After being the reserve of high-end, top capacity hard drives, perpendicular recording technology has well and truly reached the mainstream.

Perpendicular recording enhances the capacity available on a drive platter. That's because the data is arranged vertically instead of horizontally in order to take up less space

The technology has now seeped into the mainstream of hard drive technology. This time last year, the tech made up just five per cent of the market. Now, however, the market is quickening.

Perpendicular drives are also appearing increasingly in notebooks. Seagate, for example, launched the world's first 2.5-inch perpendicular recording drive back in June at 160GB. At that point, it also announced it had shipped more than 16 million drives based on the technology.

3TB desktop drives by 2010

By 2010, data densities could exceed 500GB per square inch - they're around 200GB per square inch at present. Helped by perpendicular tech, Western Digital reckons that a 3.5-inch hard drive storing 640 GB-per-platter could reach 3TB and be "available in the 2010 timeframe".

That means we'll see 4TB drives by 2011 and at least 1TB on a notebook.

The effect has been achieved with Western Digital's perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) / tunneling magneto-resistive (TuMR) head technology, the company says. The tech was first demonstrated at WD's Magnetic Head Operation labs in Fremont earlier this month.

"The milestone was realised using our current-technology reader, illustrating the extendibility of PMR-TuMR head technology generations into the future" said Hossein Moghadam, chief technology officer at WD.

Hard drives continue to reign

Indeed, far from being a victim of the onslaught of Flash-based media, HDDs are predicted to continue leading the storage market for another few years - especially as Flash prices steadfastly refuse to drop.

Shipments of hard drives rose by 21 per cent last month, according to analyst iSuppli. That's 134 million across the third quarter of 2007. Prices of HDDs also fell.

1TB drives debuted at this year's CES, while Hitachi has released plans for a 4TB hard drive. Indeed, the company reckons it has now managed to create recording heads that are between 30nm and 50nm wide.

And that's not all, for the manufacturers are also talking about hard drives that will use less power. Hitachi's scientists have announced a hard drive that uses 40 per cent less juice - the Deskstar P7K500.

Hitachi reckons the 250GB P7K500 model uses 3.6 watts of power when idle, though this rises to 4.8 watts on hard disk drives (HDDs) with 320GB capacities or greater. This compares to 7 watts of idle power typically allocated for hard drives, according to the company.