Western Digital has created a 5mm-thick hybrid HDD for ultrabooks. This 500GB drive utilizes MLC NAND flash storage with a mechanical drive to offer performance gains comparable to a dedicated SSD while retaining the capacity and cost benefits found in a standard HDD.
According to Western Digital, the company has been shipping HDDs with 7mm thickness for thin-profile notebooks at the beginning of this year. Traditionally, drives found in these devices have a thickness of 9.5mm. Hence, its new hybrid 5mm-thick drives will require less space, making them ideal for svelte ultrabooks. The new drive also features MLC NAND flash storage that is a cheaper alternative to the more expensive SLC NAND, due to its higher reliability. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, the hybrid drive features a tier-design system where data from its NAND storage is backed up on the mechanical drive, in order to provide data redundancy benefits for the user as well as to preserve its NAND storage for optimal data caching performance.
The development of this hybrid drive puts Western Digital on a different path from Intel. The latter is rumored to be developing a new SSD specification for ultrabook applications. The new set of specifications is allegedly named Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) and Intel aims to replace the existing mSATA SSD specifications due to its storage capacity limitations. Western Digital has a head start in this competition but we do believe that there is ample market segmentation for ultrabooks that will require these two forms of storage technology. Intel's NGFF could be targeted at ultrabooks that feature purely flash storage solutions where consumers are prepared to pay higher price premiums and Western Digital's new hybrid drive is applied in ultrabooks which offer both performance and storage capacities that will appeal to value conscious end-users.
Western Digital will showcase this new hybrid drive, along with other developments during its Investor Day that is scheduled later this week on 13th September.