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SMR HDDs are Coming to a Notebook PC Near You

While Seagate has been shipping HDDs with shingle magnetic recording (SMR) for a number of years in its external HDD products, 2016 is shaping up to be the year when the industry as a whole announces and ships mainstream OEM HDDs using the capacity boosting technology. Using a combination of slightly larger disk diameters, higher linear densities and SMR, which increases track density by overlapping written data tracks, 2.5” mobile HDDs will move to 1 TB per disk through the second half of this year.

1 TB mobile HDDs already out-ship all other capacities in its market segment (including the notebook segment and external HDD segment), a recent transition since the 500 GB capacity point had been the highest unit volume HDD in mobile for nearly five years. Current 1 TB HDDs, which are used for external HDDs as well as consumer notebook PCs currently are based on perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) and contain two disks. By moving 1 TB HDDs to a single platter, the cost reductions achieved will support lower pricing to move 1 TB capacities into even low-cost notebooks PCs priced well below $500.

The impact of driving higher capacities into the lower priced, high volume consumer PC market will, for a time, provide a good defense against falling SSD pricing. Assuming consumer continue to value storage as a measure of capacity – a behavior that still continues today – a 1 TB HDD will provide four times the amount of capacity of a 256 GB SSD. Based on current price projections, that 1 TB HDD will continue to cost less than the 256 GB SSD option into 2018. Is this a defensive move by the HDD industry? The short answer is ‘yes’, but the push towards SMR and 1 TB per disk also takes advantage of not only consumer impressions of storage value, but also of OEM sourcing behaviors that seek to maximize profits on high volume, low margin notebooks PCs (the realm of the consumer notebook PC).

In the coming weeks, TRENDFOCUS will be publishing a detailed FOCUS ON reports covering SMR and its impact on the client computing industry. A follow-on report will also detail SMR’s role in the enterprise over the coming years.

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