall, even as it crams in both flash and a 500GB main disk. If you think the slimmer drive is just the ticket for a best-of-all-worlds laptop that's both fast and capacious, you're not alone: Acer and ASUS have mentioned their collaboration in the same breath, which may be a strong clue as to where future Aspires and Zenbooks are going. The remaining question is when they arrive. Sampling isn't the same as mass production, which could leave us with months to go before the 5mm drive lands in future extra-skinny PCs.

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WD® Creates World's Thinnest 2.5-inch Hybrid Hard Drive

New 5 mm Standard Slashes Storage Footprint by Almost 50% Compared to Traditional 2.5-inch Hard Drives

IRVINE, Calif. – Sept. 10, 2012 – WD®, a subsidiary of Western Digital Corp. (NASDAQ: WDC) today announced it is sampling a 5mm-thin hard disk drive featuring hybrid technology. WD has developed hard drives slim enough for integration into today's thinnest notebook PCs, which provide high-capacity storage and robustness while featuring instant-on and application performance similar to today's client solid state drives (SSDs). The new technologies will be showcased during WD's Investor Day, Sept. 13, 2012.

"Mobile devices are becoming smaller, thinner, lighter and more responsive," said Matt Rutledge, vice president of client storage solutions at WD. "Working with our technology partners, WD has developed new 5 mm hard drives that enable high capacity storage along with excellent performance and superior economics to allow our customers to expand their thin offerings."

With device volumetric efficiency a key concern for system makers, WD began shipping 7 mm height hard drives for thin-profile notebooks earlier this year (historically, standard notebook hard drives have been 9.5 mm). WD 5 mm hybrid hard drives will enable the market's thinnest computers to offer 500 GB of capacity, utilizing almost 50% less volume compared to current 9.5 mm hard drives and at one tenth the cost of similar capacity SSDs.

"Acer is partnering with WD to bring advanced notebook performance and capacity in the smallest form factor," said David Lee, associate vice president of Mobile Computing Product business unit at Acer. "It's a part of our ongoing commitment to present leading technology that ultimately improves the total user experience of our customers."

"We are seeing a shift in the computing world to more powerful mobile computing solutions," said SY Shain, senior vice president of ASUS' notebook business unit. "With this in mind, ASUS and WD are collaborating to create slimmer and more mobile notebook solutions - without sacrificing capacity or performance - to deliver smaller form-factor to consumers."

Hybrid Technology and Client Tiered Storage

WD's innovative hybrid technology pairs MLC NAND flash storage for fast SSD-like data throughput and instant-on responsiveness with magnetic disks for efficient, high-capacity storage. Similar to the practice of multi-million dollar enterprise systems, WD's hybrid technology utilizes the concept of tiered storage. Data accessed most frequently (often referred to as 'hot' data) is managed using speedy NAND flash to ensure fast response times, while data accessed less often ('cold' data) resides on the robust magnetic disks. The tiered design of hybrid hard drives, compared to current dual-drive solutions, also provides a redundancy benefit for users. The magnetic disk backs up all files residing in the NAND, protecting the user from inevitable NAND wear and preserving it for the more hot data handling. WD's hybrid technology works in conjunction with the PC operating system to deliver higher performance than current hybrid offerings while minimizing NAND wear to allow the use of less expensive MLC NAND.

Hybrid hard drives combine NAND flash and magnetic disks, simplifying storage-element integration for OEM customers and providing a host of end user benefits: superior performance, responsiveness, lower power consumption, greater operating shock tolerance, and data protection. And unlike dual-drive designs, WD's hybrid technology provides single-unit design homogeneity that OEM system manufacturers have long sought from the storage industry.