Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (Hitachi GST) said Monday it began shipments of its first 4TB, 3.5-inch hard drive, targeted at the PC market, three months after rival Seagate launched its own version.

Hitachi said it is currently shipping limited numbers of the drive in a self-installation kit with a suggested US retail price of US$400 (£256). A stand-alone external drive and shipments to OEMs and other partners are to begin in the first quarter of 2012.

The drive has a 32MB (megabyte) cache buffer as well as Hitachi's power management features, and buyers get 3GB (gigabyte) of online storage for free. The high-capacity drives require software downloads so that Windows and OS X will treat them as a single accessible data drive.

Seagate's external drive is currently on back order on its US website, priced at $300 (£192). On the UK website, the product is still only available with capacities up to 3TB. The 3TB edition is currently out of stock with Seagate UK, but retails on Amazon for £252.92, as of Monday 12 December.

While solid-state drives are quickly gaining popularity in ultrabooks and smaller digital gadgets, hard disk drives are still the norm in laptop and desktop computers and offer far more storage at their price. But with prices falling and competition severe, the industry is undergoing a wave of consolidation.

This could be one of Hitachi's GST final product announcements. Western Digital said earlier this year it will acquire the hard drive unit of Hitachi for £2.75 billion ($4.3 billion) in cash and stock, a deal expected to be completed early next year. Rival Seagate is paying £896 million ($1.4 billion) for the hard disk drive business of Samsung Electronics.