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Hard drives hit warp speed

Relativity seen as Maxtor releases Ultra ATA/133

Today's hard drives spin faster than ever, but that speed is useless if the data gets caught in a bottleneck between the drive and the rest of the PC. To prevent slowdowns as hard drive transfer rates climb, Maxtor yesterday unveiled its new Ultra ATA/133 standard.

The new standard, dubbed Fast Drives, builds upon the existing Ultra ATA/100 (ATA stands for Advanced Technology Attachment), but offers transfer rates at 133MBps (megabytes per second) - a 33 percent increase.

The current ATA/100 standard has the headroom to accommodate the best mainstream hard drives but, with platter capacities growing fast, soon that headroom will run out, said Simon Broadbent, technical marketing manager at Maxtor.

Improved hard drive platter density means you can store more data in a smaller space. So while the rotation of the disc remains a steady 7,200rpm, say, the amount of data the drive is reading continues to grow. Seagate, for example, recently shipped a hard drive with 40GB platters.

Looking further into the future, Intel spokesman Manny Vara said Intel this time passed on the opportunity to sponsor the ATA/133 standard, choosing instead to focus its attention on the Serial ATA standard, another hard drive interface Intel is working on. "Serial ATA is where we figure we'll get the most headroom for the coming years," he said.

Whereas the ATA/133 interface is an evolutionary step, the Serial ATA interface, with transfer rates starting at 150MBps, is a revolutionary one. Serial ATA is the future, but ATA/133 will fill in nicely until it arrives, said Vara.


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