Western Digital has started shipping the world’s first ultraslim 2.5-inch drives, designed specifically to meet the needs of Ultrabook vendors and makers of all things thin.
Measuring just 5mm at the waistline, WD’s new drives should enable even thinner devices, but as an added benefit they are quieter and more efficient than 7mm and 9.5mm drives. The new ultraslims also usher in a new era for WD, as they are the company’s first big foray into the hybrid drive market.
Seagate pioneered the hybrid drive market a couple of years ago with its Momentus XT series. It was only a matter of time before Western Digital entered the market and earlier this year they showed off their first SSHD designs. They were followed up by 5mm slim WD Black SSHD products. Mechanical 5mm drives will be marketed under the WD Blue brand.
"With the launch of our new WD Blue 5 mm ultra slim hard drives and our WD Black SSHD products, currently shipping to OEMs, WD is delivering to our customers a variety of solutions that maximize storage capacity and volumetric efficiency, as well as performance and system responsiveness, for consumers," said Matt Rutledge, vice president of WD's client computing business unit. "Our engineering team took a clean-sheet approach with 5 mm to deliver an ultra-thin hard drive that enables a world of possibilities and applications for mobile computing and beyond."
Although SSDs are slowly emerging as the preferred choice for Ultrabooks and high performance notebooks, the medium range and low end are still dominated by traditional hard drives, with a few proprietary hybrid solutions here and there, usually found in budget ultrathins powered by AMD low voltage chips and a few cheap Intels.
Hybrid drives offer substantial performance gains over traditional HDDs, at the fraction of the cost of proper SSDs. This is what is starting to make them increasingly appealing for system integrators and end-consumers alike.
Although Western Digital’s first 5mm are shipping to disties and OEMs as we speak, they are still available in a single capacity, 500GB. The mechanical WD Blue drive is priced at $89, but WD did not release the price of the WD Black hybrid unit.
The downside? WD's ultraslims feature a new proprietary connector, as the standard SATA and DC plugs are simply too big for 5mm drives.