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Hitachi's new "Super-Pendicular" hard drive shows steely reliability

As our digital images grow in size and number, we welcome Hitachi's efforts to keep up with the pace through the Perpendicular Recording technology. Hitachi will now be shipping the Travelstar 5K160, the most reliable and technically-advanced 2.5-inch hard drive designed for notebook and mobile computing. The reliability of the Travelstar 5K160 is due in large part to the second-generation head and media technology. First-generation technology was used on drives since December 2004...


The Hitachi Global Storage Technologies websiteTravelstar 5K160 Combines Perpendicular Recording & IrMnCr Read Heads for Industry's Most Technically-Advanced Mobile Hard Drive

With concerted and meticulous effort to develop, test and bring to market new perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology that would stand up to or exceed the reliability expectations of current longitudinal recording technology, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (Hitachi) has achieved its goal by shipping today the most reliable and technically-advanced* 2.5-inch hard drive in the Travelstar 5K160. The 160-gigabyte (GB) Travelstar 5K160 is a 5400 RPM 2.5-inch hard drive designed for notebook and mobile computing.

So impressive is Hitachi's new PMR implementation that the company has dubbed the Travelstar 5K160 the "Super-pendicular Drive" for its best-of-breed reliability performance and leadership specifications. The same winning technology and process used to implement PMR on the Travelstar 5K160 will be replicated across Hitachi's product lines, including the next-generation 1.8-inch hard drive, slated for delivery in the latter half of 2006.

The top three contributors to hard-drive reliability are technologies that most strongly resist media corrosion, head instability and head/disk interference. Hitachi has addressed these factors through the following mechanisms, which have significantly impacted overall drive reliability:

Implementation of Hitachi-unique alloy combination and layer-deposition process produced PMR media with best-of-breed properties for corrosion resistance;
Use of new PMR write head greatly improved soft error rate through ability to write smaller data bits more sharply and with greater fidelity;
Use of the read-head alloy iridium-manganese-chromium (IrMnCr) showed more than a 2X improvement in field reliability among available hard drives using the new IrMnCr read sensor (separately announced today; see Hitachi's animated video for explanation of IrMnCr
Together, these technologies have seemingly produced a "drive of steel," which exhibits industry-leading drive-level reliability attributes, based on Hitachi's internal testing. These qualities are a strong indicator for an extremely fast volume ramp for the Travelstar 5K160 – potentially, the fastest of any Hitachi hard drive product – which is slated for the third quarter of this year.

"What we've achieved with the Travelstar 5K160 is a credit to our technical teams' methodical, single-minded approach to excellence, which we adopted from the start of the PMR development process," said Hiroaki Nakanishi, CEO, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. "Our mission was to deliver PMR technology when it's of the highest value to our customers, which is when the transition from longitudinal recording would be seamless in all regards, including reliability, performance, volume ramp and cost. By all measures, that time is now."

"The move to perpendicular recording is a challenging but necessary one, which is required to support the increased demands in notebook capacity, especially as we see video applications gaining popularity," said Campbell Kan, Head of Mobile Computing Business Unit, Acer Inc. "We applaud Hitachi for its meticulous effort in rolling out this promising new storage technology and assuring a smooth transition."

The Super-pendicular Drive

The superior reliability demonstrated by the Travelstar 5K160 is due in large part to the second-generation head and media technology at work in the drive. First-generation technology was used on drives that Hitachi implemented in its PMR field test conducted since December 2004.

Second-generation technology involves major changes to both the write head and the recording media. Hitachi closely integrated development of the media and head to optimize their performance, which is a key enabler to the superior reliability results of the Travelstar 5K160.

Before product development began in earnest, perpendicular media showed lower mechanical reliability than longitudinal media. Perpendicular-media development required a rethinking of reliability metrics and anticipation of new potential failure mechanisms to help ensure the highest levels of corrosion resistance and mechanical robustness. Using Hitachi's broad experience in process, materials and equipment engineering, state-of-the-art perpendicular media was developed and transitioned to large scale manufacturing with impressive speed and stability.

Hitachi's second-generation write head acts like an extremely fine pencil-point capable of writing very sharply-defined data bits that can be packed closely together without distortion. This is important due to the high areal density of PMR drives. The increased clarity and fidelity of the written data allows the drive to deliver better bit-error-rate performance and, therefore, better reliability margin.

As a vertically-integrated company, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies has the internal resources necessary for the development, optimization and verification of the dramatic changes required for PMR. Hitachi, Ltd. provided additional support, horizontally, from across its engineering practices.

"We marshaled resources from throughout Hitachi, Ltd. to exploit the best minds in materials science engineering to achieve a product of this caliber," said Dr. Michiharu Nakamura, executive vice president & executive officer, Hitachi, Ltd., Hitachi Group CTO. "The ability to tap this breadth and depth of engineering knowledge is a powerful and unique formula for creating the world's most reliable hard drives."

Additional information: The Hitachi Global Storage Technologies website
May 15, 2006
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