Intel Calls for Ultra-Slim Hard Drives, Optical Drives for Ultrabooks

Intel Wants 5mm HDDs, 7mm ODDs for Ultrabooks

by Anton Shilov
04/12/2012 | 10:47 PM

Intel Corp. is calling manufacturers of hard disk drives (HDDs) and optical disc drives (ODDs) to create and standardize ultra-slim devices compatible with modern ultrabook ultra-thin designs. The world's largest chipmaker discussed opportunities for 5mm thick hard drives and 7mm thick optical drives at Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, China.


Nowadays the thinnest 2.5" HDDs are 7mm, whereas the slimmest Blu-ray/DVD drives are 9.5mm, which makes them pretty much thick for ultrabooks now and will simply be too thick for ultrabooks of the future. Solid-state drives can be 5mm in height, while SSDs in mSATA form-factors are even slimmer. There clearly are people, who would like to have ultra-slim notebooks with high-capacity hard drives as well as optical disc drives. In a bid to satisfy such requirements, Intel calls manufacturers of components to standardize ultra-slim HDDs and ODDs.

At present Intel is working with several manufacturers of hard drives (one of them is Western Digital) to finalize specification of 5mm hard drives to SATA-IO in the fourth quarter of 2012. The chipmaker expects 1TB 2.5"/5mm to power 15mm ultrabooks by 2015. Ultra-slim 7mm DVD-RW drive from Panasonic is projected to become available in early 2013 and fir into 18mm systems.

Back in November, 2011, Singapore-based A*Star Data Storage Institute (DSI) introduced an axial field motor that is very thin, efficient and can enable 5mm thick 2.5" hard disk drives.

One of the main challenges faced in scaling down the thickness of a hard disk drive is the ability to scale the thickness of the current spindle motor while maintaining the motor performance such as the non-repeatable run-out (NRRO). DSI has designed an axial field motor (the current motor is based on a radial field design) that is 4mm thick, and can spin at 5400/7200 revolutions per minute (rpm). The axial field design eliminates cogging torque and unbalanced magnetic pull that in turn helps to reduce friction loss of the bearing, vibration and acoustic noise. This slim spindle motor is projected be utilized in DSI’s thin drive with a 5mm thickness.


Intel believes that the ultrabook computers will marry the performance and capabilities of contemporary laptops with tablet-like features, such as instant-on, increased responsiveness, high power efficiency as well as enhanced security, in a thin, light and elegant design. Intel considers ultrabooks as a vision, not just as another product category and therefore it expects ultrabooks to evolve as quickly as its microprocessors.

With the advancement of notebook components, it is clear that eventually all notebooks become very thin, as  a result, while hard disk drives or 7mm ODDs may not be exactly the best choice for 11.6" or 13.3" models, they will clearly be very valuable for 14", 15" or even 17" models.