Western Digital is reported to be working on a fifth generation of its 2.5-inch Velociraptor drive, with capacity doubled up to 600GB.
The Velociraptor is a fast, at 10,000rpm, small form factor drive using the 3Gbit/s SATA interface which has gained a lot of popularity due to its combination of speed and performance. It is currently available in up to 300GB capacity with a 16MB cache for around £180 in the UK.
The reports suggest WD is working on doubling the capacity to 600GB, meaning 300GB per platter and doubling or quadrupling the cache to 32MB or 64MB, but keeping the price pretty much the same as for the existing model.
The thinking is that, although solid state drives (SSDs) are faster still, for example as boot drives, they are much smaller in capacity and much, much more expensive. A 160GB Intel X25-M SSD using the same 3Gbit/s SATA interface costs £353.04, 3.7 times more expensiver per GB.
Were WD to give the new Velociraptor a 6Gbit/s SATA III interface that would extend the product's appeal and lessen the performance advantage of SSD alternatives.
WD is using 300GB/platter technology already. Its 1TB Scorpio Blue has a 333GB/platter areal density and spins at 5200rpm. Competitor Seagate's Momentus 5400.7 has 320GB/platter - 507Gbit/sq in areal density - and rotates at 5,400rpm. Toshiba's 640GB/2-platter MK6465GSX is a similar drive to the that, using 528.5 Gbit/sq in areal density technology.
WD, like the other suppliers, will be looking to increase the spin speed of that level of areal density to 10K.
Hitachi GST (Ultrastar) and Seagate (Savvio) already have 10K 2.5-inch drives but these use a SAS interface and not a SATA one. Either could introduce a SATA version of their product to try and take some sales from WD's speedy little 'raptor. That would depend upon their assessment of the size of the 10K SATA Market and its long-term prospects in the face of encroaching SSDs.
There is no information about fifth generation 'raptor timing but, if the report is true, then we might expect an announcement in the first or second quarter of this year with shipments commencing pretty soon after that. WD typically does not comment on speculation about unannounced product.
USB 3.0 My Book
Meanwhile, WD has anounced a USB 3.0 version of its My Book external hard drive. Although the interface is up to ten times faster than USB 2.0, single drive products using it can't deliver the up to 5Gbit/s speed and we might realistically expect 127-130MB/sec. Multiple drive products will exercise the SuperSpeed USB 3 link better.
A 1TB updated My Book is available now with a 2TB one coming shortly. WD's recommended price for the 1TB My Book 3.0 is $179.99, and $199.99 for a version including a USB 3.0 PCIe (gen2) adapter card. ®