Seagate offers alternative to flash storage with 5mm thick hard drive designed for tablets

by: Gary SimsSeptember 10, 2013


Seagate has unveiled a new type of hard drive that has been specially designed for tablets. The 500GB device is only 5mm thick and has been designed to offer the same power, performance and reliability as a flash device. In a day and age when Google wants you to store everything on the cloud, as does the NSA, it is refreshing to see a new call for larger internal storage capacities.

Clearly one of the advantages of flash memory is that it doesn’t have any moving parts and isn’t prone to breaking due to accidental shocks. However Seagate says that it has designed its Ultra Mobile HDD with this in mind and has included safeguards that include shock management, heat and vibration and gyroscopic motion. To further improve shock management, the new hard drive includes Seagate’s own Zero Gravity Sensor (ZGS) which detects if a tablet is in free fall and parks the drive head within 60 milliseconds.

The drive is so well insulated that in many cases a dropped device's screen would break before its hard disk drive.

It has also addressed the power consumption issues and the company says that a tablet using 8GB of flash and the Ultra Mobile HDD has the same power consumption as a tablet with 64GB of flash. With multiple power modes (sleep, standby and idle) the hard disk can consume as little as 0.14W meaning it shouldn’t impact battery life much more than current flash solutions. As for performance, Seagate reckons that the same setup offers the same performance as a 16GB tablet.

In terms of size and weight the 2.5-inch drive is just 5mm thick and weighs just 93.5g (3.3oz). This 5mm little unit provides up to 500GB of storage which is of course more than seven times that of 64GB flash modules. According to Seagate calculations, you can store 125 movies, over 8,000 hours of music or about 160,000 photos in 500GB. Seagate’s estimates could be a little low as most MP4 files that are delivered by online services are around the 2GB mark (for SD).

Seagate hasn’t announced any actual partners yet for the new hard drive but assuming that the cost, performance and reliability features are exactly as Seagate promises then this HDD looks like a very viable option for tablets.

So what do you think, would you like to see a tablet with a 500GB ultra-thin hard drive?

  • Piterson Massenat Desir

    Article needs correction. Read more.Time :)

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    500GB *

  • William Main

    I’ll take a couple thanks

  • Spruce Cycle

    Hell no, this is a step backward.

    • MasterMuffin

      500Gb in a tablet is a step backward? I know that it’s not flash, but still

      • Spruce Cycle

        How is all the insecurity of an HDD somehow progressive? Next theyll be selling tablets with roll cages and shock resistance to protect that HDD that should never have been there.

        • MasterMuffin

          What do you do with your tablet, throw it around? Progress is still progress, even if done with old technology. Next step will be a 500Gb flash drive, but until that this is the best you’ve got

          • Spruce Cycle

            Doesnt take much of a shock to lose data on an HDD. And yes, I take my tablet everywhere unlike my desktop so jolts and bumps are not unheard of.

            Ur rather dense aren’t u?

          • Mayoo

            I wonder how the HDD would hold up against constant wireless charging too … With good shielding it’s ok I guess.

          • Spruce Cycle

            Excellent point! After all the adjustments to tablet life, welcome buyers, to ur 6lb mobile device!

          • MasterMuffin

            Don’t always have to go to insults if you disagree with someone…

          • Spruce Cycle

            Dense is as dense does. U obviously have no idea what an HDD does or u would have seen immediately the failure of Seagates approach. Only the pitifully insecure take educating as insults.

          • MasterMuffin

            “Dense” and “pitifully insecure”. Yea…

          • lazarus

            your comment sounds like apple to me.
            “we know what’s good for you so don’t ever questioned us”.

            this is Android man, you have freedom to decide what’s good for you, but don’t force your opinion onto others.

          • Spruce Cycle

            Well, plz give me back the “freedom to decide” to move my apps to the SD card. That would be infinitely more useful than a choice btwn crap and lesser crap.

          • APai

            although you have a point (AND 500gigs is nothing to sneeze at), I agree with the OP that we’d need more progress with flash RAM/ this is a step back. my past experience with recovring data, or the drive failure rate is kind of making me think twice about such a device. Also, the need to “stop” a hdd when you disconnect – how will they manage it ? (they could have some kind of an implementation with a large RAM buffer, but for most practical purposes, this one is a step back. ).

          • MasterMuffin

            I think they thought about those problems, otherwise it would have been really foolish to make the product at all :)

          • Spruce Cycle

            No no, companies have zero history releasing half-backed products onto the wolrd (in the case of the N7, twice in two years!)

    • lazarus

      they give us choice in storage, that’s what important.

      a step backward for you,
      but for others this might be a godsend, especially those that feels flash capacity kinda limited.

      remember this is android, CHOICE is highly appreciated.

  • inder swami

    shut up and take mymoney

    • Spruce Cycle

      A fool and hos money…

  • OMGgary

    A 2.5″ drive for a tablet is way too physically big.
    Thickness isn’t even the biggest problem, It just takes up too much area “on the flat”.

    Ultra Mobile HDD = 69.85mm x 100.35mm x 5.0mm (according to data sheet from Seagate)
    Nexus 7 2013 = 114mm x 200mm x 8.7mm
    Nexus 10 = 177.6mm x 263.9mm x 8.9mm
    iPad 4 = 185.7mm x 241.2mm x 9.4mm
    iPad mini = 134.7mm x 200mm x 7.2mm

    Put a laptop hard drive alongside any 7″-10″ tablet and you’ll see what I mean.
    Unless they want to duct tape it to the back of your tablet, I can’t see this working.
    If this thing is to fit inside the chassis, then something else will have to give way to make space for it. The most likely victim is the battery and I can’t see that being acceptable to very many tablet users.

    I also don’t think moving components are a good idea in a portable device, even with the Zero Gravity Sensor.

    • APai

      10-12 inch tablets must be the ones they are looking at. as long as the tablets are a bit thick too. but with tablets like sony’s tablet Z. I doubt if even that one will fit in.

      • OMGgary

        One other possible scenario where something like this might be more feasible in something smaller like a 9 or 10 inch device, is the likes of an ASUS Transformer.
        If the 500GB HD was built into the keyboard/dock section then it would be more practical, since it wouldn’t have to contend with components from the more crowded screen/tablet section.

        • APai

          yeah – that would be handy indeed.

          • OMGgary

            Thanks. This look is dead popular in Macclesfield.

    • APai

      agreed. the risk of the head landing and scratching the platters could be high. I dont know if theyve used some new tech to prevent that.

      • OMGgary

        Well, they have done something called the Zero Gravity Sensor, which detects if the device is freefalling and parks the head.
        I don’t know how well that would work if the device was flung horizontally into something.
        Say for example if a passenger was using it in a moving platform like a car seat when an emergency occurred and the driver had to brake hard, the tablet could go flying forward out of their hand and hit the dashboard, but it would not probably not be read as a “Zero Gravity” situation by the sensor.

        • APai

          that’s pretty nifty, I presume it uses an inbuilt gyroscope to good effect.

    • lazarus

      still, it’s a good improvement. probably they can make it even smaller (and thinner) on later version. technology is amazing.

  • APai

    my worry is the drive failure rate. These drives failure is more common than the flash storage media. I’ve had several HDD failures over a period of 15 years now. some of them brand new, and without backup which proved to be catastrophic for me. ironically, I have VERY old drives still working pretty fine for me! for example an old 20gig seagate hdd.

    but my recent experience with seagate has been anything but good, with a few of them failing in rapid succession with their jinxed 7200.11 firmware drives.

  • Jacob

    Great news. This is really a huge step forward. Tablets are replacing laptops for media professionals. Tablet processors and RAMs are almost near laptops (check geekbench results) but storage is behind. Not to mention 4K is coming.
    Consumers can use cheaper 32GB tables while pros buy more expensive 2TB ones. I think it’s fair.

  • On a Clear Day

    You can bet your bippy that I would want one!

  • john

    Normally I would say yes, but with my seagate raid constantly failing due to faulty drives…I just hope these smaller drives are more reliable.