April 2003 was the last time Western Digital boosted the maximum capacity of its drives from 200 to 250 GB. After that, vendors largely only made minor tweaks to their drives without increasing the capacity. It wasn't until last Summer before heavy hitter vendor Maxtor launched a drive with a 300 GB capacity, which Hitachi then beat with a 400 GB disk.
However, Maxtor and Hitachi's devices didn't boost data density. Instead, the manufacturers began adding up to five platters to achieve maximum capacities. Most companies have preferred to avoid such an approach since the risk of mechanical failure increases with the number of movable parts in a device.
Meanwhile, Seagate passed the 100 GB-per-platter mark less than a year ago with the Barracuda 7200.7. However, the company did not use this improvement to expand the capacity of the drive and its maximum capacity remained limited to 200 GB. A few weeks ago, the new Barracuda 7200.8 was introduced, which is available in sizes up to 400 GB.
Now Western Digital is finally ready to enter the fray with its own next-generation line of drives that offer capacities of up to 320 GB. Western Digital's new drives also utilize platters with capacities greater than 100 GB, and these will gradually trickle down to the medium and low-capacity models as well.
Meanwhile, Western Digital's warranties remain largely unchanged. While the drives of the Raptor series come with a five-year warranty, the new 320 GB model's warranty ends in three years. Also, this is limited to the RAID Edition and the Special Edition drives with buffers of 8 MB (product designation JB, JD, SB, and SD).