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Is the end of mechanical drives near?

With Solid-State and Hybrid drives becoming increasingly popular, are we witnessing the beginning of the end for mechanical drives?


Earlier this year, Seagate introduced three new 3rd generation SSHD to it’s product lineup while also announcing the discontinuation of the 7200rpm mechanical HDD designed for using in high-end laptops. The new Seagate SSHDs are nothing extraordinary when compared to other SSHDs and are comparable to, if not slightly better than, the 2nd generation predecessors. The SSHDs combine NAND flash storage with a larger mechanical storage system both increasing capacity over standard SSDs, while increasing access speeds over basic mechanical drives, and providing an attractive price point only slightly higher than normal mechanical drive comparable.

New Seagate Hybrid Drives

The new Seagate SSHDs use Seagate’s adaptive technology to improve the load times of regularly used programs and applications. Finally, the new Seagate SSHDs will come in a 7mm 2.5” configuration for Ultrabook applications, a standard 2.5”configuration for regular laptops, and a 3.5” configuration used in desktop applications. Overall, this is a normal progression of SSHD technology and not much of a surprise. The real surprise was the second announcement.

7200 RPM laptop drives discontinued

The announcement of the discontinuation of Seagate’s 7200-rpm laptop drives comes at an interesting time. The current price of flash hardware had the cost of full SSD storage drives dropping to, and past, the $1.00/GB threshold, which allowed high-speed storage drives to become more and more affordable. Now, with the inclusion of moderately priced SSHD drives to the market the cost to produce a 7200-rpm mechanical hard drive is becoming prohibitive. Just comparing Seagate SSHD and 7200-rpm HDD prices on Newegg at the time the article was written and a I see only a moderate difference in price: the first Seagate SSHD listed comes in at $84.99 and the first 7200-rpm HDD is listed at $79.99.

I know that the specifics of each drive are different and may or may not be completely compatible, but on a cost per item basis the $5 difference is negligible. When you consider that mechanical HDD are a mature product with very little price fluctuation per/GB and flash drives are continuing to drop in price as new and cheaper manufacturing processes are deployed, the days of the mechanical hard drive look to be limited.

Is this the beginning of the end?

I am not predicting the complete removal of mechanical drives from production. There is no current way to produce SSD and SSHD drives at a comparable cost to the bargain-basement 5200-rpm HDD which are included in most major, and inexpensive, PCs today. The startling aspect of the demise of the 7200-rpm mechanical drive is that I can see the beginning of it’s end. Just like the 3.5”floppy before it, new technology like the flash-based drives will eventually become cheap enough to be included in all new product offerings. We are not at that point now, but it is coming.

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