Samsung's New 1.8-Inch Drive: iPod Bound?

Samsung's New 1.8-Inch Drive: iPod Bound?

Korean electronics giant Samsung today announced its new N-series of 1.8-inch hard drives that are the industry's first to provide 60GB of storage on a single platter, allowing for a 60GB drive that's a mere five millimeters tall.

 

Apple's iPods have been built around 1.8-inch drives from Toshiba; that company's most-capacious 1.8-inch, single-platter drive holds 40GB, and is also five millimeters tall. Toshiba's 60GB and 80GB drives are both dual-platter drives and are eight millimeters tall, which explains the extra heft in the 80GB iPod when compared to its 30GB sibling. Those extra three millimeters may not seem like much, but they're an important reason why the 80GB iPod is nearly 30 percent thicker than the 30GB model.

 

Interestingly, Toshiba's highest-capacity 1.8 drive is a two-platter 100GB model - which demonstrates that the company most likely could, if they wanted to, produce a 50GB single-platter drive. Why they haven't is anyone's guess.

 

Both the Toshiba and Samsung achieve their top drives' high capacities through the use of a technology called perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR), in which data bits are stacked together perpendicularly, and not end-to-end as in conventional drives. Stacking the bits perpendicularly not only allows engineers to pack more bits into each square inch of drive platter, but also makes it less likely for the bits to "flip," and thus corrupt data. Both the Toshiba and Samsung drives, by the way, use extraordinarily little power and spin at 4,200 rpm.

 

While your music collection may find plenty of room in Apple's top-of-the-line 80GB iPod, if Steve can convince you to pack that puppy with television shows and feature films, even 80GB can fill up fast. If Samsung, however, creates a two-platter drive using its new N-series technology, that 80GB could jump to 120GB in the same form factor. For that matter, if Apple put a Samsung 60GB N-series drive into the 30GB iPod's slim case, its capacity would double and yet it would remain svelte.

 

Finally, now that Toshiba and Samsung are battling for 1.8-inch-drive supremacy, there might very well be some price competition as well.

 

The upshot: iPods may soon hold more and cost less. All good stuff.

 

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