There has not been a lot of movement in the hard drive market, as drive manufacturers have increasingly focused on reducing their cost by increasing storage densities in order to stay competitive. Offering high-capacity drives is crucial to build or strengthen a brand, but it doesn't contribute very much to revenues due to relatively small quantities sold. What is important for vendors' bottom lines is the ability to offer fast and attractive drives for mainstream users, with capacities of 160-200 GB.
160 GB hard drives that can be built with a single platter, e.g. the Western Digital WD1600AAJS, are extremely attractive to OEMs, as they are quick and affordable, and they offer sufficient performance for business users. We found this drive particularly interesting to replace an old or faulty hard drive, as the investment of $50 is very affordable.
Most of our readers will likely look at the 500 GB segment, which we strongly recommend. 500 GB is a storage capacity that will last some time, and it has become fairly affordable to get one of these devices. Samsung and Western Digital have drives that retail at roughly $120, which offer an amazing cost per gigabyte ratio of almost $ 0.25 per GB. Samsung's Spinpoint T166 currently is the fastest 7,200 RPM drive, while Western Digital's WD5000KS offers quicker access time.
When compared to the storage giants, the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 at 750 GB and Hitachi's Deskstar 7K1000 at 1 TB, the 500 GB segment still look more attractive for us (unless you are willing to spend a premium for the best there is). On the one hand there are no significant performance advantages for the huge drives in the over 500 GB class. On the other hand, 500 GB drives offer a better cost per gigabyte ratio. Hitachi's terabyte drive is $450, which will almost get you four 500 GB drives.
Perpendicular recording will help to move the mainstream capacity sweet spot to between 200 and 250 GB by allowing the hard drive makers to create single-platter drives with these capacities. At the same time, more terabyte drives will hit the market by summer (Seagate) and early fall (Samsung), and even 1.5 TB drives are on the horizon for 2008.