7,200-RPM terabytes from Hitachi, Samsung, Seagate, and WD face off

Solid-state disks are easily one of the most exciting new technologies to grace the PC in recent years. The first examples didn’t have the capacity or performance to measure up to their exorbitant price tags, but great strides have been made with subsequent generations. These days, you can pick up a 128GB SSD that will easily trounce a mechanical hard drive for round about $350. That’s still a princely sum, although the value proposition isn’t as questionable as one might suspect.

If you’re planning on dropping more than a grand on a new rig, you’d be foolish not to at least consider pairing a low-capacity solid-state disk with secondary mass storage. But what if you’re spending less? There are cheaper SSDs that serve up 32 and 40GB capacities for around $100. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for games or other data on top of a typical operating system and applications payload, though. Besides, for a lot less than $100, you can have your pick of mechanical hard drives that spin a full terabyte of capacity at 7,200 RPM.

We’ve had terabyte hard drives for years now, and thanks to advances in areal density, the latest examples need only two platters. Those who have been following our storage coverage will know that we have a certain affinity for two-platter mechanical drives. While 3.5″ drive makers have stacked as many as five platters over the years, the additional media takes more power to rotate and typically turns up the volume on noise levels. As a result, two-platter drives usually offer the most attractive mix of performance, power consumption, acoustic profile, and overall capacity. Couple that with the lower cost per gigabyte that comes with being a few rungs down on the capacity ladder, and you’ve found the sweet spot for mechanical desktop storage.

For years, this sweet spot was dominated by Western Digital’s 640GB Caviars. Ignited by the original SE16 and capped by an eventual Black variant, WD’s last batch of two-platter Caviars boasted an unrivaled combination of exceptional all-around performance and low noise levels. We went on to recommend the drives in scores of system guides and eventually replaced them with the two-platter, 1TB Caviar Black 6Gbps when it debuted earlier this year.

As much as we like the new Black, I have to admit that I’m not as enamored with it as I was with the old 640GB models. The drive’s performance is excellent. However, the chattering staccato it plays while seeking is noticeably louder than the muted grinding of the 640GB Caviars. The terabyte Black doesn’t make enough noise to be an annoyance unless the rest of your system is already silent, but that’s enough of a chink in the armor to make one wonder if a better option exists. The market certainly isn’t short on alternatives from which to choose.

Hitachi, Samsung, and Seagate have two-platter terabyte offerings, too. Naturally, we had to find out which one is best, so we’ve rounded up the 1TB flavors of the Barracuda 7200.12, Caviar Black, Deskstar 7K1000.C, and Spinpoint F3 in an old-school mechanical throwdown. Keep reading to see which of these drives is worthy of the sweet spot crown.

Introducing the contenders

Unlike the solid-state disk market, the world of mechanical hard drives is dominated by two players: Seagate and Western Digital. In the first quarter of this year, those companies split just over 62% of the hard drive market nearly evenly. Hitachi carved itself 17.6% of the pie, while Samsung was stuck behind Toshiba/Fujitsu with less than 10% of the market.

Despite Samsung’s meager market share, the Spinpoint F3 has been one of the most hotly anticipated desktop drives of the last year thanks to favorable reviews of the last-gen Spinpoint F1. The F3 spent much of its early life painfully out of stock at the few online retailers that even listed it, but the new Spinpoint seems to finally be available with some consistency. Hitachi’s Deskstar 7K1000.C isn’t quite as fresh, but it’s been widely available for a while now. As you might have guessed, the 7K1000.C represents the company’s third-generation terabyte drive to hit 7,200-RPM.

The elder statesman of the bunch is the Barracuda 7200.12, which Seagate released before anyone else was spinning dual 500GB platters at full speed. A premium XT model has since been added to the Barracuda line, but it’s only being offered at 2TB with no plans to reach down to lower capacity points, so the 7200.12 has endured for more than 16 months now. That brings us back nicely to the 6Gbps Caviar Black, which is the youngest entry of the bunch, having popped onto the market just a few months ago.

Limiting our focus to two-platter, 1TB, 7,200-RPM mechanical hard drives makes this about as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as you’re going to get in the storage world. As you’ve no doubt deduced, each drive has an even terabyte of storage capacity spread across two platters rotating at 7,200-RPM. The Barracuda, Deskstar, and Spinpoint also have 32MB caches and 3Gbps Serial ATA interfaces. Western Digital offers a step up in both categories, equipping its latest Caviar Black with 64MB of cache and next-gen 6Gbps SATA connectivity.

  Spindle speed Interface speed Cache size Areal density Total capacity Warranty length Price
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C 7,200 RPM 3Gbps 32MB 352 GB/in² 1TB Three years $70
Samsung Spinpoint F3 7,200 RPM 3Gbps 32MB NA 1TB Three years $70
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 7,200 RPM 3Gbps 32MB 329 GB/in² 1TB Three years $75
WD Caviar Black 7,200 RPM 6Gbps 64MB 400 GB/in² 1TB Five years $95

The value of those upgrades is probably dubious at best. For years, Western Digital downplayed the benefit of larger caches, and it only put 32MB into the latest VelociRaptor. The extra cache shouldn’t be a hindrance. Besides, it’s the only part of the drive with a shot at exploiting the 6Gbps interface. The Black’s platters can only sustain transfer rates up to 126MB/s, according to WD’s data sheets, so they can’t saturate a first-gen 1.5Gbps SATA link, let alone the 3Gbps interface used by the others. Unsurprisingly, when we reviewed the Caviar earlier this year, its 6Gbps interface wasn’t much help. The fact that all of today’s test data was collected using a 3Gbps SATA controller shouldn’t unfairly penalize the Caviar.

Although all four drives stack two 500GB platters, the media itself differs slightly from one manufacturer to the next. The key measure here is areal density, which is usually expressed as the number of bits squeezed into each square inch of surface area. A higher areal density allows the drive head to access a given amount of data over a shorter physical distance, enabling faster sequential transfers. There’s a catch: the more tightly the bits are packed, the more difficult it becomes to seek out individual data points. That’s likely why so many drives offer great sequential throughput but mediocre random access times.

Maintaining its streak of one-upmanship, the Caviar Black has a higher areal density than the rest at 400 Gb/in². That’s a substantial advantage over the Deskstar 7K1000.C, which packs only 352 gigabits into every square inch of platter real estate. The Barracuda 7200.12 slots in below the Deskstar with an areal density of 329 Gb/in².

Samsung hasn’t published the areal density of the platters in the Spinpoint F3. We’ve asked the company’s representatives for additional details several times now, but thus far all we’ve been told is that the platters pack 500GB each. For a two-platter terabyte drive? Ya think?

When you line them up, the Caviar Black has the edge on every front except one: price. The extra scratch buys spec sheet bragging rights for your next forum flame war, and more importantly, an additional two years of warranty coverage. You’ll pay $20 less for the ‘cuda and save a cool $25 with Deskstar and Spinpoint—sizable discounts given the fact the cheapest options will set you back just seventy dollars.

With the best specs of the lot, the Caviar is the obvious favorite. Besides, it has a hefty price premium to justify. The pressure is off the other contenders, which are nicely poised for an upset thanks to much lower prices. Without further ado, let’s make our way to the proving grounds to see how these drives stack up.

Our testing methods

Before dipping into pages of benchmark graphs, let’s set the stage with a quick look at other the players we’ve assembled for comparative reference. We’ve called up a wide range of competitors, including a selection of desktop hard drives, traditional notebook drives, Seagate’s Momentus XT hybrid, and a cubic assload of pure solid-state goodness. Below is a chart highlighting some of the key attributes of the contenders we’ve lined up opposite our quartet of two-platter terabytes.

  Flash controller Interface speed Spindle speed Cache size Platter capacity Total capacity
Corsair Force F100 SandForce SF-1200 3Gbps NA NA NA 100GB
Corsair Force F120 SandForce SF-1200 3Gbps NA NA NA 120GB
Corsair Nova V128 Indilinx Barefoot ECO 3Gbps NA 64MB NA 128GB
Crucial RealSSD C300 Marvell 88SS9174 6Gbps NA 256MB NA 256GB
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C NA 3Gbps 7,200 RPM 32MB 500GB 1TB
Intel X25-M G2 Intel PC29AS21BA0 3Gbps NA 32MB NA 160GB
Intel X25-V Intel PC29AS21BA0 3Gbps NA 32MB NA 40GB
Kingston SSDNow V+ Toshiba T6UG1XBG 3Gbps NA 128MB NA 128GB
OCZ Agility 2 SandForce SF-1200 3Gbps NA NA NA 100GB
OCZ Vertex 2 SandForce SF-1200 3Gbps NA NA NA 100GB
Plextor PX-128M1S Marvell 88SSE8014 3Gbps NA 128MB NA 128GB
Samsung Spinpoint F3 NA 3Gbps 7,200 RPM 32MB 500GB 1TB
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 NA 3Gbps 7,200 RPM 32MB 500GB 1TB
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 NA 3Gbps 7,200 RPM 16MB 250GB 500GB
Seagate Momentus XT NA 3Gbps 7,200 RPM 32MB 250GB 500GB
WD Caviar Black NA 6Gbps 7,200 RPM 64MB 500GB 1TB
WD Caviar Black 2TB NA 3Gbps 7,200 RPM 64MB 500GB 2TB
WD Scorpio Black NA 3Gbps NA 16MB 160GB 320GB
WD Scorpio Blue NA 3Gbps 5,400 RPM 8MB 375GB 750GB
WD SiliconEdge Blue JMicron JMF612 3Gbps NA 64MB NA 256GB
WD VelociRaptor VR150M NA 3Gbps 10,000 RPM 16MB 150GB 300GB
WD VelociRaptor VR200M NA 3Gbps 10,000 RPM 32MB 200GB 600GB

On the SSD front, we’ve collected all the other relevant players, including drives based on Indilinx, Intel, JMicron, Marvell, SandForce, and Toshiba controllers. Although it might not seem like a fair fight, we’ve also thrown in results for a striped RAID 0 array built using a pair of Intel’s X25-V SSDs. The X25-V only runs a little more than $100 online, making multi-drive RAID arrays affordable enough to be tempting for desktop users. Our X25-V array was configured using Intel’s P55 storage controller, the default 128KB stripe size, and the company’s latest 9.6.0.1014 Rapid Storage Technology drivers.

The block-rewrite penalty inherent to SSDs and the TRIM command designed to offset it both complicate our testing somewhat, so I should explain our SSD testing methods in greater detail. Before testing the drives, each was returned to a factory-fresh state with a secure erase, which empties all the flash pages on a drive. Next, we fired up HD Tune and ran full-disk read and write speed tests. The TRIM command requires that drives have a file system in place, but since HD Tune requires an unpartitioned drive, TRIM won’t be a factor in those tests.

After HD Tune, we partitioned the drives and kicked off our usual IOMeter scripts, which are now aligned to 4KB sectors. When running on a partitioned drive, IOMeter first fills it with a single file, firmly putting SSDs into a used state in which all of their flash pages have been occupied. We deleted that file before moving onto our file copy tests, after which we restored an image to each drive for some application testing. Incidentally, creating and deleting IOMeter’s full-disk file and the associated partition didn’t affect HD Tune transfer rates or access times.

Our methods should ensure that each SSD is tested on an even, used-state playing field. However, differences in how eagerly an SSD elects to erase trimmed flash pages could affect performance in our tests and in the real world. Testing drives in a used state may put the TRIM-less Plextor SSD at a disadvantage, but I’m not inclined to indulge the drive just because it’s using a dated controller chip.

With few exceptions, all tests were run at least three times, and we reported the median of the scores produced. We used the following system configuration for testing:

Processor Intel Core i5-750 2.66GHz
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD7
Bios revision F4
Chipset Intel P55 Express
Chipset drivers Chipset 9.1.1.1015
Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type OCZ Platinum DDR3-1333 at 1333MHz
Memory timings 7-7-7-20-1T
Audio Realtek ALC889A with 2.42 drivers
Graphics Gigabyte Radeon HD 4850 1GB with Catalyst 10.2 drivers
Hard drives Western Digital VelociRaptor VR200M 600GB
Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB
Western Digital VelociRaptor VR150M 300GB
Corsair Nova V128 128GB with 1.0 firmware
Intel X25-M G2 160GB with 02HD firmware
Intel X25-V 40GB with 02HD firmware
Kingston SSDNow V+ 128GB with AGYA0201 firmware
Plextor PX-128M1S 128GB with 1.0 firmware
Western Digital SiliconEdge Blue 256GB with 5.12 firmware
OCZ Agility 2 100GB with 1.0 firmware
OCZ Vertex 2 100GB with 1.0 firmware
Corsair Force F100 100GB with 0.2 firmware
Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB with 0002 firmware
Western Digital Scorpio Black 320GB
Western Digital Scorpio Blue 750GB
Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB
Seagate Momentus XT 500GB
Corsair Force F120 120GB with 30CA13F0 firmware
Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C 1TB
WD Caviar Black 1TB
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB
Power supply OCZ Z-Series 550W
OS Windows 7 Ultimate x64

You can read more about the hardware that makes up our twin storage test systems on this page of our VelociRaptor VR200M review. Thanks to Gigabyte for providing the twins’ motherboards and graphics cards, OCZ for the memory and PSUs, Western Digital for the system drives, and Thermaltake for SpinQ heatsinks that keep the Core i5s cool.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at a 75Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

HD Tune

We’ll kick things off with HD Tune, our synthetic benchmark of choice. Although not necessarily representative of real-world workloads, HD Tune’s targeted tests give us a glimpse of a drive’s raw capabilities. From there, we can explore whether the drives live up to their potential.

The second line graph is the same as the first, but the SSDs have been removed for a better look at the mechanical terabyte drives. Among them, Samsung’s Spinpoint F3 manages the highest read speeds across its entire capacity. The drive’s transfer rate oscillates quite a bit more than that of the others, but even in the deepest valleys, the Spinpoint is still a step ahead of its closest competition, the Deskstar 7K1000.C.

Slightly trailing the Samsung and Hitachi drives are entries from Seagate and WD. Looking at average read rates, the Barracuda and Caviar are 11 and 14MB/s slower than the Spinpoint, respectively. That’s a particularly poor start for the Caviar, whose high areal density should give it an advantage with sequential transfers.

Switching gears from reading to writing doesn’t change the picture much for our mechanical terabyte drives. The Spinpoint still leads the Deskstar, albeit by a slightly smaller margin, while the Caviar and ‘cuda remain in third and fourth place, respectively.

As we saw with reads, the Deskstar is the only drive to maintain a smooth transfer rate curve over the extent of its capacity. The Spinpoint’s write speed bounces around seemingly at random, although thankfully without much amplitude. Meanwhile, the Caviar and Barracuda see their write speeds drop in small steps at several points across their respective capacities.

Next up: some burst-rate tests that should test the cache speed of each drive. We’ve omitted the X25-V RAID array from the following results because it uses a slice of system memory as a drive cache.

Notch two wins for the Barracuda 7200.12. Seagate tops our collection of terabyte mechanical drives with a 206MB/s burst speed for both reads and writes. The Spinpoint is more than 10MB/s off the pace, followed by the Caviar and Deskstar.

Our HD Tune tests conclude with a look at random access times, which the app separates into 512-byte, 4KB, 64KB, and 1MB transfer sizes. Let’s start with reads.

The Caviar Black is 1-2 milliseconds ahead of its rivals at three of four transfer sizes and ties for the lead in the fourth. Behind it, the Deskstar and Spinpoint are locked in a dead heat for second place. Only with the 1MB transfer size does the F3 pull itself even with the Caviar for a share of the lead.

Things don’t look as rosy for the Barracuda, which matches the Deskstar and Spinpoint at the 64KB transfer size but falls a millisecond behind in the rest.

Caviar tastes sweeter with random writes. The terabyte Black is out in front of the competition at all four transfer sizes. The Deskstar and Spinpoint trade second place back and forth. The Samsung is quicker at the smallest and largest transfer sizes, and the Hitachi comes out on top in the middle two.

Once more, the Barracuda 7200.12 has the slowest access times of our four contenders. The ‘cuda squeaks by the Deskstar with the 1MB transfer size, but it’s at least a millisecond off the pace otherwise.

File Copy Test

Since we’ve tested theoretical transfer rates, it’s only fitting that we follow up with a look at how each drive handles a more typical set of sequential transfers. File Copy Test is a pseudo-real-world benchmark that times how long it takes to create, read, and copy files in various test patterns. We’ve converted those completion times to MB/s to make the results easier to interpret.

Windows 7’s intelligent caching schemes make obtaining consistent and repeatable performance results rather difficult with FC-Test. To get reliable results, we had to drop back to an older 0.3 revision of the application and create our own custom test patterns. During our initial testing, we noticed that larger test patterns tended to generate more consistent file creation, read, and copy times. That makes sense, because with 4GB of system memory, our test rig has plenty of free RAM available to be filled by Windows 7’s caching and pre-fetching mojo.

For our tests, we created custom MP3, video, and program files test patterns weighing in at roughly 10GB each. The MP3 test pattern was created from a chunk of my own archive of ultra-high-quality MP3s, while the video test pattern was built from a mix of video files ranging from 360MB to 1.4GB in size. The program files test pattern was derived from, you guessed it, the contents of our test system’s Program Files directory.

Even with these changes, we noticed obviously erroneous results pop up every so often. Additional test runs were performed to replace those scores.

The Spinpoint’s pack-leading sequential transfer rates in HD Tune were no fluke. In FC-Test, the F3 hits much higher file creation speeds than its rivals with all three file sets. The Spinpoint’s advantage ranges from 18 to 32MB/s depending on the file set, with the Barracuda slotting into second place across the board. Hot on its heels is the Caviar Black, which has a substantial lead over the 7K1000.C.

Impressively, the Spinpoint F3 is actually the fastest mechanical hard drive of the bunch. Not even WD’s flagship Caviar Black 2TB or the latest VelociRaptor can match the Samsung’s file creation speeds.

When tasked with reading the same files it created, the Spinpoint continues to churn through file sets quicker than the competition. The gaps to second and third place are much smaller this time around, as the Caviar and Deskstar trade blows in a battle for second best.

In a bit of a surprise, the Barracuda stumbles mightily—and consistently—with the MP3 and program file sets. We’ve seen the ‘cuda fare much better with these file sets when running Intel’s storage controller drivers, but we’re using the Microsoft AHCI drivers built into Windows 7 this time around. For what it’s worth, the 7200.12 isn’t the first storage device to trip up in FC-Test with the Microsoft drivers.

Copy tests are particularly challenging because they ask drives to switch back and forth between reads and writes. The Spinpoint was the fastest in the individual read and write tests, so its place at front of the pack in the copy tests should surprise no one.

We actually have a three-way tie for second place in the MP3 file set, and the Deskstar and ‘cuda hold onto that tie for the rest of the copy tests. That duo proves a little too quick for the Caviar, which falls into last place with the program files and video file sets.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Spinpoint happens to be the fastest mechanical drive overall in FC-Test’s copy, er, tests. The VelociRaptor VR200M does have faster read speeds, but it has only a fraction of the F3’s capacity at several times the cost.

File copy speed

Although FC-Test does a good job of highlighting how quickly drives read, write, and copy different types of files, the app is antiquated enough to completely ignore the command queuing logic built into modern hard drives and SSDs. FC-Test only uses a queue depth of one, while Native Command Queuing can stack up to 32 I/O requests when asked. To get a better sense of how these drives react when moving files around in Windows 7, we performed a set of hand-timed copy tests with 7GB worth of documents, digital pictures, MP3s, movies, and program files. These files were copied from the drive to itself to eliminate any other bottlenecks.

We run this test on SSDs in a factory fresh and simulated used state since there are often performance differences between those two conditions. To put our SSDs into a simulated used state, I run our IOMeter workstation access pattern with 256 concurrent I/O requests for 30 minutes before launching into a second batch of copy tests.

IOMeter creates a massive test file that spans the entirety of a drive’s capacity, and deleting it to make room for a batch of copy tests nicely puts solid-state disks into a tortured used state. What we’ve essentially done here is filled all of an SSD’s flash pages, subjected the drive to a punishing workload with a highly-randomized access pattern, and then marked all of the flash pages as available to be reclaimed by garbage-collection or wear-leveling routines.

Mechanical hard drives aren’t subject to the block-rewrite penalty that causes SSD performance degradation as flash pages become occupied, so there’s no difference between their fresh- and used-state performance. We’ve double-checked to be sure. To avoid confusing the issue, we’ve omitted the fresh-state copy speeds of the SSDs in the graph below.

Another test that leans heavily on sequential throughput, another win for the Spinpoint F3. The Samsung drive transfers our eclectic file set 11MB/s faster than its nearest rival, the 7K1000.C. The Caviar Black and Barracuda 7200.12 aren’t far behind the Deskstar, but they’re well short of the Spinpoint.

Perhaps more impressive than the Spinpoint’s continued domination is the fact that it’s faster than both VelociRaptors and the Caviar Black 2TB. Not bad for $70.

Application performance

We’ve long used WorldBench to test performance across a broad range of common desktop applications. The problem is that few of those tests are bound by storage subsystem performance—a faster hard drive isn’t going to improve your web browsing or 3ds Max rendering speeds. A few of WorldBench’s component tests have shown favor to faster hard drives in the past, though, so we’ve included them here.

Among our application tests, only WorldBench’s Photoshop and Nero components show much separation between the terabyte drives, let alone the rest of our results. In Photoshop, the Spinpoint reigns supreme again, just ahead of the Caviar. The Deskstar and Barracuda are a little slower, but both bounce back in Nero. The 7K1000.C actually leads the quartet in that test, while the other three finish within four seconds of each other.

Boot and load times

Our trusty stopwatch makes a return for some hand-timed boot and load tests. When looking at the boot time results, keep in mind that our system must initialize multiple storage controllers, each of which looks for connected devices, before Windows starts to load. You’ll want to focus on the differences between boot times rather than the absolute values.

This boot test starts the moment the power button is hit and stops when the mouse cursor turns into a pointer on the Windows 7 desktop. For what it’s worth, I experimented with some boot tests that included launching multiple applications from the startup folder, but those apps wouldn’t load reliably in the same order, making precise timing difficult. We’ll take a look at this scenario from a slightly different angle in a moment.

The Caviar Black finds some redemption when booting Windows 7, which it does a full two seconds faster than the Spinpoint and ‘cuda. Another half second passes before the Deskstar finishes the boot process.

A faster hard drive is not going to improve frame rates in your favorite game (not if you’re running a reasonable amount of memory, anyway), but can it get you into the game quicker?

In our level load tests, the big dogs split the lead. The ‘cuda is a smidgen quicker than the Caviar in Modern Warfare 2 but a fraction of a second behind in Crysis Warhead. Bronze goes to the Spinpoint in both games.

I’m a little surprised to see the Deskstar with such an atrocious Crysis load time, but the 7K1000.C was consistently sluggish through multiple test runs. The drive is a full eighteen seconds slower than the Spinpoint and nearly nine seconds behind a 5,400-RPM notebook hard drive.

Disk-intensive multitasking

TR DriveBench allows us to record the individual IO requests associated with a Windows session and then play those results back on different drives. We’ve used this app to create a new set of multitasking workloads that should be representative of the sort of disk-intensive scenarios folks face on a regular basis.

Each workload is made up of two components: a disk-intensive background task and a series of foreground tasks. The background task is different for each workload, but we performed the same foreground tasks each time.

In the foreground, we started by loading up multiple pages in Firefox. Next, we opened, saved, and closed small and large documents in Word, spreadsheets in Excel, PDFs in Acrobat, and images in Photoshop. We then fired up Modern Warfare 2 and loaded two special-ops missions, playing each one for three minutes. TweetDeck, the Pidgin instant-messaging app, and AVG Anti-Virus were running throughout.

For background tasks, we used our Firefox compiling test; a file copy made up of a mix of movies, MP3s, and program files; a BitTorrent download pulling seven Linux ISOs from 800 connections at a combined 1.2MB/s; a video transcode converting a high-def 720p over-the-air recording from my home-theater PC to WMV format; and a full-disk AVG virus scan.

DriveBench produces a trace file for each workload that includes all IOs that made up the session. We can then measure performance by using DriveBench to play back each trace file. During playback, any idle time recorded in the original session is ignored—IOs are fed to the disk as fast as it can process them. This approach doesn’t give us a perfect indicator of real-world behavior, but it does illustrate how each drive might perform if it were attached to an infinitely fast system. We know the number of IOs in each workload, and armed with a completion time for each trace playback, we can score drives in IOs per second.

Below, you’ll find an overall average followed by scores for each of our individual workloads. The overall score is an average of the mean performance score in each multitasking workload.

DriveBench doesn’t produce reliable results with Microsoft’s AHCI driver, forcing us to obtain the following performance results with Intel’s 9.6.0.1014 RST drivers. We couldn’t get DriveBench to play nicely with our the X25-V RAID config, either, which is why it’s not listed in the graphs below. The app will only run on unpartitioned drives, so we tested drives after they’d completed the rest of the suite.

Samsung scores well in our disk-intensive multitasking benchmark, leading the Barracuda by roughly the same margin that the ‘cuda enjoys over the Caviar Black. The Deskstar finds itself bringing up the rear again, although mercifully only by a slim margin.

Let’s break down the overall average into individual test results to see if anything stands out.

The Spinpoint predictably looks pretty good overall, but it falls to the bottom of the heap with our transcoding workload. WD captures the top spot among terabyte mechanicals with that workload, and the Caviar spends most of its time chasing the Spinpoint and Barracuda with the others. However, it doesn’t deal with the virus scanning workload as gracefully as the other drives.

There are no surprises with the Deskstar, at least. It’s the slowest terabyte with almost every workload and never claws higher than third place.

Curious to see whether removing the multitasking element of these tests would have any bearing on the standings, I recorded a control trace without a background task.

Now that’s interesting. With our secondary workload taken out of the equation, the Caviar Black vaults into the lead just a sliver ahead of the Barracuda 7200.12. At a greater distance, the Spinpoint and Deskstar fill out the final two slots among our terabyte contenders.

DriveBench lets us start recording Windows sessions from the moment the storage driver loads during the boot process. We can use this capability to take another look at boot times, again assuming our infinitely fast system. For this boot test, I configured Windows to launch TweetDeck, Pidgin, AVG, Word, Excel, Acrobat, and Photoshop on startup.

Our two-platter foursome is tightly bunched in the Windows 7 startup workload. The Caviar edges out the ‘cuda again, and the Spinpoint and Deskstar aren’t far behind.

IOMeter

Our IOMeter workloads are made up of randomized access patterns, presenting a good test case for both seek times and command queuing. The app’s ability to bombard drives with an escalating number of concurrent IO requests also does a nice job of simulating the sort of demanding multi-user environments that are common in enterprise applications.

SSDs are orders of magnitude faster than mechanical hard drives in this test, and that makes graphing the results rather challenging. In this first set of graphs, I’ve omitted the SSDs so we can actually see what’s going on with the other drives. Keep scrolling for an epic solid-state beatdown.

Through all four access patterns, the Caviar Black 1TB maintains a notably higher transaction rate than any of its terabyte foes. This is expected behavior given Western Digital’s long history of repurposing Caviar desktop drives for enterprise duty as RE models—or is it the other way around? Either way, the Caviar is clearly better equipped than the other terabyte models to handle demanding multi-user loads.

The Deskstar and Barracuda are closely matched, and I’m not sure there’s a definitive winner between them. Samsung’s in the mix, too, but only in web server access pattern. With the other three, the Spinpoint’s performance levels off and actually begins to drop as we progress beyond 32 concurrent I/O requests. The web server access pattern is made up exclusively of read operations, while the others have a mix of reads and writes, suggesting that the F3’s problem lies with the latter.

For those looking to justify an SSD purchase, behold:

Um, yeah. Let’s move on.

Power consumption

For our power consumption tests, we measured the voltage drop across a 0.1-ohm resistor placed in line with the 5V and 12V lines connected to each drive. We were able to calculate the power draw from each voltage rail and add them together for the total power draw of the drive. Drives were tested while idling and under an IOMeter load consisting of 256 outstanding I/O requests using the workstation access pattern.

The Deskstar consumes less power than the other desktop terabytes at idle, yet it’s the thirstiest when hammered by our IOMeter load. Only fractions of a watt separate the Spinpoint and ‘cuda as they swap places between their idle and load states. The Caviar’s power consumption is consistently on the high side, though.

Noise levels

Noise levels were measured with a TES-52 Digital Sound Level meter 1″ from the side of the drives at idle and under an HD Tune seek load. Drives were run with the PCB facing up.

Our noise level and power consumption tests were conducted with the drives connected to the motherboard’s P55 storage controller.

I’ve consolidated the solid-state drives here because they’re all completely silent. The SSD noise level depicted below is a reflection of the noise generated by the rest of the test system, which has a passively-cooled graphics card, a very quiet PSU, and a nearly silent CPU cooler.

That’s right. Not only is the Spinpoint largely the fastest drive of the terabyte bunch, it’s also the quietest at idle and under load. Not by insignificant margins, either. The F3 is a full decibel and a half quieter than the Caviar at idle and three decibels quieter than its closet competitor while seeking.

From a few feet away, it’s very difficult to detect a difference in idle noise levels between these four 1TB drives. The Deskstar and Caviar are noticeably louder when chewing through seek loads, though. Fortunately, there’s a way to quiet the drives down.

Most mechanical hard drives have an Automatic Acoustic Management (AAM) value that can be set between 128 and 254. Manipulating this setting tends not to affect idle noise levels, but it can dramatically impact seek noise and access times. To get an idea of the sort of performance and acoustic range available with our collection of mechanical drives, we’ve tested the seek noise level and random access time of each at the extremes of the AAM scale. By default, all of the terabyte drives had AAM disabled or set to 254, which is the most aggressive seek setting.

The seek noise levels of the Caviar and Deskstar can be reduced dramatically by fiddling with their AAM settings. Most impressive is the Western Digital drive, which goes from loudest to quietest among our selection of 7,200-RPM terabytes. Sliding the AAM slider down to 128 cuts more than three decibels off the 7K1000.C’s seek chatter. Interestingly, though, there’s little change in seek noise when the AAM settings are tweaked on the Spinpoint and ‘cuda.

So what’s the silence cost on the performance front? Quite a lot if you’re a Caviar Black or Deskstar 7K1000.C. Even the Spinpoint loses a few milliseconds, despite enjoying only a minimal drop in noise levels. The Barracuda’s seek times are just as impervious to AAM meddling as its noise levels.

The value perspective

After spending pages rifling through a stack of performance graphs, it’s time to broaden our horizons a little and take each drive’s price into consideration. First, we’ll look at capacity per dollar.

To establish an even playing field for all the contenders, we’re using Newegg pricing for all the drives. Mail-in rebates weren’t included in our calculations. Rather than relying on manufacturer-claimed capacities, we gauged each drive’s capacity by creating an actual Windows 7 partition and recording the total number of bytes reported by the OS. Having little interest in the GB/GiB debate, I simply took that byte total, divided by a Giga (109), and then by the price. The result is capacity per dollar that, at least literally, is reflected in gigabytes.

No surprises here. With equal capacities, it all comes down to price with our terabyte mechanicals. The Deskstar and Spinpoint are $5 cheaper than the Barracuda, putting them comfortably in the lead. The terabyte Caviar Black’s relatively high price does it no favors here.

Overall performance per dollar is up next, but before we get there, we need to come up with an overall performance score for each drive. Using a single number to represent a drive’s performance across a range of different benchmark tests can be tricky business. After reading through numerous papers on the subject, we’ve settled on calculating a harmonic mean of all the results you’ve seen today. A harmonic mean can be useful for quantifying overall performance for a benchmark suite when individual test results can be compared to a reference baseline, and it’s not prone to being skewed by the fact that we have performance differences of several orders of magnitude in some cases. We just happen to have a full suite of results normalized to a performance baseline provided by an ancient 2.5″, 4,200-RPM IBM Travelstar mobile drive, and as you’ll see in a moment, the harmonic mean generates an overall score that nicely tracks with expectations based on the performance we’ve observed thus far.

I should note that we considered using an arithmetic average to calculate our overall score. However, this simple mean is easily skewed by the enormous performance gaps in IOMeter and HD Tune’s random access time tests, which are several orders of magnitude larger than the performance deltas in the other tests. The resulting overall score doesn’t track with expectations based on the performance we’ve already quantified. Weighting the average to account for those orders-of-magnitude differences would have been arbitrary at best, so we’ve settled on a harmonic mean, which seems to provide useful results.

Our overall score includes individual results for DriveBench and IOMeter rather than the averages we presented in the first set of value graphs. There are five DriveBench multitasking loads and four IOMeter access patterns, giving us a total of 19 test results from which to calculate the harmonic mean. This collection of tests is a little biased towards random access patterns rather than sequential transfers, but we think it strikes a good balance for drives that will store a system’s OS and applications. The power-efficiency and noise-level results have been left out to keep this a strictly performance-per-dollar affair.

Because they had to sit out at least one of the tests that make up our overall average, the PX-128M1S and X25-V RAID array haven’t been included in the graphs below. We wouldn’t recommend the former, anyway, and with two drives at its disposal, the RAID config would’ve had an unfair advantage—you know, like it’s had all day already.

Our collection of terabyte offerings clusters near the bottom of the pile in terms of overall performance. The Caviar Black actually takes the lead ahead of the Spinpoint here, no doubt aided by its strong performance in IOMeter, which is a large component of this overall measure. Behind the Spinpoint, the Barracuda and Deskstar are effectively tied.

SSDs obviously have a huge advantage when we consider overall performance. However, capacity is an equally important component of any storage device. We’ve divided each drive’s overall performance score by its cost per gigabyte to get a look at overall performance per dollar per gigabyte. Try saying that five times fast.

Samsung returns to the front of the field in our bar graph, but the real action is in the scatter plot, which nicely illustrates the intersection of performance and cost per gigabyte for each drive. The mechanical drives are clustered in the lower left corner of the plot, and they’re pretty close with the exception of the VelociRaptors. If you squint, you can see that the Spinpoint offers a small step up in performance over the Deskstar at the same cost. The Caviar’s performance score is higher, but a loftier price moves that particular data point a little to the right on the plot.

Another way to look at this data is to divide each drive’s performance by the cost of a complete system built around it. The aim here is to determine whether spending a little (or a lot) more makes sense when the price premium is absorbed as part of the cost of a complete system. The step up from a $70 drive to a $95 one is hardly daunting to start, and once you factor in the cost of a complete build, the price difference practically disappears.

For our system price calculations, we’ve used our test rig as the inspiration for a base config, to which the price of each drive will be added. Our example system includes a Core i5-750, a P55-based ASUS P755D-E motherboard, 4GB of DDR3-1333 memory, a passively-cooled Radeon HD 4850, Antec’s Sonata III enclosure, and Windows 7. Its base price is $844.94, although you’ll probably want to tack on the cost of secondary mass storage for configurations that will use an SSD.

Clearly, the large amounts of additional performance available with an SSD start to make some sense in the context of a larger system budget.

Between terabyte mechanical drives, the Caviar Black offers slightly better overall performance than its rivals at a marginally higher price (at least within the context of a complete build). The Spinpoint leads the others, albeit barely.

Conclusions

If you haven’t skipped ahead to the conclusion, you know where this is going already. Let’s humor everyone who glossed over our painstakingly prepared test results in the hopes of getting a quick summary of each drive’s performance.

Among two-platter terabytes, Hitachi’s Deskstar 7K1000.C is easily the least appealing. Despite a few bright spots, the drive’s performance is only average overall. Worse, the Deskstar is one of the loudest drives of the bunch, both at idle and under load. You can dial back those noise levels a little, but doing so will slow seek times. At least the 7K1000.C’s $70 asking price is reasonable. For the same money, though, you can do much better.

The Barracuda 7200.12 costs $5 more than the Deskstar, and although it’s a little bit faster overall, I wouldn’t pay the premium. Seagate’s two-platter terabyte offering is getting long in the tooth, and beyond having a very fast DRAM cache, the ‘cuda really doesn’t really distance itself from the competition. Being a few decibels louder than our quietest alternative certainly doesn’t help the Seagate’s case, either.

Of course, the ‘cuda’s seek staccato is nowhere near as loud as that of the Caviar Black. In return for tolerating its higher noise levels, the Caviar returns quicker seek times and much higher IOMeter transaction rates than its competition. The Caviar isn’t our top performer in sequential transfers and multitasking workloads, however, making it less appealing than our pick of the litter for desktop deployments.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment with the Caviar is the fact that all its next-gen goodness—the larger cache, faster SATA interface, and high areal density—fails to deliver superior performance that would justify the $25 premium associated with the drive. The extra warranty coverage is a nice bonus, but it’s not worth that much.

Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB

July 2010

We’re left with Samsung’s Spinpoint F3, which is our clear favorite of the four. Not only does the F3 offer the best performance in all manner of sequential transfers, it’s easily the quietest of the drives overall. I’m not thrilled by the fact that the F3’s transaction rates drop off after 32 concurrent I/O requests, but that’s not a condition many desktop users are likely to face. Besides, the Spinpoint certainly held its own in our disk-intensive multitasking tests, which are far more indicative of the sort of workloads produced by enthusiast desktops. Samsung doesn’t give up much ground to the Caviar when it comes to random access times, either.

The kicker, though, is the fact that the Spinpoint is the cheapest of the lot at only $70. Anyone looking at two-platter, 7,200-RPM terabyte drives probably has value on his mind, and it doesn’t get better than the Spinpoint F3 in this segment of the market.

Comments closed
    • realneil
    • 9 years ago

    I have a question.
    I found out the hard way that Western Digital has somehow crippled our ability to raid some of these 7200 RPM drives together, (unbelievable to me) unless you pay much more for an expensive enterprise rated drive with the same capacity. (I bought four 2TB drives that wouldn’t work together)
    I finally used Seagate drives without problems in the same computer.
    Do these SpinPoint F3 drives work well in RAID setups?

    • larsp
    • 9 years ago

    I have had several Samsung harddisks including two F1’s and they all have had reliability issues. Right now I have a Samsung with 11 bad sectors several months old that haven’t been relocated (according to HD Sentinel).

    When a Samsung dies or get bad you have to send it to Samsung and wait for a replacement in the meantime you can wonder where you can store the data you could recover from the disk.

    With WD you file a RMA, get a new disk, moves your data to the new disk and then returns the bad.

    Stay away from Samsung…

      • moritzgedig
      • 9 years ago

      The only trouble I ever had with HD’s was with one Samsung 2.5″ disk.
      I’m not contend with the working replacement I eventually got, it is so slow.
      I had many troubles with ASUS products.

    • Mourmain
    • 9 years ago

    May I suggest adding radial lines to the background of the scatter plots?

    Radial lines starting from the origin represent lines of equal value (performance-per-dollar) in those plots, and it would help judge the results to have them in the background, instead of (or with) the normal xy grid.

      • DrDillyBar
      • 9 years ago

      +1

    • jackaroon
    • 9 years ago

    Has anyone got the Samsung to work with the ASUS P5N-E (which was in the techreport system guide a few years back)? I’ve had two different units I’ve tried to use, and it seems to pass tests and load as a secondary drive, but it seems to only be able to load the boot sector maybe 1 out of 10 times . . . very weird. Samsung is not very good with their support. They just give me three different ways of getting blown off.

    • Mixer
    • 9 years ago

    Great test/comparison!
    Just wanted to say I think you did a good job with the article Geoff.

    • moritzgedig
    • 9 years ago

    Too bad mechanical HDs don’t get faster access times.
    I think it is time to compromise volume for access time.
    A reduction from 12ms to 10ms should be possible without changing the spindle speed. Of cause it is going to be noisy.
    I’ll keep waiting for that 500GB 10ms 7200rpm one platter drive.

      • UberGerbil
      • 9 years ago

      At 7200 rpm, rotational latency is about 4ms. So if you’re trying to reduce access times from 12ms to 10ms while holding the spindle speed constant, you’re effectively trying to reduce the head seek latency from 8ms to 6ms — in other words, increasing the average speed of the head by about 25%. That’s no small thing, particularly if you’re not going to relax areal density.

        • moritzgedig
        • 9 years ago

        /[

          • shank15217
          • 9 years ago

          Why don’t you just short stroke to about 30% of a 2TB drive.

            • moritzgedig
            • 9 years ago

            because that doesn’t really work.
            assuming that the -30% would half the arm movement that would yield a worst-case-time reduction of -30%
            often the arm will travel very little, thus the settling time and rotational latency are the dominant contributers.
            only a reduction in the radial-density will have good yield.
            The question is: Has the settling-time a big enough part in the sum to have an impact bottom line?

    • shank15217
    • 9 years ago

    Damage, Geoff, if you want to get serious about I/O capture and replay try Sun Workload Analysis Tool and VDbench, both are freely available. We use these tools to benchmark a variety of server loads on new arrays.

    • marstg
    • 9 years ago

    Hello George
    You should redo the tests, this time installing the HDDs into a RAID 0 matrix, test it again and post the results the matrix raid with HDD gets against the SSD, because otherwise is just comparing melons with apples speed wise. We would like to know if raiding 0 a couple of last generation HDD will beat an SSD pricewise and performance wise. That is the comparison we are waiting for.

      • Chrispy_
      • 9 years ago

      Most people with an SSD probably had money to burn on semi-decent raid arrays before SSD’s arrived.

      At least I did….

      In brief, a 4-disk RAID0 consisting of 1TB Spinpoint F1’s and an intel ICH8R controller was utterly destroyed in day-to-day use by a single indilinx 128GB SSD. Even though the mechanical array had almost double the sequential transfer rate, the SDD just felt much faster. Hard to quantify, but I have gone from impatiently waiting for my HDD LED to stop flickering to forgetting that my workstation even has an HDD LED. I have a second identical SSD coming on Monday and I’m expecting happy times ahead with Indilinx in RAID0.

      I now run the F1’s as a 2TB RAID1 mirror, but my assessment of the switch from mechanical RAID to SSD was that no amount of sequential throughput can compensate for the delays caused by mechanical seek times. Bar graphs just cannot expess the night-and-day difference when you put your OS and applications on a decent SSD.

      • UberGerbil
      • 9 years ago

      g[

        • marstg
        • 9 years ago

        i do bluray ripping and processing, i guess that is an awful lot of seeking and transferring not to mention output temp files that exceed 20GB.

          • UberGerbil
          • 9 years ago

          So, like I said, video work is one of the few places that can actually benefit from the improved STR of RAID. But RAID won’t help seeks at all, and seeks can dominate total throughput for HDs. In your shoes, I think I’d experiment with using an SSD volume for the temp files, and stick to HDs for the source and destination (RAIDed only if you are gated by transfer rate rather than something else, like CPU throughput)

    • internetsandman
    • 9 years ago

    This really makes buying the Caviar hard for me. I love WD and it really sucks to see their latest gen drive pull up short in so many benchmarks =( I’m still not sure if I’d go for Samsung though. It’s only a $25 difference, and the measure of reliability that WD has provided 99 out of 100 times makes that extra investment worth it in my eyes, personally I don’t have any experience with Samsung, because WD is just so darn reliable

    • The Wanderer
    • 9 years ago

    The “Overall performance per dollar (System)” and “Overall performance per $/GB” graphs are in the wrong places; they’re reversed from where they should be.

    Other than that, agreed, a nice review; it’s been a while since the last similar one, AFAIR.

    • Anvil
    • 9 years ago

    Hell yeah a Samsung F3 review!

    I recently got one of the same model earlier this month. It’s been great, past a spot where the black paint on the side of the thing came off when I was trying to roughhouse it into my POS Antec 900, so it’s good to see my instincts were good when I bought it for 65 bucks. :p

    • Prototyped
    • 9 years ago

    So . . . you crunched the numbers and found that the WD Caviar Black came out on top in terms of performance per unit price at a system level. And yet you’re recommending something else. I realize that noise was a factor, but then you mention the price and specific tests (when your scatterplot was based on a harmonic mean of performance tests, meant to be a more objective overview).

    Something is fishy with this conclusion!

    (FWIW I was hoping HGST would have gotten the 7k1000.C to perform decently, since they tend to price their drives well and the 7k2000 is at least cheap storage, if not the fastest drive ever. I guess Hitachi’s drives will continue to be cheap, capacious, but not particularly fast storage. The 7k2000 at least seems to be better optimized for multithreaded workloads than for desktop workloads.)

      • Damage
      • 9 years ago

      I thought Geoff did a fine job of explaining his reasons for picking the F3, which was best in our value sweeps on a drive level, had better acoustics, was generally a better performer than the WD outside of the enterprise-oriented IOMeter tests, and costs quite a bit less.

      The testing is objective, yes, but our picks are not done according to any particular mathematical formula. We provide the value metascores so you can use that data if you wish, but we factor in things one can’t plug into a spreadsheet when making our final picks.

      You apparently didn’t read Geoff’s analysis, or you just didn’t bother to attempt a refutation of his reasoning in any serious way. You just decided to throw out an accusation since you didn’t agree with his choice. If you’d like to engage in a real discussion of the subject matter, by all means, enlighten us. But please, don’t just throw out silly accusations. They cost you nothing, but they hurt us tremendously and prevent us from standing out as what we strive every day to be: a quality, unbiased resource with our readers’ best interests at heart.

    • MarkD
    • 9 years ago

    Nice review, but the extra warranty of the WD drives, coupled with the comments about Samsung’s inability to process a RMA swayed me. No regrets here for spending the extra money.

    I’ve got two of the 1TB Blacks, and had no issues with Newegg shipping – in fact, the last one was packaged very well. The first one wasn’t the way I’d pack anything, but worked fine. I don’t really notice any noise, but they are in an Antec Solo case.

    • demani
    • 9 years ago

    /[<"If you haven't skipped ahead to the conclusion, you know where this is going already."<]/ It's like he's talking /[

      • countcristo
      • 9 years ago

      haha I did skip ahead, but I also skimmed and stared at beautiful graphs, actually some what surprised by the more cache/6Gbps interface failing to achieve faster performance. Maybe the tech is too new, but I did receive 2 DOA hard drives from newegg just a few weeks ago. What a bad experience.

    • Rectal Prolapse
    • 9 years ago

    Samsung support has been a big issue for some people I know. Half the time, you’ll get the “We don’t make hard drives” response and then they hang up on you.

    I think TR should also include level of support in their reviews.

    • Farting Bob
    • 9 years ago

    The WD blacks have always seemed a bit to expensive compared to near-identical blue versions. WD has a 1TB blue, not sure if its still 3 platters or has moved onto 2. I do love me some WD but its so frustrating that when they introduce new versions they keep the same model number (but change the sub-model number which no website ive found shows you). Taking the gamble on getting a 2 platter or 3 platter isnt worth it, which is why the last 2 drives i purchased were F3’s.
    Hitachi and seagate wont be getting my business anytime soon. Neither have had a clear “best in show” drive for years.

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    The F3 I have at home on a i7-980X processor for boot feels like molasses compared the the Intel 180G G2 SSD I have at work on 3.5 year old core2 E8400 system. I haven’t been able to get the i7 system to sleep without BSOD, so it hibernates, and that adds to the frustration. (From what I read it’s a common issue with Intel RST’s.)

    Just waiting for next gen SSD’s to come out to get a ~400Gig SSD, then my problems will mostly go awayg{<.<}g

      • tay
      • 9 years ago

      I find the lack of reliable sleeping with PCs infuriating. Forget about sleep mode when OC’d its even worse….

    • HastyDeparture
    • 9 years ago

    A minor nitpick with the review: the File Copy Speed graph on page 6 has a mislabeled X-axis. It should be MB/s instead of seconds.

    • wira020
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve been using samsung spinpoint f1 for a few month now.. barely notice it running… i’ve never used ssd before so i dont know what differences can it make… i just know i’m happy with it now..

    • Duck
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve always said samsung are the best. F2 500GB is what I have. Quietest drive ever? Check. 100MB/s reads? Check.

    • crabjokeman
    • 9 years ago

    I wonder if the drives were connected to a case or mechanically decoupled. If the PCB was facing up, I’m guessing the latter. Seeing as how a lot of users will mount their drives the standard way (screwing them into the case), that might change the noise scenario. Modern drives put out a lot of vibration, and attaching them to the case makes them a lot noisier (even with rubber grommets).

    • Flying Fox
    • 9 years ago

    And I ordered the WD Black a couple weeks ago!? Would have been nice to save $25! 😀

    For me though, the difference was $15 on a special. Getting 2 more years of warranty plus my current experience with WD is worth it. At least I think the newer 1TB Black is not as loud as the old 3 platter ones (which I also have).

    • FuturePastNow
    • 9 years ago

    Western Digital now has a “Blue” terabyte drive, which is priced in line with the other drives you tested. I’d be interested in knowing how it performs.

      • potatochobit
      • 9 years ago

      blue series is 5400 speed I believe?

        • Thresher
        • 9 years ago

        Full speed, but lower warranty, lower areal density.

        • Prototyped
        • 9 years ago

        Only the mobile Scorpio Blue is 5400 rpm.

        The Caviar Blue series are often previous-generation 7200 rpm parts — i.e. yesteryear’s Caviar Black is this year’s Caviar Blue.

          • FuturePastNow
          • 9 years ago

          Or rather, they’re distinguished from the Caviar Black drives by having less cache and a shorter 3-year warranty.

    • flip-mode
    • 9 years ago

    I just got to the first page of graphs and I had to stop and drop in here to say: WOAH! Nice graphs!

    I wonder if a black background would help on those graphs. What software is used to make the graphs?

    • Krogoth
    • 9 years ago

    Great review.

    It just shows how HDDs are the best choice for normal desktops. SSDs are still in workstation/server drive land.

    It is not too different from 15K SCSI HDDs versus mainstream 7200RPM HDDs days.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 9 years ago

      Classic Krogoth. Let me guess, you don’t have an SSD so therefore they’re no good for desktop use? Ignoring the IOMeter tests is all well and good but you need to reexamine the tests which are meant to at least simulate real-world use. The SSDs either do ‘OK’ although the lesser models are sometimes slower than the best mechanical drives to blowing away the mechanical drives in things such as desktop-type multitasking or level load time.

        • Krogoth
        • 9 years ago

        The lack of capacity and steep GB/$$$$ premium still kills SSDs from being a practical choice for desktop systems.

        The load times for games and most mainstream applications are mostly CPU-bound. It shows in the benchmark suite.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 9 years ago

          Yes I figured out after posting that you might be referring to the various $/GB measurements. However you’re wrong for level load times which is one thing I specifically mentioned, just look at the results on page 6. All the SSDs are clustered at the top of the charts and while the absolute difference may not seem huge the percentage difference is. I’m pretty sure people will notice a 10s reduction in level load times.

            • Waco
            • 9 years ago

            It’s simply not worth arguing with him.

            • Krogoth
            • 9 years ago

            You mean the impatient types? 😉

            • highlandr
            • 9 years ago

            Maybe he means the people playing Mass Effect 2.

          • Flying Fox
          • 9 years ago

          Only in your opinion of course. Like SCSI and SMP in the old days, they have come down to the point where more people can afford those spendy options to get their Creamy Smooth (TM) experience. Has it reached critical mass yet? I would say it is already at critical mass for the /[

          • Chrispy_
          • 9 years ago

          A $200 SSD is a practical performance upgrade for both gamers non-gamer
          A $200 GPU is a both a practical and commonly accepted performance upgrade for a gamer

          Why is that so hard for you to accept?

      • zagortenay
      • 9 years ago

      Krogoth, I am with you! I just switched from WD Velociraptor 150GB to a Vertex 2 120GB and I can not see a huge difference in real world scenarios. My desktop boots faster and games load a little bit faster and…that’s it. I lost some capacity (windows7 64bit, a few games and applications, I am almost at 100 GB) and most important of all, I paid 350$ for this little thing. Now I can boast I have a killer SSD for my top-end desktop system, but I can not feel much difference at the end of the day. I beleive, SSD is not worth for what it is, for the current capacity/price offerings. This 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 for only 70 bucks is a “tremendous value”. Looking at these benchmarks, it is almost as fast as my Velociraptor in most cases and even faster in sequential read/write. I used the 500GB version of the Samsung drive for the desktop I built for a friend and I know how fast and silent it is. High capacity mechanical drives are more than enough for most desktop users. The value of SSD is not justifiable…yet.

        • Rectal Prolapse
        • 9 years ago

        A single SSD isn’t too noticeable – but once you RAID them they fly like crazy. Notice the Intel X25M-Vs in the TR review? In RAID they are crazy fast.

        My system has two Intel X25M 80 gb SSDs in RAID and it’s amazing – easily beats my former 2x 1TB WD Caviar Black RAID for everyday use (OS drive running windows 7). Instant load apps and using Firefox with 25 tabs is a joy.

      • pedro
      • 9 years ago

      I agree. I wonder, also, if SSD performance is having some effect in pushing down spinning platter prices. I just checked the Samsung F3 here in Australia and it can be had for $55! That’s truly amazing value in my book.

    • Voldenuit
    • 9 years ago

    I have a Spinpoint F1, and while the drive was pretty quiet at the time I bought it (it was highly regarded at SPCR at the time), the drive got louder and louder over time.

    Now, it is unbearably loud on the external dock, until it can be heard /[

      • TheEmrys
      • 9 years ago

      And you do know that the WD greens are designed to quieter and run at 5400rpms vs 7200? You’d probably think better of the drive were it in your case.

        • Voldenuit
        • 9 years ago

        The ‘cudas are also 7200 rpm and still quieter than the spinpoint at the same age.

        My point though is that the F1 was very quiet when I bought it, but the noise signature degraded precipitously in the first and subsequent year(s) of ownership, to the point where I yanked it out the case and retired it to part-time duty on the dock. This doesn’t inspire confidence in the make’s reliability. Whereas the WDs and seagates are still running like tanks (both inside and outside the case).

        I have a WD1 TB Black in my system because I have a great deal more confidence in it than the F3. As a bonus, it multitasks better than the Samsung, and it’s in a decoupled plastic frame + rubber mount cage, and whisper quiet in my case (a Silverstone KL01).

        Bottom line: would you trust your pr0n to a Samsung?

          • insulin_junkie72
          • 9 years ago

          Heh, I bought around the same time, an F1 and the original WD 640 (pre-Blue/Black distinctions); I’ve had the exact opposite happen.

          The WD is the one that got louder over time.

          /shrug

      • UberGerbil
      • 9 years ago

      Actually, you probably will be buying Samsung components in the future, they’ll just be inside something with a different label. And the funny thing is, they’ll probably be fine. There are lots of TVs with Samsung panels sold by other manufacturers that don’t have the issues that Samsung-labelled TVs have in their (different, presumably Samsung-designed) electronics, for example. I don’t know why this is — perhaps Samsung’s own internal QA isn’t as good as the companies they subcontract to, perhaps it’s just inexperience in new markets — but it seems to be true.

      • Prion
      • 9 years ago

      Good luck ever replacing that drive under warranty. Samsung’s RMA company and support are separate entities, and I managed to received no fewer than 5 DOA or dead within 1 week replacements from the former. When I took my concerns to the latter, they told me they didn’t have anything to do with storage and to talk to the RMA company. The RMA company told me they only had the authority to replace drives with refurbs, and that I should talk to Samsung support for a refund. My current status is that I have a dead Spinpoint F1 1TB laying around and nobody who wants to do anything about it.

    • Buzzard44
    • 9 years ago

    As many have said before, excellent review, as always.

    The system price/performance graph, while meant to have a more realistic portrayal of the additional cost of a system and the performance gain by having a faster hard drive – fails. The performance is based solely on the hard drive, while the other parts of the system remain static. If the whole system’s price is to be included in the value chart, then the hard drive’s performance should also be weighted to represent its contribution to the system’s performance. Basically, right now the complete system value chart basically says “See, the expensive SSDs aren’t that bad a value – when the hard disk accounts for 100% of system performance.”

    • kizzmequik_74
    • 9 years ago

    I see some change in the main system recommendations, after WD’s (well-warranted) years-long stranglehold in the hard drive section. Plus, the Spinpoint’s lower price should give some breathing space for a better GPU (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) in the Utility Player.

    That said, I [heart] my Spinpoint F3. It’s just about as quiet as the old 1TB WD Green in my system, and it’s oodles snappier. I’ve only had it for over a month, so it still has plenty of time to die on me.

    • insulin_junkie72
    • 9 years ago

    When ordering HDs from NewEgg, the fact that Samsung bare drives come in plastic eggshells from Samsung, rather than the usual anti-static bag, does give some additional piece of mind.

    Particularly since some of the recent NewEgg HD reviews seem to indicate that Newegg warehouse employees are having another one of their semi-annual “how little packaging can we use to ship a HD” contests 😛

    • DrDillyBar
    • 9 years ago

    Nice Review. After all the time with SSDs it’s nice to get something a little different. Suprise win for Samsung!

    • potatochobit
    • 9 years ago

    One of the biggest issues for deciding on a PC HD is reliability.
    I have heard good things about samsung and a few bad things, but all makes have DOA units now and then. Must just be the nature of the beast.

    still, I plan to stick with WD black just a bit longer till the samsung crowd reassures me of the reliability. because I dont really want to bring up the 2-3 year old TV capacitor thing.

      • shank15217
      • 9 years ago

      Ok, I run 8 of these drives in a raid, they run cool and quiet and are very fast, now go buy 1.

    • LawrenceofArabia
    • 9 years ago

    This is the review i’ve been waiting a long time for. Even builds with a budget large enough to include an SSD, mechanical storage is still pretty much mandatory for sheer capacity. Im glad TR now has this data to back up mechanical storage in the system guides.

    • continuum
    • 9 years ago

    Woohoo, finally more Samsung F3 reviews. It *DOES* look good… now only if they had a real 2TB version… or do they (not the stupid green version)…?

    • bdwilcox
    • 9 years ago

    *[

      • countcristo
      • 9 years ago

      that’s funny, because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen what you talked about before. It’s as good as that article where the one website stole an article and the other website changed all the pics. Good stuff.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 9 years ago

    Finally the Spinpoint F3 reviewed at TR!

    I might be mildly hesitant about the durability of the Samsung drive though. I know Newegg reviews are NEwegg reviews but DOA and dead after a short time drives are hard to misdiagnose (I’d hope.) I remember that Samsung F2 drives had issues with increasing number of bad sectors after a few month’s use, I’m just not sold on Samsung drives for long-term use. *cue someone else’s anecdotal ‘I’ve had a Samsung drive for a bajillion years’ evidence*

      • LiamC
      • 9 years ago

      Over on the StorageForum.net forum (set up by ex regulars of StorageReview), one the grand old masters 🙂 has been a huge fan of Samsung for years. He owns a bricks and mortar store in Aus and will only use other brands if for some reason his *[

    • luipugs
    • 9 years ago

    Nice review. However, I have to bring up the WinZip test again. In your previous review of SSD drives, you dropped the WinZip test because “it’s not bottlenecked by the storage subsystem, at least on the systems we use for testing.” (https://techreport.com/articles.x/19162/7) I thought that was a nice change, since I commented before that it is not a meaningful test anymore since all the scores are the same.

    However, the WInZip test came back here, with obvious results. I’m curious if it is an automatic part of the WorldBench suite that you can’t avoid not running it.

    • kiwik
    • 9 years ago

    Excellent review.

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