A systematic investigation of the magnetic and recording characteristics of CoPtCrO media with different Co grain magnetic anisotropy orientation dispersion (AOD) is performed. AOD is characterized by Δθ50 of the x-ray diffraction Co peak. AOD was systematically varied between 3.3° and 10.5° by varying the growth condition of Ru layer. With increasing AOD, more grain-boundary segregation occurs, resulting in reduced exchange coupling. Micromagnetic simulation and experimentally measured time dependence of coercivity indicate that magnetic switching of well-isolated Co particles is affected by exchange coupling strength as well as Co AOD. Higher coercivity, narrower switching field distribution, and good thermal stability are achieved with lower Co AOD. Reduced Co AOD leads to a substantial decrease of both transition jitter and dc noise.