Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Samsung SpinPoint F4 Hard Drive


Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Reliable, huge capacity, Advanced Format, generally quiet running drive
Cons: Long spin up time

Current System

AMD Athlon II X3 450 3.2GHz Processor
Antec 300 Case
ASUS DRW-24B1ST 24x DVD Burner
ASUS M4A87TD EVO AMD870 Motherboard
ASUS Radeon HD 6850 1GB Video Card
Corsair Builder Series CX600 PSU
G.SKILL Ripjaws X 8GB DDR3 1600 RAM
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB Hard Drive
Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen 2TB Hard Drive
Samsung SyncMaster 2333T 23" LCD Widescreen Monitor

When I assembled this new computer in March of 2011, I used a 1 TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 SATA-II hard drive as the main system drive. I knew I would want a second hard drive for storage purposes, so I installed this 2 TB Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen SATA-II hard drive that I had purchased a few months before. It's a slower 5400 RPM drive, but since it was only going to be used for storage and not as the main system drive I wasn't overly concerned with the speed.

This was the first Samsung drive I've purchased in the last number of years, so I didn't know exactly what to expect going in. I've been really happy with my previous drives from Western Digital, Maxtor and Seagate, but this drive was a little cheaper per gigabyte so I decided to give it a try. Overall, I'm very pleased with it. It's been dependable, and the sheer capacity of the drive is enough that I don't foresee having to purchase an additional drive any time soon.

I ordered it as a bare OEM from Newegg, so I received it in a clear plastic case with a small bag containing 4 mounting screws. My motherboard came with a couple of SATA cables which I used hook the drive up, and it also came with thumb screws for my hard drives so I did not use the enclosed mounting screws.

Installation is as easy as sliding the hard drive into an empty 3.5" bay and putting in the 4 mounting screws. The next step in the process is to plug one end of an SATA cable into the drive and the other end into an available SATA-II port on the motherboard. Finally, plug in an available SATA power connector from the power supply into the back of the hard drive. After that I formatted it in Windows 7 with a single NTFS partition so that the drive would be available for use in both Windows 7 and Linux Mint.

Details

It's 3 platter hard drive with 6 read/write heads. It rotates at 5400 RPM with a rotation time of 11.11 ms and an average rotational latency of 5.56 ms. It features a 32 MB cache and has a total capacity of 1863.0 GB (2,000,396,742,656 bytes) when formatted with a single NTFS partition.

The Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen SATA-II hard drive is a  standard desktop 3.5" form factor, measuring 4 inches wide, 5.8 inches long, 1 inch tall and weighing 1.4 pounds. It uses 0.9 watts of power in standby, 7.7 watts idle and 9.5 watts while seeking. After 41 days, 17 hours of power on time, the current drive temperature is 31ºC and the maximum temperature over the entire lifespan of the drive is 39ºC.

It uses first generation Advanced Formatting, the IDEMA standard that uses 4096 bytes per sector instead of 512 bytes. This allows the drive capacity to be used for large files more efficiently, as well as allowing for better error correction to keep your data intact. While this is mostly a transparent change for modern operating systems such as Windows 7, Vista, Mac OS X 10.6 and newer Linux distributions - Windows XP users will need to download the Samsung Alignment Tool from samsung.com to get the best performance out of their drive.

The Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen SATA-II hard drive features SilentSeek and NoiseGuard technology, and ATA Automatic Acoustic Management which helps keep the drive quiet during operation. It also has a shock and rotational vibration sensor and comes with a 3 year limited warranty from Samsung.

Performance

Since the Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen is only a 5400 RPM drive, I expected a little slower speed. The worst part of the performance is the drive's 13 second average spin up time. Since I don't use the drive regularly, only when I want to copy files to or from my extra storage space, it needs to spin up to be ready to use more often than not and that 13 seconds seems like an eternity. The drive is also loud during spin up, when it's really quiet the rest of the time.

Benchmarking of this hard drive was done using DiskMark 1.0.0.7 from NetworkDLS. The first run was done with the default settings, using many runs with a fairly small set size to simulate copying multiple smaller files. This included 128 files of 64 KB each, and the test was ran 320 times for a total of 2.5 GB. The second run was done with a lot less runs, but a much larger set size to simulate copying a smaller number of much larger files. This included 128 files of 6.25 MB each, and ran 32 times for a total of 25 GB.

Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen SATA-II (5400 RPM)
Allow Caching: No, Set Size: 64.00 KB, Rounds: 128, Per Set Size: 8.00 MB, Runs: 320, Total Set Size: 2.50 GB
Write Performance: Min: 98.68 MB/s, Max: 164.24 MB/s, Average: 153.68 MB/s
Read Performance: Min: 88.17 MB/s, Max: 174.24 MB/s, Average: 168.09 MB/s

Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen SATA-II (5400 RPM)
Allow Caching: No, Set Size: 6.25 MB, Rounds: 128, Per Set Size: 800.00 MB, Runs: 32, Total Set Size: 25.00 GB
Write Performance: Min: 97.73 MB/s, Max: 101.70 MB/s, Average: 99.25 MB/s
Read Performance: Min: 99.17 MB/s, Max: 100.17 MB/s, Average: 99.79 MB/s


The same set of tests was then completed on my 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 SATA-II hard drive for comparison. The F3 is a 7200 RPM hard drive and has standard 512 byte sectors, while the F4 EcoGreen is a 5400 RPM hard drive with the Advanced Format 4096 byte sectors. Both drives were hooked up via SATA Rev 2.6.

Since both drives are Samsung Spinpoint drives, this should tell us a lot about how the larger capacity, slower speed F4 EcoGreen drive measures up to it's predecessor.

Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F3 SATA-II (7200 RPM)
Allow Caching: No, Set Size: 64.00 KB, Rounds: 128, Per Set Size: 8.00 MB, Runs: 320, Total Set Size: 2.50 GB
Write Performance: Min: 59.37 MB/s, Max: 131.66 MB/s, Average: 127.63 MB/s
Read Performance: Min: 63.38 MB/s, Max: 153.97 MB/s, Average: 151.30 MB/s

Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F3 SATA-II (7200 RPM)
Allow Caching: No, Set Size: 6.25 MB, Rounds: 128, Per Set Size: 800.00 MB, Runs: 32, Total Set Size: 25.00 GB
Write Performance: Min: 91.91 MB/s, Max: 120.07 MB/s, Average: 116.03 MB/s
Read Performance: Min: 112.78 MB/s, Max: 121.74 MB/s, Average: 120.15 MB/s


As we can see, the Samsung Spinpoint F4 EcoGreen wasn't too much different than the Samsung Spinpoint F3, despite being a 5400 RPM drive instead of a 7200 RPM. It was a little slower with larger files, but it was somehow actually faster across the board when copying many very small files. The tests were ran 3 times on each drive, and the middle result was used.

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