Single page Print

Samsung's Spinpoint SP1203N hard drive

Samsung makes hard drives, too

Manufacturer Samsung
Model SP1203N
Price (street) US$200 (estimated MSRP)
Availability Soon

LAST MONTH, we compared five different ATA hard drives across a staggering array of benchmark tests. The comparison covered all the usual suspects—Maxtor, Seagate, and Western Digital—but there are more players in the hard drive game than those three. Samsung also makes hard drives.

Today, we're looking at Samsung's Spinpoint SP1203N, a near-silent ATA/133 hard drive with 2MB of cache. What makes this drive particularly interesting is that Samsung will stand behind it for a full three years, bucking a trend that's seen many hard drive manufacturers reserve three-year warranties for only premium, high-end products. Can Samsung's Spinpoint SP1203N compete with high-end drives with 8MB of cache? The results might surprise you.

The drive
Before we dive into the bevy of benchmarks I've assembled for this test, let's take a quick moment to look at the drive itself. Check it out:

The Spinpoint SP1203N looks like, well, a hard drive. Were you expecting anything different?

Inside, the Spinpoint SP1203N uses 60GB platters spinning at a cozy 7200RPM. The Spinpoint SP1203N is a new drive for Samsung, but 60GB platters are almost considered old news for high-end hard drives. Maxtor's latest DiamondMax Plus 9 and Seagate's upcoming Barracuda 7200.7 both use 80GB platter technology. However, since Western Digital's Caviars have managed impressive performance with 60GB platters, platter size alone shouldn't sink the Spinpoint.

What could hinder our Spinpoint SP1203N's performance, however, is the drive's 2MB cache. Since we're using 8MB-cache drives exclusively for comparison today, the Spinpoint SP1203N's smaller cache puts it at a distinct disadvantage. Fortunately, Samsung will also offer a version of the drive with an 8MB cache.

I've mentioned it once already, but it's worth revisiting the fact that Samsung is offering a three-year warranty with the Spinpoint SP1203N. That three-year warranty applies to all Spinpoint SP1203N drives, not just models with 8MB of cache.

As hard drive capacities grow, allowing users to store more and more precious data, I can't get over the fact that most hard drive manufacturers seem increasingly unwilling to stand behind the quality of their drives. Of course, one-year warranties don't guarantee that drives will fail prematurely, but they don't exactly inspire confidence. Props for Samsung for keeping the Spinpoint SP1203N's warranty period at three years.