A major advance over the IBM 350 and IBM 1405 was the use of a separate arm and head for each recording surface, with all the arms moving in and out together like a big comb. This eliminated the time needed for the arm to pull the head out of one disk and move up or down to a new disk. Seeking the desired track was also faster since, with the new design, the head would usually be somewhere in the middle of the disk, not starting on the outer edge. Maximum access time was reduced to 180 milliseconds.
The 1301 also featured heads that were aerodynamically designed to fly over the surface of the disk on a thin layer of air. This allowed them to be much closer to the recording surface, which greatly improved performance.
The 1301 was connected to the computer via the IBM 7631 File Control. Different models of the 7631 allowed the 1301 to be used with a 1410 or 7000 series computer or shared between a 7000 and a 1410 or between two 7000's.
The IBM 1301 Model 1 leased for $2,100 per month or could be purchased for $115,500. Prices for the Model 2 were $3,500 per month or $185,000 to purchase. The IBM 7631 controller cost an additional $1,185 per month or $56,000 to purchase. All models were withdrawn in 1970.