Toshiba claims it has won the race of bringing the first PMR harddrive to the market. PMR, short for perpendicular magnetic recording, is believed to increase the capacity of harddrives substantially: Toshiba's first PMR device is a single platter 1.8-inch model with a storage density of 133 Gbit per square inch.
Perpendicular recording has turned out to be key to increase capacities of harddrives for a few more years before the storage industry will have to think more seriously about switching from the current, 32-year old, "Winchester" tech to optically-assisted approaches. In fact, perpendicular recording is believed to drive available storage space deep into a territory that was believed unreachable with Winchester just five years ago.
In this respect, it is exciting that perpendicular recording moves quickly from being theory into reality. The plain specs and usability, however, are not earth-shattering, at least for this specific debut model. While squeezing 40 GByte on a single platter, overall storage density remains at a level of some existing harddrives that do not use perpendicular recording - 133 Gbit per square inch.
The first PMR drive, the 4200 RPM MK4007GAL, offers just one platter or 40 GByte, with a second, 2-platter 80 GByte version, following later this year. Toshiba also said it will introduce this technology in its 0.85-inch drives in 2006 with a projected capacity of 6 - 8 GByte per platter. The most promising application for PMR drives are at this time 2.5-inch models, which are expected to reach about 200 GByte in 2007 and may be competitive enough to replace 3.5-inch devices in consumer electronics.
Perpendicular recording is based on a concept to align data not just horizontally, but also vertically. The basic idea of technology is almost 100 years old, but gained momentum only recently with all major harddrive manufacturers, including Hitachi and Seagate. Hitachi, for example, claims that it can lift storage density to 230 Gbit per square inch using PMR. From today's view, PMR could lead the way to desktop drives with a capacity between 3 and 5 TByte.