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Calling it the "Dawn of the Tera Era," Hitachi has announced its first three-platter terabyte drive. Billed as the Deskstar 7K1000.B, this is the second terabyte-class drive the company has produced since the launch of its first-to-the-market five-platter drive last year. But here's the weird part: the company has announced no concrete plans to phase out its second-generation drives before 2009. Nor is Hitachi coming in at a lower price point -- or comparable feature-set -- when compared to the other terabyte drives on the market today.
According to Larry Swezey, Hitachi's Director of HDD Marketing and Strategy, the five-platter drive will still curry favor in the enterprise market due to its magical blend of price and reliability. He sees most of Hitachi's consumer base switching over to one of the two versions of the new 7K1000.B drive. The first, which carries the simple 7K1000.B designation, is a 7,200 RPM model that will come with a 16MB cache buffer. Hitachi is looking to push the second model to its enterprise customers. Dubbed the E7K1000, this "souped-up" version of the drive (as Swezey bills it) will support a full 32MB cache, a five-year-warranty, and incorporate Rotational Vibration Safeguard technology to help protect against data loss in higher-movement environments.
Both versions of the drive run on an expected 3Gb/s SATA interface. And both will feature optional hardware-based disk encryption technology. It works like this: you set either a user password or a master password for the hard drive in your system BIOS. You also pick a security level of either high or maximum. If someone jacks your hard drive, your data is protected as long as they can't guess the passwords. And if you lose the password, here's what happens:
In a nod to Western Digital's Caviar Green series of drives, Hitachi is incorporating energy-saving functionality into its 7K1000.B line. Swezey admitted that it's a move geared towards enterprise customers, as energy-savings is low on the priority list (if on it at all) for typical drive consumers. The 7K1000.B drives will use an unload idle mode to reduce total power consumption to 4.4 watts--right in line with the four-watt idle mode for Western Digital's 5,400 RPM Caviar Green drive. The drive's second power-savings mode, "low RPM idle," parks the drive heads and slows the platters below 5,400 RPM. This nearly halves the power consumption to 2.2 watts.
That's all well and good, but what about the drive's performance? We'll get our hands on the drive in about a month for an official round of benchmark tests. Don't expect wonders from Hitachi, however. According to Swezey, Hitachi looks to position this drive right in the center of the terabyte war. It won't set speed records, but it'll at least be competitive against all four other terabyte drives currently on the market (counting Hitachi's own five-platter drive, of course). This is certainly an interesting strategy, to say the least. We'll be curious to see how Hitachi's halving of its buffer plays out, performance-wise. But price-wise, the $240-MSRP drive ($280 for the E7K1000) seems a little steep given the predominance of speedy, 32MB-cache, sub-$200 drives on the market today.