Hard Drives, Yesterday And Today: From 500 GB To 1.5 TB

2007, 2008, 2009 Hard Drives Compared: 500-1500 GB

Hard drives have now reached the 2,000 GB (2 TB) capacity level, and performance has been steadily going up as well. Hard drive makers have finally incorporated power consumption into their design decisions, making modern hard drives not only bigger and faster, but also more efficient when looked at either from a performance per watt or capacity per watt standpoint.

We took the last three Samsung desktop hard drive product generations and compared their top models to analyze how much progress has been made in the hard drive space.

Hard Drives Versus Solid State Drives

The most recent solid state drives, which are referred to as flash SSDs, have reached capacities of up to 256 GB, and their performance often exceeds 200 MB/s with extremely short latencies. However, only a few of them are truly worth the several hundred dollar investment they demand, as flash SSDs require intelligent, multi-channel configurations with smart controllers and cache memory. The cache is required to enable command queuing, in an effort to maximize wear leveling and performance with changing performance loads. But we’ll stop talking about flash storage, as it is only interesting in the very high-end and the very low-end. Hard drives will continue to dominate the storage market for several years.

Capacities of up to 2 TB cannot yet be realized on flash memory; and if it were possible, it would cost thousands. The cost advantage in the mainstream is even more significant, as terabyte hard drives are available at only $100, while you have to spend three times as much for only 10-20% of the capacity on flash SSDs. And finally, the flash market could not even supply sufficient flash memory to saturate the storage demands of today (and tomorrow).

Samsung: From 0-60 Within A Few Product Generations

Most people don’t think about Samsung when they talk about hard drives, but the Korean company has managed to become an important player, next to Seagate, Hitachi, and Western Digital. The Japanese companies Fujitsu and Toshiba are still pretty active, but they mainly focus on notebook drives (Fujitsu, Toshiba) or server hard drives (Fujitsu). The latter also applies to Seagate and Hitachi. Samsung and WD have server offerings, but their product lines are limited.

Desktop Hard Drive Analysis

We will look at some notebook hard drives in a future article, as these HDD types will dominate the storage market in coming years, due to the shift from stationary to mobile computing. Today we’ll look at three hard drive generations by Samsung: the Spinpoint T166 at 500 GB, the Spinpoint F1 EcoGreen 1000 GB, and the Spinpoint F2 EcoGreen 1500 GB. These represent Samsung’s last three product lines, and they serve as perfect examples to pinpoint where storage is heading.