If you haven't already, you can officially stop feeling sorry for the hard drive industry, which took a tremendous hit to its collective operations from last year's floods in Thailand. Those floods contributed to a tight supply of HDDs and higher prices all around, but lest you offer any more sympathy, consider this. HDD makers generated record revenue in the first quarter of 2012, and they did it by raising prices.
Get ready to hear "Told you so!" from the conspiracy theorists, because according to research firm IHS iSuppli, mechanical hard disk drive (HDD) prices aren't expected to ease back down to pre-flood levels until 2014. That means two more years of inflated HDD prices for consumers, even though hard drive production is "rapidly recovering from the catastrophe" that ravaged Thailand last year.
Finally, a 4TB hard drive. That’s one more than three!
MOST OF US DON'T NEED 4TB hard drives. Most of us don’t even need 3TB drives. Unless you create, edit, or store lots of high-definition video; have backups of all your machines; have a massive lossless audio library; or…. You know what? Maybe we do need 4TB drives. After a couple of years making do with puny 3TB drives (like animals!), it’s time to get 25 percent more stuff into our 3.5-inch drives. Though other drive makers offer 4TB external drives, Hitachi GST is the first drive maker to give you 4TB on the inside. And didn’t your mother or mother-equivalent teach you that it’s what’s on the inside that counts?
We’ve been expecting 4TB drives since Seagate’s 1TB/platter 3TB drive in the January 2012 issue, but the four-platter 4TB 7,200rpm drive we’ve been dreaming of isn’t here yet. Instead, we get Hitachi’s Deskstar 5K4000, which packs a full four terabytes into a standard 3.5-inch drive, but on five platters, not four. The platters have a maximum areal density of 443Gb per square inch. The 5K4000 has 32MB of cache, a 6Gb/s SATA controller, and a spin speed of 5,400rpm.
For every season, there is a spin. Intel’s first consumer SSDs, the X-25M series, didn’t have the fastest performance, but they gained a reputation for reliability. We had high hopes for Intel’s 320 Series SSDs, which turned out to be really great 3Gb/s SATA drives, at a time when everyone else was shipping 6Gb/s drives. When Intel did ship a 6Gb/s SATA drive, the 510 Series, it used a Marvell controller, not an Intel one. Well, Intel has finally released its second 6Gb/s consumer SSD series, and it’s powered by… SandForce?
Yep. The 520 Series may ship in Intel’s familiar 7mm aluminum chassis with a 2mm black spacer, but inside it’s running the same SandForce SF-2281 as everyone else. It does use 25nm Intel synchronous NAND and Intel-validated firmware, which Intel says makes it better, faster, and more reliable than plain-Jane SF-2281-based drives.
Remember Indilinx? The company’s Barefoot SSD controller was the first really good solid-state controller. It was one of the first controllers to offer Trim support, as well as sustained read and write speeds near 200MB/s, and it ruled the roost until SandForce’s SF-1200 controller leapt ahead of Barefoot’s capabilities. The company’s next-gen controller was delayed, and in March 2011 OCZ bought the company. It’s been nearly a year, but OCZ finally has a consumer drive with the new Indilinx Everest controller. Was it worth the wait?
The 512GB Octane drive sent to us by OCZ contains 16 256Gb 25nm Intel synchronous NAND modules, two 2Gb Micron DDR3 SDRAM cache modules (512MB total), and, of course, the Indilinx Everest controller, all in a standard 2.5-inch SSD form factor. In CrystalDiskMark, it averaged 445MB/s sustained reads (35–40MB/s slower than the SandForce drives we’ve tested) and 315MB/s sustained writes (15MB/s faster). Its single-queue-depth 4KB random writes were competitive at around 5,600 IOPS, but at QD32, it only put out 22,000 IOPS—Samsung’s 830 Series does 35,000 and the Patriot Pyro SE does over 90,000. The Octane’s maximum response time in Iometer, at 429ms, is a bit worrying, too—its competitors have max response times of around 40ms. The Octane’s video encoding performance was within seconds of the other drives, and its PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7 scores, though lower than the rest, weren’t too shabby.
Back in the day (as in, before solid state drives), Western Digital's VelociRaptor line was the cat's meow in terms of high speed storage. Fast and expensive, VelociRaptors were the tool of choice by power users willing to drop a bit of extra coin for better performance. Flash forward to today and you'll find SSDs are the popular option among power users, but just like billionaire InGen CEO John Hammond brought back dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, Western Digital has injected new DNA into its VelociRaptor line and is now shipping its most capacious mutation to date.
Western Digital has begun shipping its new WD Scorpio Blue 7mm hard drive line, the newest edition to its mobile HDD family and the one with the lowest power consumption. These 2.5-inch drives are fully compatible with industry-standard 9.5mm slots found in mainstream notebooks and slimmer laptops, but they're really designed to shine in Ultrabooks as an alternative to costly solid state drives that fall short on storage space.
HGST, the company formerly known as Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, is wasting no time in showing new owner Western Digital how it rolls in the storage space by unveiling what it claims is the world's first 4TB enterprise-class hard drive family. The Ultrastar 7K4000 represents a new generation of 512e Advanced Format drives and offers up oodles of storage space for both traditional enterprise customers and the ever growing cloud/Internet market.
Sure, the prices of mechanical hard disk drives are going to stay above preflood levels. That sucks, but not all the news on the storage front is as bleak, or as expensive: a number of e-tailers have accidentally leaked details about a new, low cost line of Intel SSDs that are due to hit the streets very, very soon.
Good news for all you mechanical drive freaks out there: the beleaguered and washed-out hard disk drive industry is on track to pull its head back above water in the second half of the year. Yay! Bad news for all you mechanical drive freaks out there: even though HDD output will fully catch up to previous levels, HDD prices are still going to stay above the "dirt cheap" range they were at before the Thailand floods.