Samsung ships Serial ATA II drives, shows hybrid harddrive

San Jose (CA) - Samsung claims it is first to make harddrives with a Serial ATA II (SATA II) interface commercially available. Three new drives were announced on Wednesday, aiming at gaming and enterprise applications.

The big news of Samsung's announcement is the availability of the interface and not yet another capacity increase. The new drives integrate native support for maximum I/O speeds of 3.0 Gbit per second, double the bandwidth of the first SATA generation. The Samsung drives are available in sizes of 80, 120 and 160 GByte.

Increased data transfer speeds position the 7200 rpm drives at the higher end of the PC market with primary targets being enthusiast PCs and corporate workstations. According to Samsung, the devices offer an average seek time of 8.9 ms, an average latency of 4.17 m, a drive ready time of 7 seconds and maximum data transfer rates of 880 MByte per second (media/buffer) and 300 MByte per second (buffer/host).

SATA II come with the SATA feature set, including a capability of "daisy chaining" drives via cables, which allows users to store virtually an unlimited amount of data by simply adding additional drives to a system.

Pricing of the news drives is set at street prices of $93 (80 GByte), $120 (120 GByte), and $150 (160 GByte).

Samsung also announced a prototype of a hybrid-harddrive. On display at this year's WinHEC, the company said it has created the first fully functional disk drive to combine NAND-based Flash with rotating storage media.

Instead of replacing the HDD, the hybrid hard drive architecture incorporates a small OneNAND device from Samsung that works within the hard disk's architecture. The hybrid device promises to leverage the benefits of magnetic storage and solid state storage without compromising the cost of the computer housing it. The ultra-high-density benefits of magnetic storage technology are preserved, while the low-power, reliability and faster read/write access of advanced NAND technology such as OneNAND enhances usability of the hybrid drive at "little or no additional cost," the company said.

According to Samsung, hybrid drives can decrease power consumption in mobile devices such as notebooks and are able to deliver faster boot times for Microsoft's next-generation Windows operating system "Longhorn".

The hybrid harddrive prototype uses a 1 Gbit Flash module as both the write buffer and boot buffer. In the hybrid write mode, the mechanical drive is spun down for the majority of the time, while data is written to the Flash write buffer. When the write buffer is filled, the rotating drive spins and the data from the write buffer is written to the hard drive. Samsung said the drive saves power by keeping the spindle motor in idle mode almost all the time, while the operating system writes to the Flash write buffer.