It has been some time since IBM called the shots in the race for the fastest ATA hard drive. Now the Hitachi Global Storage Group (HGST) wants to prove with its new top model, the Deskstar 7K250, that the joint hard-drive development and sales venture with IBM had a positive impact even on existing expertise (in developing hard drives). Just as with all other IBM hard drives, the new model will be manufactured and sold under the direction of HGST.
This means expectations are high. Its predecessor, the 180GXP, hardly put its rivals in their place - even though it was a very powerful drive. The new 7K250 is also a latecomer in terms of capacity: Maxtor and Western Digital have been offering their 250 GB drives for several months now. Obviously, Hitachi doesn't want to be caught with its pants down.
All three models work with somewhat more than 80 GB per platter, so three platters are used in each drive. Theoretically, drives could be built with a capacity of more than 300 GB by using four platters, but production costs and thermal load for the drive would rise exponentially - not the ideal preconditions for the hotly-contested, highly relative and price-sensitive ATA market. Reducing the warranty periods from three years to one year on hard drives in this market segment is one thing that has resulted from the pricing pressure that manufacturers are faced with. Fortunately, the top models are not affected by these restraints.
With regard to technical data, Hitachi's top model does not stand out from the competition. All manufacturers offer an 8 MB cache in their top model; 7,200 rpm is obligatory. Western Digital demonstrates with Raptor that even 10,000 rpm has become presentable in the ATA market. It is conceivable that 10,000 rpm ATA drives will become available in months to come, but unlikely - after all, manufacturers like Maxtor and Hitachi do not want to ruin their own business in SCSI hard drives by making even faster ATA hard drives available.
But back to the main subject. Hitachi wants to regain the performance crown with the 7K250. You will find out shortly whether they succeed, and how evident it is that they have.