The original Ultrabook concept Intel envisioned was predicated on using solid state drives to shed precious millimeters off the thickness of the laptops (the better to compete against the MacBook Air, which already uses SSD technology). But prices for SSD-based Ultrabooks remain high, and in order to lower prices and boost flagging sales, manufacturers have had to resort to using a combination of traditional laptop hard drives and small-capacity SSDs to provide sufficient storage and quicker boot-up times.
Hoping to take advantage of the situation, Western Digital has been working on bringing skinnier hard drives to market to accommodate the Ultrabook goal of maximum thinness. It already introduced 7mm 2.5-inch drives earlier this year, which provided an alternative to the 9.5mm drives typically used in notebook computer. Now, WD has announced that it has developed a 5mm hard drive that uses hybrid technology to help speed up start times.
As with other hybrid storage solutions, WD's new drives include speedy MLC Nand flash memory for frequently utilized data, while the traditional hard drive provides larger capacity. The company says the new drives will offer 500GB of storage, which is sufficient for Ultrabooks that are trying to reach that magic $500 price point.
Acer and Asus have already publicly committed to using the new drives in their laptops, with others likely to follow. The new 5mm drives will be on display during Western Digital's investor day later this week, at which point we may get details about availability that weren't provided in the company's press release.