Save for a few outliers, the land of budget tablets is one filled with compromise. In an effort to give the space a much-needed boost, Seagate has created the Ultra Mobile HDD for Android devices. This 5 millimeter hard drive has a capacity of 500GB, a 16MB cache and spins at 5,400 rpm. Spinning hard disks relatively unheard of in the tablet market, but so is a 500GB storage capacity. The idea here is to empower OEMs to affordably produce budget slates with more storage without bearing down on performance, though no pricing has been announced.
During a demonstration of the Ultra Mobile HDD in a proof-of-concept enclosure, the drive was paired with an 8GB flash cache powered by Seagate's Dynamic Data Driver Software for Android. This software enables the drive to offload its most frequently used data, or whatever is currently in use, to this cache. This allows the disk to enter a low-power state in which it doesn't spin. The spinning starts again when a new batch of data is called up by the user opening a new app or downloading new content.
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The demo device called up a video and played it back, which visually depicted how the drive and cache inside were handling it. The red bars show what the power consumption would be without the cache, and the yellow bars displayed the actual consumption based on a percentage. When the video was first accessed, we saw a spike in the yellow bars, but as it continued to play, those bars shrunk to about half of that height. Of course, we're told the actual consumption will depend on the content, but will always be lower than it would without a cache -- and this software supports up to a 16GB cache.
The Ultra Mobile HDD's second key feature is the zero-gravity sensors. Managed by the Dynamic Data Driver, these sensors will move the drive's needle next to the track as soon as a free-fall is detected. On the screen, the sensors spiked when the enclosure was dropped on a table and immediately leveled out upon impact.
If adopted on a large enough scale, Seagate could visibly change the budget tablet space -- its target market for this product -- with the Ultra Mobile HDD. The key differentiator between value-priced tablets and the high end of the slate scene could be storage size, not the quality of components, come next year. Of course, this doesn't do much for the oft-dismal display department, but the Ultra Mobile HDD could be a considerable step forward for $99 to $199 tablets.