Toshiba is throwing a much-needed bone to ultra-thin laptop users with a new range of high-speed, 1.8in disk drives that it’s due to release to manufacturers in April.

Although the new micro-Serial ATA drives are yet to be tested by IDC, one of that company’s analysts has hailed them as the first 1.8in devices to offer 5400rpm speeds.

John Rydning from IDC said the drives’ spindle speed, coupled with 80GB and 120GB capacity, theoretically put their performance and reliability on par with their 160GB 2.5in cousins.

He said that capability answered a growing frustration among mobile PC users that they must sacrifice hard-drive performance when using ultra-thin notebook or laptop computers. "What this means for ultra-mobile PC makers and users is that they'll have more storage options for the small, thin and light PCs. It will be a noticeable difference."

Rydning expected other manufacturers to release similar drives soon. "Demand for capacity on notebook PCs has just been amazing," he said. "The trend is pretty clear. Portable PC users really don't want to give up capacity as they switch to notebooks from desktop computers."

Toshiba plans to show off its new 80GB MK8016GSG and 120GB MK1216GSG micro-drives drives at this week’s Intel Mobility Summit in Shanghai.

The 62-gram drives are based on the 3Gbit/s SATA interface architecture of its 2.5in hard drives.

Patty Kim, product marketing manager at the Toshiba Storage Device Division said the drives support the SATA 2.6 specification and incorporate the micro-SATA connector to allow integration with Toshiba's full line of SATA disk drives.

The connector also allows the new drive to be linked to small-design storage devices manufactured by other storage vendors, Kim added.