on Monday began shipping its 531DX family of devices. With these new drives, the storage giant is not targeting size or speed — Maxtor is going for reliability. This drive family will be the first to use a mechanism to physically lift the drive head from the media platter for improved reliability. Maxtor also refined the manufacturing process for this family of devices to cut the number of parts used to create the drive. Maxtor believes that fewer parts will increase their device’s reliability and reduce cost.
Theodore E. Deffenbaugh, Maxtor’s vice president of Business Development, said that the load/unload ramp will improve drive reliability and lifespan by gently lifting the read/write head off the media platter within the device when it is not being used. Like a phonograph needle, the drive head and its arm assembly are lifted from the media and locked safely away by a clockwork mechanism.
Previously, drive heads would be ‘parked’ or ‘landed’ in specific safe areas located on the media platter. This is effective, but as the drive ages material can collect on the read/write head. When a dirty read/write head is parked, the microscopic impurities that collected on the head can slide off the head and cause it to stick to the parking area on the platter. When the drive spins up again, this can damage the parking area, the head, or the media itself.
Deffenbaugh said that the number one reason for PC failure (after a certain period of ‘burn-in’ time) is hard drive failure. “Knowing that, Maxtor’s OEM customers, Apple among them, desire as much reliability from the hard drive as possible,” said Deffenbaugh.
Because the new devices use only one platter and one read/write head, the new drives will be only 17mm high, compared to standard ATA100 devices, which are usually 25.4mm (or one inch) high. Deffenbaugh suggested that the shorter drives allow for better cooling, and that this smaller size coupled with high reliability may make the devices attractive for other uses beyond PCs or Macs.
Maxtor is currently shipping 10GB and 15GB capacity drives in this family — Maxtor has not yet announced multi-platter devices for this drive family. Both sizes use ATA100 and support ATA/66 and ATA/33. These 5,400 rpm drives feature a 2MB cache, and have a sustained read of 34MB/sec. and a sustained write of 21.5MBsec. The 15GB drive will retail for $100. The 10GB size drive is currently only being offered to Maxtor’s OEM customers.