We present a planar thin-film servo write head for writing timing-based servo patterns. The planar head operates at low current (∼100 mA) with nanosecond switching times. The planar head can handle dc current, enabling trailing-edge writing. Magnetic force microscopy measurements of the transitions written by the planar head and a conventional commercial servo write head on longitudinal metal particle and nonoriented barium ferrite media were made to assess the quality of the written transitions. The transition response width PW50 is found to be independent of the tape velocity during write for the planar head. For the conventional head, PW50 is larger and increases with the tape write velocity. The reduced PW50 results in larger readback signal amplitude and hence an improved track-follow performance. The faster switching capability of the planar head enables formatting at higher tape velocity. © 1965-2012 IEEE.