Samsung SpinPoint P80 HDD reviewed at Xbitlabs

Samsung HDD drives have always been almost ignored in most English-language hardware sites for about ten years. Sergey Romanov at XBitlabs concluded the review as the following.

Here I’ll try to summarize my experience with the SpinPoint P80 hard disk drive series from Samsung.

First of all, I would like to draw your attention once again to the possibility of purchasing a “pig in a poke”. According to Mikhail Mavritsin, who provided me with detailed information about the zone distribution of the reviewed drives, up to 10% of Samsung’s P80/V80 families come out with a reduced data density. Our tests prove that the biggest share of those 10 percent falls on the junior 60GB models and, to some extent, on 120GB models. Theoretically, 80GB models can also use low-density platters, but we haven’t yet encountered them. You are guaranteed to get the maximum performance by purchasing 160GB models – to reach this capacity, maximum-density platters are needed. Logically thinking, I can assume that more expensive models (SP1213N and SP1213C) also use platters of the maximum density. At least, all 8MB-buffered samples delivered the maximum performance in our tests.

Overall, the speed of the SpinPoint P80 is at a very high level. There’s been progress made compared to the previous series: the 8MB-buffered models with the latest firmware versions have nearly doubled their speed! In fact, the larger data buffer of the SpinPoint P80 brings about some gains, but not in the tests where I had expected to see them. For example, Samsung left all its competitors behind in the copy speed long ago, and it’s probably very hard to improve anything in this respect. Anyway, the 8MB-buffered models are overall about 10% faster than their 2MB counterparts. Moreover, the new firmware versions increase the performance of the top-end PATA and SATA models in the first place.

Considering the implementation of the SATA interface through a Marvell converter, I didn’t expect the SerialATA drives to be a revelation. None happened. The SP1213C and SP1614C were faster than the SP1213N and 1614N in some tests, but slower in others, and overall they were equal. In fact, this difference can be written off to the discrepancies between the two Promise controllers that I attached the HDDs to.

I couldn’t help testing the new Samsung drive on an ATA/100 controller. You have already seen that there’s no difference with ATA/133 in tests. In fact, the Maxtor D740X, the first drive to support the faster version of the protocol, remains the only device to be perceptibly faster with ATA/133.

I can’t say anything objective about the noise characteristics of the SpinPoint P80, since we haven’t got the equipment and methods ready yet, so I can only give you some subjective impressions. The fluid dynamic bearings considerably reduced the idle noise and there’s no that characteristic noise of the spindle rotating at 120rps at all. Some users complained about a strong vibration of the SpinPoint P80, but they were doing meekly enough in our testbed. As for the actuator’s buzz, Samsung silenced it long ago.

The thermal characteristics fully comply with the specifications: the SpinPoint P80 is usually cooler than analogous models from the competitors (with the same number of platters and fluid dynamic bearings), but ventilation is required for any modern drive, especially those consisting of more than one platter.

So, can I call the new HDD series from Samsung a victory? I think, yes. You could see from our previous reports about 80, 120 and 160GB drives from different manufacturers that the SpinPoint P80 contends for the leadership in performance and has no obviously weak spots, while the SpinPoint V80 isn’t at all inferior to models with a higher spindle rotation speed. The programmers have been working on the firmware, improving the performance as well as reliability (lower risk of losing data through deferred write). Overall, they rolled out a very impressive product that leaves no doubt about Samsung’s serious plans of becoming a leader in the market of hard disk drives.