Ars Technica reported that Samsung has not found any buyers for its impressive 250 GB 1.8″ hard drive. Evidently Toshiba has the same problem.

Is there a market for large capacity 1.8″ drives? Apple has dropped back to 120 GB drives in the iPod Classic, its largest capacity player, from 160 is some earlier models.

My personal music collection is over 11,000 tracks, most ripped at 320kbps – as good as MP3 gets – and that is less than 90 GB total. Until we can persuade people to carry around a couple of hundred movies – ripped DVDs average around around 800 MB on an iPhone – 120 GB seems like a reasonable maximum.

What’s next?
One answer to that question may be coming from Samsung itself. Their new mini-card SSDs feature a SATA interface.

The Toshiba 1.8″ HDD is 8mm x 54mm x 78.5mm, versus 3.75mm x 30mm x 51mm for the mini-card SSD. That’s almost 1/6th the volume for 1/4 the capacity with current chip density.

The Toshiba uses 1.2W during read/write operations, while Samsung claims 0.3W for the SSD, even less than the 0.4W the disk uses in low power idle mode. The disk is 60g vs 8.5g for the SSD.

Performance probably favors the disk, but with the duty-cycle of such small devices it isn’t crucial. Anyway the buyers have already spoken.

The StorageMojo take
Cost plays a role: the Toshiba 250 GB HDD retails for $175. The 64 GB Samsung SSD won’t be any cheaper, at least initially, but it will be smaller and the price will be coming down faster.

As I forecast 2 years ago:

With flash prices dropping 70% a year and disks 45%, the trend is inexorable: flash will just get more attractive every year. Add in the power, weight and durability advantages, and the prognosis for the 1.8″ drive is grim.

At 70¢ per GB (retail) the 1.8″ drive loses the clear cost advantage over flash. Since 64 GB is plenty for netbooks and media players, capacity isn’t enough to bring users.

Samsung’s USB-only offering suggests that they see an opening for a high-capacity thumb drive. But 250 GB bumps up against the bandwidth limits that USB 2 provides.

Will USB 3.0 – 400MB/s usable, due next year – save the high-capacity 1.8″ drive? Stay tuned.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.