Report: Hard drive makers slimming notebook models down to 5 mm

Most notebook hard drives conform to the 2.5″ form factor. The standard, which calls for platters 2.5″ in diameter, comes in multiple thicknesses. 9.5-mm variants are the most common, 12.5-mm flavors have become popular for high-capacity external drives, and 7-mm models are increasingly finding their way into ultrabooks. Now, it looks like hard drive makers may be slimming down even further.

According to DigiTimes’ sources in the supply chain, drive manufacturers are developing notebook models just 5 mm thick. The ultra-skinny drives are reportedly in the planning stages, so they probably won’t be on the market for a while. Shaving a couple millimeters—or in this case nearly 30%—off the thickness of a notebook hard drive isn’t the sort of change that can be made overnight.

Why not focus on the existing 1.8″ hard drive form factor? Because at 8 mm thick, it’s actually pudgier than the slimmest 2.5″ drives on the market. Also, the smaller platter diameter of 1.8″ drives translates to much lower storage capacities.

If slimmer 2.5″ drives are indeed on the way, they’ll likely end up in hybrid storage configurations. Intel’s ultrabook standard has very specific requirements about boot and standby performance, and meeting them all but demands a small caching SSD (or an all-in-one hybrid drive with an integrated SSD cache). Even with prices falling, solid-state storage will almost certainly remain too expensive to be used exclusively in budget ultrabooks.

As consumers adapt to lower-capacity tablets and get more of their data from networked sources, be it the cloud or local NAS solutions, I can’t help but wonder if the demand for notebook storage will wane. Then again, the higher capacities that notebook drives provide could be key in differentiating ultrabooks from tablet hybrids.

Comments closed
    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    I hope shrinking the drives doesn’t mean sacrificing reliability and/or durability.

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    So… they slim 4mm off the drive… Honestly when you’re talking about mm, does it really make that big of a difference? They could free up just as much space simply by cutting out part of the motherboard so the HD sits flush with it instead of on it.

    I’ve never understood the multiple thicknesses for the 2.5mm form factor though. Usually the idea behind having a form factor is so things can be interchangeable with it. :l

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 years ago

      My assumption is that the form factor defines the position of mounting holes, connectors, and the [i<]maximum[/i<] size it can be. Any 2.5" drive will fit in a standard 2.5" bay based on these maximums. For both 2.5" and 3.5" drives, the height of a drive does not affect any of the above constraints; It has only mattered since laptops started getting thinner a few years ago.

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    If they could slim the enterprise models down, I’d give a crap.

    If you can only have one drive in a laptop, who doesn’t want it to be an SSD? Large files can sit on a 2.5″ external drive if you absolutely cannot survive without your 2500 hours of illegally torrented TV shows and movies.

      • Visigoth
      • 7 years ago

      I wish I could up-vote you a 1000 time. F*cking right!

      • cynan
      • 7 years ago

      With the newer crop of mSATA drives (such as the Crucial M4 mSATA versions) and slimmer mechanical drives, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to have both, even in an ultrabook form factor.

      • internetsandman
      • 7 years ago

      I have a 256 gig SSD in my laptop and I haven’t yet managed to fill it up much more than halfway, I keep any movies I download on an external hard drive and I don’t have enough games for it to be a problem. I’m sure with a little belt tightening I could squeeze into a 128GB drive, and those are I’m sure much more affordable when you’re talking about these kinds of budget portables in the first place

      • obarthelemy
      • 7 years ago

      I’m the other way around. I see no point in SSDs:
      – I rarely boot or launch apps, which are an SSD’s forte. Windows has become so reliable as to not need reboots, except about once a month when Windows Update requires it. The rest of the time, it’s Sleep or Hibernate with all my apps open, which is faster on an SSD, but not enough to warrant the price/capaciy compromise
      – I’d rather have all my data, games and media inside my PC than on an external drive. What’s the point of a laptop, or, even more a netbook or ultrabook, if you’ve got to lug around extraneous stuff ? First thing I do on a new portable is up the RAM to 8GB, and the HD to whatever fits, usually 750GB. Then load that up with all I need to keep my busy or entertained for a week.

      I do have an SSD on my home PC, because I had it laying around after trying it in a netbook and finding the speed vs capacity tradoff not worth it; my Home PC is using my NAS anyway. The extra speed is kinda nice, but really, I’d as well fetch a coffee and clean my nose in the 30s it takes my PC to wake up from HD.

      I’m interested in an SSD if MS comes out with some kind of ReadyBoost for it, so I can pay $10-$20 for a very small one and reap 80% of the speed benefits of a larger one, while keeping my media and games on board.

        • Chrispy_
        • 7 years ago

        The Intel SmartResponse seems like something you should look into. Any Z-series chipset supports it on the desktop.

        The first time I saw it in a laptop was a Dell 15z laptop – the thing came with a 750GB mechanical and a 32GB Samsung MSATA ssd. It was a huge improvement on using a mechanical drive and it’s the sort of solution I would like to see in more laptops.

      • Forge
      • 7 years ago

      Yeah, that’s how I’m living right now. Samsung 830 256GB inside the X220, 500GB 7200rpm external in a USB case. It’s a good balance.

    • StashTheVampede
    • 7 years ago

    NVRam_Express is the real future for laptops. The sooner the spec is finalized, the sooner spinning platters disappear from laptops.

      • Farting Bob
      • 7 years ago

      Is it likely to come in >TB capacities in prices that will fit with a sub $1000 laptop? Until then, HDD’s will continue spinning merrily.

        • StashTheVampede
        • 7 years ago

        It’s simply a spec to remove the horrid flash to sata bridge that consumer SSDs are using:
        [url<]http://www.nvmexpress.org/[/url<] SATA was never build with flash in mind, it's simply hindering what can be done. NVM_e has specs for consumer and enterprise-grade items. The costs to manufacture shouldn't change prices since the spec is free and there are many groups associated with it.

          • Bensam123
          • 7 years ago

          I don’t believe the SATA bridge is a limitation… Perhaps SATA in general in the near future… But that will also be replaced by SATAe in the near future.

          NVM is also designed for PCIE SSDs, not SATA SSDs… Which sorta makes it pointless when SATAe hits because that is essentially tying PCIE pipes to the SSD.

            • StashTheVampede
            • 7 years ago

            Those NVRam modules can easily smoke the limitations of SATA6 (600MB/sec). NVRMe is all about providing “storage”, over a PCIe bus, in a standardized way. SATA was built specifically around spinning platters of data, latency and diagnostics — so much of that is obsolete with SSDs.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            I’m not sure if you’re talking specifically about a SATA to PCIE bridge or chips made specifically for PCIE…

            But SATAe removes any limitations, is made for SSDs, it reduces latency significantly, and it is backwards compatible with SATA.

    • colinstu12
    • 7 years ago

    How thick is the SATA connector? I have two 7mm drives and … that looked like as thin as they were gonna get IIRC.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      mSATA?

      • Chrispy_
      • 7 years ago

      You can’t use the written word [i<]wedge[/i<]; Apple patented it a few months back. From now until the patent runs out, you must use the phrase [i<]triangular in cross section[/i<].

    • Farting Bob
    • 7 years ago

    I don’t need super slim 2.5″ drives, as i only have a desktop and fileserver, but i got to admit, a 5mm thick 2.5″ drive would look very sleek. Hell thats thinner than most SSD’s which is just a circuit board with flash chips glued on.

    • yogibbear
    • 7 years ago

    I’m not buying a laptop till it’s less than 250g and 2 mm thick. Needs an SSD and a GPU.

      • ludi
      • 7 years ago

      Okay, but don’t expect that SSD to run very well after we put it through the deli meat slicer.

      • Vulk
      • 7 years ago

      Oh yeah, well I’m not going to buy one until it can give me a back rub and keep me warm at night!

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        mine already does that.

          • indeego
          • 7 years ago

          Ahhh, nerds and their frequent confusion with porn and reality.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 7 years ago

            oh, i thought we were talking about wives. I’ll show myself out.

      • internetsandman
      • 7 years ago

      With a 5120×3200 resolution on a 13″ screen perhaps?

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