UPDATE 5/17, 6 PM: Western Digital has confirmed that the new 2.5-inch T GB HDDs uses 6 SMR platters

The vast majority of laptops nowadays use solid-state drives, which is why the development of new, higher-capacity 2.5-inch hard drives has all but come to a halt. Or rather, it almost has. It seems that the 2.5-inch form factor has a bit more life left in it after all, as today Western Digital has released a slate of new external storage products based on a new, high-capacity 6 TB 2.5-inch hard drive.

WD's new 6 TB spinner is being used to offer upgraded versions of the company's My Passport, Black P10, and and G-DRIVE ArmorATD portable storage products. Notably, however, WD isn't selling the bare 2.5-inch drive on a standalone basis – at least not yet – so for the time being it's entirely reserved for use in external storage.

Consequently, WD isn't publishing much about the 6 TB hard drive itself. The maximum read speed for these products is listed at 130 MB/sec – the same as WD's existing externals – and write performance goes unmentioned.

Notably, all of these 6 TB devices are thicker than their existing 5 TB counterparts, which strongly suggests that WD has increased their storage capacity not by improving their areal density, but by adding another platter to their existing drive platform (which WD has since confirmed). This, in turn, would help to explain why these new drives are being used in external storage products, as WD's 5 TB 2.5-inch drives are already 15mm thick and using 5 platters. 15mm is the highest standard thickness for a 2.5-inch form-factor, and already incompatible with a decent number of portable devices. External drives, in turn, are the only place these even thicker 2.5-inch drives would fit.

WD's specifications also gloss over whether these drives are based on shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology. The company was already using SMR for their 5 TB drives in order to hit the necessary storage density there, and WD has since confirmed that this is exactly the case. Which is likely why the company isn't publishing write performance specifications for the drives, as we've seen device-managed SMR drives bottom out as low as 10 MB/second in our testing when the drive needs to rewrite data.

Depending on the specific drive model, all of the external storage drives use either a USB-C connector, or the very quaint USB Micro-B 3.0 connector. Though regardless of the physical connector used, all of the drives feature a USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps) electrical interface, which is more than ample given the drives' physically-limited transfer speeds.

Wrapping things up, according to WD the new drives are available at retail immediately. The WD My Passport Ultra and WD My Passport Ultra for Mac with USB-C both retail for $199.99; the WD My Passport and WD My Passport for Mac are $179.99; the WD My Passport Works With USB-C is $184.99; the gaming-focused WD_Black P10 Game Drive sells for $184.99, and the SanDisk Professional G-Drive ArmorATD is $229.99. All of Western Digital's external storage drives are backed with a three-year limited warranty.

Source: Western Digital



View All Comments

  • meacupla - Thursday, May 16, 2024 - link

    To think that 6~10 months ago, you could buy a budget 4TB NVMe drive for roughly the same price. Reply
  • Bob Todd - Friday, May 17, 2024 - link

    Exactly what I was thinking, but slightly less extreme. I was picking up 4TB MP34 drives for ~$150. That's TLC + DRAM + 2400TBW + 5 year warranty. Yes these 6TB drives have 50% more capacity, but the price for the performance, especially if they are SMR, is not inspiring. Reply
  • deil - Friday, May 17, 2024 - link

    I did buy two 2.5 sized 2TB external samsungs t7 touch for $99 each. I believe it would be another $10 cheaper if they were not pink. Reply
  • ballsystemlord - Thursday, May 16, 2024 - link

    That's a bit of a shame. I was rather hoping for continuing upgrades to laptop internal storage via new HDDs. As things currently stand, modern laptop offerings seem to top out at 2TB whether its SSD or HDD storage. Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, May 16, 2024 - link

    Laptop HDDs top out at 2 platters in standard configuration; unless Helium fill would allow adding a third that means a larger size would probably need a 50% increase in platter density to make a 3TB drive.

    I think we're finally getting close though. 3.5" platters have about 2x the area, so a 10 platter 30TB 3.5" drive would theoretically have enough areal density to make a 2 platter 2.5" 3TB drive. Toshiba recently announced a 10 platter 32 TB HAMR SMR and 11 platter 31 TB MAMR SMR models with the expectation of a 2025 availability. A non-SMR version of the former would probably be 28 or 29TB in size.
  • PeachNCream - Friday, May 17, 2024 - link

    External hard drives are still an effective means for SOHO and consumer sorts to maintain a local backup copy of data on a storage medium that is generally more "shelf-stable" than NAND flash. Random file corruption is less of a problem for a backup that isn't touched more than once or twice per year on a mechanical drive. Of course, it has its downsides - I wouldn't want to carry it alongside my computer when traveling due to reduced physical shock tolerance and a drive failure is more likely going to be catastrophic to the functionality of the drive, but they have a purpose especially in a time when QLC with it's ~300 or less per cell P/E cycling life expectancy poses a significant danger to long term information retention. Reply
  • Desierz - Friday, May 17, 2024 - link

    They probably had some extra 2.5" platters laying around they needed to get rid of. I can't for the life of me imagine this was a product someone at WD thought was important to release for any other reason. Reply
  • cbm80 - Friday, May 17, 2024 - link

    WD/Seagate/Toshiba were all at 5TB so this makes the product stand out a little. That's all. Reply
  • DanaGoyette - Sunday, May 19, 2024 - link

    I have a 2.5" 15mm drive that's 4TB, and holy hell is it slow at doing even simple things like making a Windows system-image backup. Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, June 4, 2024 - link

    I've dealt with a few 2.5" 5TB WD drives over the years. I came across a JBOD that had 4 shucked 5TB drives, and seen them in NAS's, where the 15mm height didn't matter. I even saw one in an HP Proliant 110 G8 that's 2.5" hot swap bays were intended for SAS (but naturally still worked with SATA) comically configured as a cold image of the entire array (5x900GB drives) running weekly. For years. The drive had who knows how many writes and I never stuck around to see how long this array image took (probably an entire day since it was configured to run Saturday night)

    ...but I've never seen one fail. These poor things with 5400RPM (some rumors indicate they are even 4800RPM?) spindles and SMR depending on a paltry 128MB cache and a write algorithm that causes erratic performance.

    I don't know whether to call them a marvel of modern engineering or a bastardization of it.

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