The unsexy technology of hard drive storage is important for 4K content

by on December 26, 2014

Stephan Jukic – December 26, 2014

In the world of 4K consumer electronics in general and 4K PCs specifically, a lot of words get devoted to the latest, most powerful GPUs, CPUs, screen resolutions, camera video resolutions and 4K gaming or content options, but what often gets ignored, despite its importance, is the lowly technology of storage memory.

This is unfortunate for a number of practical reasons that are going to be all the more important as 4K videos become more common and need to be stored on a larger range of computing devices.

For starters, 4K content absolutely needs a large storage space in any device it’s downloaded to. Given that a single minute of full ultra HD 4K video in native resolution takes up a full 2 GB of storage memory, large amounts of drive space become more crucial than ever before.

Secondly, the need for memory applies particularly to smaller devices that actually record UHD videos and store them. Of course old videos can be downloaded from them and then erased to clear up space but sometimes a longer recording session is in order and capturing more than a half hour of 4K footage is already something that edges close to the storage limits of many mobile devices’ SSD memories.

This is where the need for really large hard disk space is coming into the picture, even if some consumers haven’t given it much thought.

Given the high prices of larger SSD memories, the solution for laptops and PCs will still likely involve mechanical HDD drives for the immediate future since they cost much less while offering far more storage per dollar.

This is where recent market arrivals from companies like Western Digital, Seagate and other competitors come into the picture with their most recent 6 terabyte HD drives.

For some time now, the upper size limit of most HD units has hovered around 4 terabytes and while this is an enormous amount of storage in comparison with what even really, really expensive SSD hard drives offer, it’s still becoming insufficient in the face of growing demand for more storage memory.

This is why these new 6 TB hard drives are so useful for both professional videographers and even amateur PC users. They will become particularly important as more 4K content finds its way onto consumers’ personal computers.

However, when it comes to moving large chunks of data like 4K video clips around on mechanical hard drives, the process can become slow and even tedious. In part this is offset by small innovations in HD technology such as those that Western Digital’s 6 TB HD drives have, which revolve around packing more electrons onto each disc so that the reading arm has to move around less. However, even with these innovations, HD memory is slower than SSD when it comes to moving large video clips around.

24o GB SSD hard drive

Larger volume SSD drives like this one need to dramatically decrease in cost before they can be viable replacements for mechanical HD storage

Unfortunately, the far superior technology of SSD memory is still really expensive, so much so that a 256 GB SSD rive for a PC costs the same as a 4 TB HD drive for the same machine. Thus, while transferring ultra HD videos from the SSD memories in cameras and smartphones to equally fast SSD memories in PCs would be ideal, it still needs some work in terms of prices.

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