Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) has begun sample production of a new version of its 1.8-inch hard disk drive that takes up less space and requires less power than current models, it said Wednesday.

The new drive was designed with HGST's consumer electronics customers in mind, said Anh Phan, director of business line management for 1.8-inch drives at HGST. Such customers are becoming increasingly important for HGST in the 1.8-inch drive market and currently account for 80 per cent of the company's drive output, said Anh. Apple uses these 1.8-inch drives in its iPods.

In designing the drive, the company looked at how to tune its existing 1.8-inch drives to make them better-suited for use in consumer electronics devices, he said.

"There are several big factors in the consumer electronics market - size, ease of integration, shock, power consumption and acoustics - beyond the power and performance that we have historically concentrated on," Anh said.

"A lot of consumer electronics devices are small and there is not much room to work with so we introduced a ZIF (zero insertion force) connector onto the drive," he said. As a result of removing the standard notebook PC connector and replacing it, the drive's footprint has been reduced by 10 per cent from current HGST 1.8-inch drives, he said. The change in connector has also helped reduce weight, albeit by 1 gram, to 46 grams, he said.

The density at which data is stored on the disk surface has been increased to 99.8G bits per square inch, which HGST says is a record among 1.8-inch drives. The increased density means up to 30GB can be stored on a single disk platter.

Shock resistance has been increased from 300Gs to 500Gs and the load/unload cycle rating, which refers to the drive head being loaded and unloaded from above the disk surface, has been doubled from 300,000 cycles to 600,000 cycles, said Anh. Power consumption has also been reduced and is below that of competitors, he said.

Samples of the drives are now shipping to customers and HGST is ready to begin mass production upon receipt of orders, said Anh. The C4K60 drive is available in 20GB and 30GB capacities, priced at $125 and $160 respectively, although volume prices will be lower, he said. These capacities were chosen as the company decided they represented the "sweet-spot" for digital music players, said Anh.