Not All 500 GB Hard Drives Are Created Equal

Three Platters: Samsung Spinpoint M6 HM500LI (500 GB)

We reviewed this drive when we first looked at 500 GB notebook drives in July 2008. At that time, Samsung beat Hitachi twice by fitting into the 9.5 mm form factor, despite its three platter design, and by outperforming its competitor as well. The Spinpoint M6 HM500LI was a serious speed demon, but the competition has not been sleeping, which is why the Spinpoint M7 HM500LJ followed a few months ago.

The technical data seems similar—500 GB capacity, 12 ms seek time, 8 MB buffer, SATA 3.0 Gb/s, 5,400 RPM spindle speed—but differences can still be found. While the new HD500JI withstands 400/900 g shock (operating, non-operating), the older three-platter drive is limited to 325/750 g. The three-platter HM500LI weighs in at 115 g compared to the new model’s 105 g. Active power and noise could be reduced with the latest model, but the Spinpoint M6 HM500LI is still rated as superior in low power idle, which our measurements confirm. This is not the case in most of the benchmarks, and when it comes to power consumption while streaming, and during video playback and workstation I/O.

The old drive reached a maximum throughput of 70.4 MB/s, which the new one beats by a significant 23%. Keep in mind that both drives appear to be similar on the outside if you stick to just the basic specifications. Similar performance differences can be found when looking at the I/O performance benchmarks, where you wouldn’t even expect improvement of 20-27%. Even the application-based PCMark Vantage HDD benchmarks reveal noticeable—or at least measurable—benefits for the new Spinpoint M7.