Not Dead Yet: WD Releases New 6TB 2.5-Inch External Hard Drives – First Upgrade in Seven Years

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. 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, which 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, so it seems very likely that they’re continuing to use SMR for their 6 TB drives. Which is likely why the company isn’t publishing write performance specifications for the drives, as we’ve seen 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) 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.

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