Hard-disk drive maker Seagate Technology has started shipping a drive targeted at personal computers that offers 400GB of storage space. The company is the second to offer such a drive, following Hitachi's attack on this space with the Deskstar 7K400.

Increasing popularity of PC-based multimedia applications, particularly home video editing and downloading of movies and TV shows from peer-to-peer networks, is driving demand for larger capacity hard-disk drives in the PC space. In addition to high-storage capacities, such drives need to be able to read and write data to the drive fast enough to keep up with real-time video.

The drive is the fourth member of Seagate's Barracuda 7200.8 series of drives and is available in two versions, one with an Ultra ATA/100 interface and one with a Serial ATA interface. The rotational speed of the disc is 7200 rpm (revolutions per minute), with an average seek time of 8 milliseconds.

Seagate follows Hitachi's trail. Hitachi released its own 400GB drive in March which offers 400GB at 7200rpm. So, Seagate appears to be eight months behind Hitachi GST in this particular hard drive race.

The lastest version of Seagate's drive supports a Serial ATA technology called Native Command Queuing (NCQ), which allows the drive to manage multiple commands from the PC in whatever order it deems most efficient. Until now, drives have handled read and write requests in the order they have been received. The NCQ technology means users of the Serial ATA version of the Barracuda drive with systems that support NCQ will see performance closer to that of a 10,000 rpm drive than that of a 7,200 rpm, according to Seagate.

The disc includes three media platters, each capable of storing 133GB of data, which is a record for a PC-targeted drive, according to the company. Pricing was not announced.

Plans for the drive were first announced by Seagate in June this year when it presented its upcoming product plans at a news conference in Tokyo.

Seagate and Hitachi appear to be pulling ahead of the field. Maxtor has a 300GB 7200rpm SATA unit, while Western Digital only has a 250GB SATA unit - 150GB behind.