Seagate unveils a hard drive for tablets, shuns SSDs

The drive offers up to seven times the capacity of typical tablet SSDs

Seagate today unveiled a new Ultra Mobile Hard Disk Drive designed exclusively for mobile devices, saying it offers seven times the capacity of a "traditional" tablet solid state drive (SSD), but with the same reliability, performance and power.

Comparing it to the typical 64GB of embedded flash that comes in tablets, Seagate said its 2.5-in hard drive offers up to 500GB capacity in the thinnest height available today, just 5 millimeters. Most 2.5-in drives come in 7mm or 9mm heights.

Earlier this year, Seagate announced a 2.5-in "solid-state hard drive" (SSHD), that includes both flash and a hard disk drive in a 7mm high form factor.

A Seagate 5mm, single platter drive.

The new single-platter drive is different from the SSHD as it comes with with Seagate's Mobile Enablement Kit, which includes Seagate's Dynamic Data Driver software technology. Seagate claims the software provides SSD-like data protection through the use of enhanced motion sensor and thermal monitoring algorithms to control drive access and avoid usage conditions that might harm it.

Seagate is not claiming that its hard drive alone can achieve SSD-performance, which is often four or five times greater for reads and writes. Instead, Seagate said equipment manufacturers can position the drive along with 8GB of internal flash to act as cache, which will produce SSD-like performance at a much lower cost.

The Mobile HDD and Dynamic Data Driver software use the same power as the flash storage in a 64GB tablet and offer performance equal to that of a 16GB tablet, while costing less than either, the company said.

The drive is "so well insulated that in many cases a dropped device's screen would break before its hard disk drive," the company said in a statement.

"Coupling an ultra-thin, high-capacity HDD with software designed to optimize integration into tablets at a value-add price has allowed us to deliver a truly ground-breaking solution, enabling our partners to reimagine the mobile device," Steve Luczo, CEO of Seagate, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Seagate released a 2.5-in, 7mm-high SSHD that combines a hard disk with NAND flash to achieve SSD-like performance at lower cost.

Luczo called the Ultra Mobile Hard Disk Drive a "game changer" and said tablet and other mobile device makers should re-think their mobile marketing.

John Rydning, IDC's research vice president for hard disk drives and semiconductors, said today's tablets trade storage capacity for low-power usage and a light and thin form factor.

"Seagate's new Mobile Enablement Kit will bring PC-like storage capacity to future thin and light tablet designs, and position Seagate as a potential storage solutions provider to the fast-growing tablet market," he said.

Seagate said that what sets its new 5mm drive apart from its past mobile HDDs is its shock management, heat and vibration and gyroscopic motion capabilities, all of which have been "heavily tested to ensure the drive delivers the best experience in a tablet...."

The Ultra Mobile HDD integrates Seagate's own Zero Gravity Sensor, which detects when a device is falling or being jostled, and temporarily pauses drive operations to protect mechanical parts.

"Incorporated power modes support the drive in sleep, standby and idle, enabling it to consume as low as 0.14 watts, and thereby support the long battery life demanded by tablets," Seagate said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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