500GB Per Platter: Three Next-Gen 7,200 RPM Hard Drives

Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB (HD502HJ)

The Spinpoint F is Samsung’s 3.5” hard drive family for desktops. Past Spinpoint drives were named by the capacity that Samsung could store on a single platter, as with the Spinpoint P102 or T166. The naming changed slightly with the introduction of the company’s first 1TB hard drive, the Spinpoint F1. The second-generation Spinpoint F2 has thus far only been available in an EcoGreen version (F2EG) spinning at 5,400 RPM. The new Spinpoint F3 marks the next-generation performance desktop drive, running at 7,200 RPM and storing 500GB per platter.

The first product we received is the 500GB HD502HJ, and we hear from Samsung that 1TB models are also available now. However, higher capacities may still take a few weeks. While the HD502HJ can only store 500GB, this capacity point is the sweet spot for volume hard drive sales today because it allows drive makers to bring cost down to a minimum, thanks to the single-platter design. At the same time, utilizing the latest recording technology also introduces a decent performance boost. The Spinpoint F3 500GB reached a maximum read throughput of 136 MB/s and an average of 110.4 MB/s—not bad! The two WD drives are capable of beating the F3’s maximum throughput, though.

Samsung’s single-platter design introduces another less obvious advantage: this is one of the coolest medium capacity drives we’ve had in our test labs. The lowest operational temperature we measured on WD’s Caviar Green (WD20EADS) was 39°C, but that one spins at 5,400 RPM while Samsung has the 7,200 RPM performance boost. Samsung’s idle noise is also acceptable, since more platters always introduce more noise. This applies both for idle noise and noise during high I/O activity.

Samsung’s 13.5 ms access time isn’t particularly amazing. It’s good enough for general consumer use, but the access speed does impact I/O performance and drag down the drive’s numbers, at least at this capacity point.

In this context, it’s important to look at power requirements. Samsung could have optimized this drive for low power rather than maximum performance, which it actually did. Showing just 5.7W maximum power draw during I/O-intensive workstation operation, Samsung beats any other hard drive on this test, including all the fancy green models. Power consumption during HD video playback also is also very low at 4.4W; only streaming reads at maximum throughput are more power-intensive (6.8W). In the end, the Spinpoint F3 delivers the best performance per watt in terms of throughput.