New releases at PC Expo

Hal Glatzer reports from PC Expo on the latest, greatest products in the hard disk drive market.

If new, higher-capacity hard disk drives are on your budgetary wish list this year, drives with storage exceeding 30 gigabytes (GB) are worth a look. They're on display this week at PC Expo.

Quantum Corp. is introducing two 36 GB drives. Model Atlas IV has a disk rotation speed of 7,200 rpm, while model Atlas 10K spins the platter at (what else?) 10,000 rpm. Performance specs also differ slightly, with average seek time for the slower drive rated at 6.9 milliseconds (msec), with 257 megabits per second (Mbps) maximum internal data transfer rate. The 10K version boasts a specified 5 msec average seek time and 315 Mbps internal data transfer rate.

The Atlas IV will list for $1,495 and the Atlas 10K will sell for $1,995. Both will be available through Quantum's distribution channels.

IBM is offering two drives in this capacity range. Model Deskstar 34GXP holds 34 GB; it's a 7,200 rpm drive, specified to have a 9 msec average seek time and a 284 Mbps maximum internal data transfer rate. Model Deskstar 37GP spins at 5,400 rpm; it's also specified to have a 9 msec average seek time but a slightly slower 248 Mbps maximum internal data transfer rate.

While the IBM drives may be slightly inferior in performance to their Quantum competitors, IBM's pricing is far more aggressive. At $420 for either drive, the IBM products are almost one-third the price.

Also, IBM is in the competition to create the smallest hard disk drive (HDD). The company is releasing its Microdrive, which—with a one-inch disk inside—is smaller than a matchbook. In addition, CallunaCorp. has brought out a 260 megabyte (MB) HDD in a PC Card Type II package.

Calluna and IBM had a development partnership about four years ago, in which they were jointly working on a miniature HDD with a 1.8-inch disk. The relationship ended, and it's Calluna that has pursued that form-factor. The Callunacard is specified to have a 12 msec average seek time and a maximum data transfer rate of 20 Mbps.

The Callunacard lists for $299, which works out to less than $1.25 per megabyte—a big savings over the $3-$5 per megabyte price of solid-state "flash" memory cards.

IBM's Microdrive holds more data—340 MB—and lists for $499. And it's considerably smaller than Calluna’s product. Small enough, in fact, to be offered not only with a PC Card Type II adapter, but also with a CF+ Type II adapter, which is a version of the solid-state "CompactFlash" form factor. However, don't expect to replace your digital camera's 8-MB or 1-MB CF card with a Microdrive. The data transfer rates are too dissimilar, and—with all those moving parts—a Microdrive will draw far too much power. (But, you can expect some next-generation cameras to take Microdrives.)

While magnetic storage is coming on strong in some parts of the PC Expo show floor, optical disk storage is making an unexpected appearance at Iomega's booth. IomegaCorp. is famous for removable magnetic disk systems, but it's now branding a line of CD-RW drives. And while Iomega is equally famous for inventing clever product names—Zip, Jaz, and (more recently) Clik!—it has called this new one ZipCD. However, there's no plug-compatibility whatsoever between the 100-MB or 250-MB Zip and the 650-MB CD-RW lines.

David Gantt, vice president and general manager of optical products at Iomega, said at the show that the CD-RW product "enhances the Company's overall storage product portfolio. The drive will ship with bundled software and include an animated installation tour so customers can begin using ZipCD quickly and easily." As anyone who has installed a Zip drive knows, Iomega's icons tend to spread all over the Windows desktop. Unless the user is a rank novice, who doesn't object to Iomega's apparent tendency to be "noticed" on boot-up, the support staff may want to just install the basic drivers for this (or any) CD-RW drive.

The machine Iomega is branding is an internal E-IDE 4x4x24 model (i.e., it writes write-once CD-R and rewritable CD-RW disks at "4X" speed—600KB/sec), and it reads all CD media at 24X speed (approximately 3.6 megabytes per second). Shipments are due to begin in September through Iomega's distribution and retail channels, and online through

Pricing has yet to be set, but comparable drives retail for about $300. Iomega is also branding disks in three-packs costing $19.95 for preformatted media, and $12.99 for one pre-formatted and two unformatted disks.
Hal Glatzer is TechRepublic’s person on the scene at PC Expo. If you have questions or comments related to the conference, please send us an e-mail .

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