Toshiba expanded its X300 HDD line to include an 8 TB model, but the company is not saying much about its latest drive. We do know that the Toshiba X300 series is geared for high-performance gaming and professional use-cases in desktop computers. The 7,200-RPM drive sports the familiar 3.5" form factor and SATA 6 Gbps interface and wades into the market as only the second 8 TB desktop-class HDD. This places Toshiba in a rare HDD leadership position ahead of WD.
Seagate already has 8 TB desktop HDDs specifically for desktop usage, and both Seagate and WD have 8 TB enterprise-class HDDs and NAS units, whereas Toshiba has a 6 TB limitation.
The X300 features a 128 MB cache and employs standard PMR (Perpendicular Magnetic Recording). PMR has been the recording method of choice for over a decade, and the X300 also utilizes a standard air-based design. The HDD features a dual-stage actuator to improve head placement accuracy, which allows the HDD to maintain steady performance in environments with moderate vibration. It comes with a standard two-year warranty.
The Seagate Desktop HDD features a larger cache size of 256 MB, a 55 TB-a-year workload limitation and 255 MBps of sequential throughput.
Toshiba launched the X300 in Europe already, but it will not be available in the U.S until Q3 2016. Toshiba indicated that it could not share the X300's workload rating, performance specifications or head/platter count, but it will share further details during the impending U.S. launch.
HDD vendors tend to employ similar HDD architectural designs for client, enterprise and NAS drives. The manufacturer typically tailors the drive for each respective use case through firmware modifications. For instance, desktop drives are tuned for random workloads, whereas NAS HDDs tend to favor sequential access patterns.
Manufacturers also employ components with varying performance and reliability metrics, such as drive heads and actuators, depending upon the expected workload. The emergence of an 8 TB desktop HDD indicates that Toshiba will likely have 8 TB NAS and enterprise HDDs in the near future based upon the same base design principles.
This is a positive sign in light of Toshiba's recent financial turmoil. The company also underwent an extensive restructuring effort (PDF) early this year in the wake of an accounting scandal, and it accounts for only 17 percent of the global HDD market, which pales in comparison to the respective market shares of WD and Seagate.
The restructuring plan included an expanded line of enterprise and nearline HDD products, which helped silence the reports that the company was considering selling off its HDD assets. Toshiba has bearish goals for the segment; it expects to grow its sales in this category by 30 percent in 2016.
The company recently released its consolidated results for 2015, which revealed that it suffered a 9 percent year-over-year loss in HDD sales. It is clear that Toshiba is struggling just as much as the other HDD vendors are, and if it can expand its nearline category with competitive 8 TB HDDs, it may be able to meet its projected its goals.
Unfortunately for Toshiba, both WD/HGST and Seagate are already shipping 10 TB nearline HDDs, which implies that 10 TB desktop models are not far behind, so Toshiba may experience stiff headwinds.