The new drives are the first on the market to feature Shingled Magnetic Recording technology
Seagate subsidiary LaCie has started shipping its first 5TB external hard drives, with the capacity increase possible thanks to Seagate’s innovative Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) technology, which allows it to squeeze more tracks onto a disk surface by partially overlapping them.
The enclosure models that offer the new 5TB drives include Thunderbolt-enabled ‘d2’ series, 2-bay RAID ‘2big’ series, as well as 5-bay NAS box ‘5big’, which can now store an impressive 25TB.
The battle for capacity
Seagate completed the acquisition of LaCie, the French manufacturer of storage devices for PC, Apple, and Linux, in August 2012. The company historically set itself apart from the competition by paying attention to the visual aesthetics of hardware, at a time when the rest of the industry were shipping featureless beige boxes.
The new drives all conform to the tradition: the fanless enclosures are dressed in aluminium, with heat sinks looking more like a design feature than a technical necessity.
Even though Seagate hasn’t started shipping its 5TB drives to customers, LaCie has confirmed to TechWeekEurope it was granted access to the SMR technology. It depends on the same HDD hardware components, but requires specialised software and should eventually help mass-produce hard drives that break the 1TB/in2 capacity barrier. SMR drives are best suited for continuous writing/erasing rather than small random-access updates.
All of the new drives spin at 7200 rpm – the standard for hardware built for capacity, rather than performance. However, increased storage density translates into higher read/write speeds than a comparable 4TB drive.
For example, Thunderbolt-enabled 5big with a RAID configuration can deliver transfer speeds up to 785 MBps, and LaCie positions it as the perfect companion for the new Mac Pro workstations, which are being adopted by the film industry. 2big and d2 are also available in Quadra configurations, which replace Thunderbolt connectivity with FireWire 800.
The new SMR drives are the latest weapon in a battle between three largest hard drive manufacturers – Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba – which do their utmost to offer customers more capacity in a traditional 3.5-inch form factor.
Toshiba has recently announced its first 5TB drive, achieved through adopting the 4K Advanced Format sector technology, which grows the standard size of the sector from 512 to 4096 bytes.
Meanwhile, Western Digital has filled some of its hard drives with helium instead of oxygen to achieve impressive capacity of 6TB.
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