Seagate is the first hard drive vendor to release a hard drive that features perpendicular storage technology. Perpendicular storage offers a breakthrough in the way data is stored. It heralds a new era where hard drive capacities will increase by up to 10 times while maintaining the same physical size.
Seagate has implemented this technology into its 2.5-inch, 160GB Momentus 5400.3 notebook drive, which is the largest notebook hard drive capacity currently on the market. However, it still uses the older Ultra ATA/100 interface, not Serial ATA (SATA) and has a 5400rpm spin speed along with an 8MB cache.
Perpendicular storage differs from standard longitudinal storage by standing the bits upright rather than laying them end-to-end. This allows for the bits to be stacked closer together with less transition space, as their magnetic orientation is applied vertically. Using this technology, Seagate has achieved an areal density of 245 gigabits (30.625GB) per square inch. The Momentus 5400.3 uses two platters and four heads to achieve its 160GB capacity.
Compared to its predecessor, the 5400.3 offers not only a larger capacity, but also better shock resistance. The operating shock tolerance of the 5400.3 is 350Gs (G-shock rating). This is 100Gs greater than the 5400.2.
In our tests, the read speeds were a little more erratic than what we are used to when performing benchmark tests using HD Tach 3, with read speeds falling faster than they did on regular longitudinal drives as the drive heads moved further inward. It delivered an average read speed of 35Mbps.
In real-world tests, where we copy up to 60GB of data from one location on the drive to another, we clocked an average transfer speed of 11.3Mbps, with a maximum of 15Mbps. This is slightly slower than longitudinal Serial ATA drives found in the latest Centrino Duo notebooks we have tested, but still not too shabby for a 5400rpm drive.
The 5400.3 is a tad quieter than previous versions due to Seagate's implementation of its QuietStep technology, which controls the drive head velocity when they are parked. This eliminates the audible clicking sound that may make you question your drive's health. In operation, the drive was almost inaudible in the notebook.
Power consumption has also been improved marginally. This results in less heat dissipation and a slightly longer battery life if watching movies or listening to music stored on the hard drive. You will notice this small gain if constantly reading from the hard drive.
In future, we can expect 2.5-inch drives to break the terabyte storage mark by implementing and refining perpendicular technology.