500 GB Drives for High-End Notebooks
Notebook hard drives with 500GB of capacity are not new—Hitachi’s product has been on the market for several months. However, the introduction of Samsung’s HM500LI has made these drives more attractive, as the Korean manufacturer is the first to store the entire capacity of 500GB on two physical platters. Is this the drive you want in your notebook?
Hard drive makers are getting a lot of business due to the continuing shift from desktop to notebook computers. More people are deciding to get portable computers instead of bulky, grey boxes, and many newcomers tend to go for a mobile computer right away. No one will deny the obvious advantages of mobile PCs: you can use them wherever you want or stow them away when you don’t want to see them. As a consequence, the quantity of shipped 2.5” drives is soon going to exceed that of 3.5” models.
External Storage vs. Portable Storage
But that’s not all. Related storage products, such as external hard drives, don’t always have to be based on 3.5” hard drives either. Not everyone needs capacities of 750 or even 1,000GB, the larger sizes only available in the 3.5” form factor. Since 2.5” hard drives aren’t much larger than a box of cigarettes, the total size and weight of a portable solution is very acceptable. Hence we differentiate between external storage and portable storage, where external typically comprises high performance, and portable stands for maximum flexibility. We would guess that most users can live with 320-500GB capacity today.
12.5 mm vs. 9.5 mm Z Height
All 3.5” hard drives have a common height of 1” (25 mm) today; this is called “half-height” in reference to the height of much older drives. Manufacturers use this space to accommodate between one and five platters. Things are different in the 2.5” space, where the initial height of 0.5” (12.5 mm) has been replaced by 0.375” (9.5 mm), which can hold up to three platters, as demonstrated by Samsung’s Spinpoint M6. The latter has become the de-facto standard for most notebooks, but some drive manufacturers, such as Hitachi, sometimes still make 12.5 mm drives based on a three platter design. This is how Hitachi was the first to reach 500GB capacity on a 2.5” notebook hard drive. Samsung has now brought down the height to 9.5 mm at this capacity point.
We looked at both the Hitachi Travelstar 7K500 and Samsung’s Spinpoint M6 HM500LI, which both provide this capacity, but also show very different characteristics.