Seagate introduces three-quarter terabyte Barracuda hard drive

Scotts Valley (CA) - The terabyte hard drive era came about 50% closer to becoming a reality this morning, as Seagate announced the availability of what it's calling the industry's first 750 GB 3.5" hard disk drive. 

UPDATE 26 April 2006 8:00 pm ET: Although specifications published by Seagate prior to the drive's release stated that the new SATA-based Barracuda 7200.10 (model numbers ST3750640A and -AS) increased the platter count over the 7200.9 from three to four - as we reported earlier this afternoon - a Seagate spokesperson contacted us late in the day to correct this information. The 7200.9 already has four platters, the spokesperson told us; what gives the 7200.10 its edge is actually an increase in areal density, thanks to new advances in Seagate's perpendicular recording technique. The 7200.10 increases areal density, the spokesperson told us, to 130 GB/in2, compared to 100 GB/in2 for the "dot-nine."

Seagate's recent increases in platter count and areal density, with perpendicular recording in place, have been achieved without increasing operating temperature or heat generation, Seagate says. The company credits its having leveraged one of the important side-benefits of its perpendicular recording technology. In a presentation to analysts, Seagate demonstrated that its perpendicular technique leads to higher write fields, which in turn enables them to reinforce the disc media with a softer underlayer for improved thermal stability.

In a patent application filed in May 2005, Seagate acknowledged another purpose for adding the soft underlayer to the media: One of the problems engineers had observed to that time had been that the higher write fields achieved by perpendicular recording had often been so strong as to become unstable, effectively erasing data in locations nearby the write head. The application was for a transducer that changed the shape of the magnetic field between its pole tips and the disk's media layer. While this particular application did not appear to have been granted, applications for similar devices for perpendicular recording evidently were.

However, it's interesting to note that Seagate's own engineers, just one year ago, admitted that its implementation of perpendicular recording to that time "has not yet seen commercial success," due to a technological factor that has since been overwhelmingly resolved. Consumer interest in rumors leading to today's announcement have been nothing short of phenomenal, as fans of Seagate's 500 GB model - which was announced just last October - are expressing astonishment at the rate in which maximum capacities are increasing.

Maximum transfer rates for the "dot-ten" at burst mode are reported to reach 300 Mbps, with average latency of 4.16 msec. And power consumption stays exactly the same for the 7200.10 as for its predecessors, with an operating average draw of 13.0 watts.

When Tom's Hardware Guide tested the Barracuda 7200.9 mechanism last December, what they discovered was a performance problem. While Patrick and Achim appreciated Seagate's five-year warranty, they noted an appreciable performance difference when tested against Hitachi's half-terabyte DeskStar 7K500, and even a 10% decrease in the file transfer rate compared to the 250 GB 7200.8. If the 7200.10 encounters similar troubles, those commercial acceptance problems mentioned in Seagate's 2005 patent application may become a serious problem.

Sources tell TG Daily that the 7200.10's street price should come in at about $590. As a result, the street price of the 200 GB 7200.7 could fall to an average of $104.