September 10th, 2012 by Brian Beeler
WD Hybrid Hard Drive Announced - 2.5" 5mm Form Factor
Western Digital has taken the wraps off a new hybrid hard drive platform leveraging a 2.5" 5mm design (nearly half as thick as a standard 2.5" drive), making it the smallest hybrid to date. While the size is interesting, WD is making other major design changes from what we're seeing out of Seagate, the only manufacturer currently shipping hybrid drives in volume. While Seagate uses SLC for the flash component of their Momentus XT, WD is opting for cheaper MLC NAND, that they hope helps keep the price more in line with current hard drive pricing.
The 5mm design is clearly a play for storage for the ultra portable computing space, where every millimeter counts. WD has been shipping 7mm hard drives into that space, but the 5mm platform is substantially more interesting, as OEMs want to drive leading design elements without giving up on power and features. The 5mm hybrid is an excellent blend then, combining large platter storage with a small amount of flash to drive rapid access to hot data.
While WD hasn't yet released full specs on the drive, we do know maximum capacity tops out at 500GB, a tremendous amount of storage in such a small design. WD also indicated they're using the flash as a tier, which means it will actually hold hot data in flash as the primary location, rather than a copy of that data as you'd see in a caching solution. WD points out that the flash tier will be backed up to the hard drive for redundancy. Alternatively, Seagate's solution uses flash as a cache.
Pricing and Availability
WD's new hybrid effort doesn't yet have a branding name, pricing or availability - today's announcement is more of a technology announcement. While WD is sampling drives to OEMs, they're not yet ready for full-scale production. Asus and Acer have confirmed they're working with WD on integrating the drives into their respective systems.
WD will be showing off their skinny hybrid during WD's Investor Day, Sept. 13, 2012.