Samsung Spinpoint T Series: Successor to a Quiet Legacy

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TEST RESULTS


Our samples were tested according to our standard hard drive testing methodology. Our methodology focuses specifically on noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured and described. Performance is not tested, for reasons discussed in detail in the methodology article. For comprehensive HDD performance testing results, we recommend Storage Review, who have established a long reputation as the specialist in this field.

Our test drives were compared against our reference drives, the Seagate Barracuda IV and Samsung Spinpoint P80, which are profiled in our methodology article. To get a good idea of where the drives in this review stand, it is important to read the methodology article thoroughly. It was also compared against our current low-noise champ: A 500 GB Western Digital WD5000KS. A 250 GB Spinpoint P120 was also included in the comparison.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise

These types of noise impact the subjective perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive is mounted.

Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and subjectively. Both the subjective and objective analyses are essential to understanding the acoustics of the drives. Airborne acoustics are measured using a professional caliber SLM. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter above the top of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.

A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments are relevant to the sample we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without telling everyone.

Ambient noise at the time of testing was 16 dBA. For the record, room temperature was 23¬įC.

DRIVE NOISE EVALUATION
Drive
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State
Airborne Acoustics
Measured Power
Samsung Spinpoint T HD400LJ
July 2006
firmware ZZ100-15
3
Idle
20 dBA@1m
7.4 W
Seek (AAM)
21 dBA@1m
9.5 W
Seek (Normal)
22-23 dBA@1m
10.5 W
REFERENCE DRIVES
Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000KS
March 2006
firmware 07.02E07
4
Idle
21 dBA@1m
8.5 W
Seek (AAM)
21-22 dBA@1m
8.6 W
Seek (Normal)
23 dBA@1m
10.7 W
Seagate Barracuda IV
ST340016A - firmware 3.10
6
Idle
20 dBA@1m
6.7 W
Seek (AAM)
23 dBA@1m
11.3 W
Seek (Normal)
25-26 dBA@1m
11.6 W
Samsung Spinpoint
P120 SP2504C

September 05 - firmware VT100-33
5
Idle
21 dBA@1m
7.2 W
Seek (AAM)
23-24 dBA@1m
9.4 W
Seek (Normal)
23-24 dBA@1m
10.3 W
Samsung Spinpoint P80 (Nidec motor)
June 04 - firmware TK100-24
4
Idle
21 dBA@1m
6.3 W
Seek (AAM)
23-24 dBA@1m
8.3 W
Seek (Normal)
25-26 dBA@1m
9.1 W
Samsung Spinpoint P80 (JVC motor)
Feb 05 - firmware TK200-04
6
Idle
21 dBA@1m
6.2 W
Seek (AAM)
25 dBA@1m
n / a
Seek (Normal)
27 dBA@1m
9.3 W

The noise measurements place the Spinpoint T slightly better than either the Western Digital or Samsung's previous drives and roughly on par with the classic Barracuda IV. As usual, the measurements do give a rough idea of where the drive stands but don't tell the whole story.

At idle, the Spinpoint sounded very clean and smooth. The Samsung Drives and the Western Digital were all very similar in volume, and all exhibited the same whoosh of airflow. Subjectively, the Spinpoint T sounded the nicest by a small margin; it sounded softer than the Western Digital, and had less high frequency noise than the older Samsung drives. It should be emphasized that the drives all sounded very similar, and any would be acceptable in quiet system.

Our usual recommendation to soft-mount any desktop drive goes double for the Spinpoint T: Its vibration level was very high, and a low 120 Hz hum could sometimes be heard even when the drive was placed on foam. When placed on a hard surface, the hum was amplified and came to dominate the noise character, confirming that hard-mounting would not be good for noise quality.

We were pleased to note that seek noise was much improved over the P120 — something that is not reflected in the noise measurements. Seeks were duller and more muted than the P120, although not quite as good as the P80, and certainly not as good as the nigh inaudible Western Digital. Even better, AAM seemed to be working again, and did much to reduce the sharpness of the seek noise. This is good news; seek noise was one of the biggest disappointments with the P120.

The extra platter in the T Series did not increase power consumption, which was in line with other 3.5" drives, and even a little on the low side for such a large drive. Power consumption was almost identical to the P120.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

Audio recordings were made of the drives and are presented here in MP3 format. The recordings below contains 10 seconds of ambient noise, 10 seconds of idle noise, 10 seconds of seek noise with AAM enabled and 10 seconds more with AAM disabled.

Keep in mind that the recordings paint only part of the acoustic picture; vibration noise is not recorded, and drives often sound different depending on the angle from which they are heard.

Samsung T Series HD400LJIdle: 20 / AAM: 21 Seek: 22-23 dBA@1m One Meter, One Foot

Reference Comparatives:

Western Digital WD5000KS Idle: 21 / AAM: 21-22 Seek: 23 dBA@1m One Meter, One Foot

Samsung P80 SP0802N (Nidec)Idle: 21 / AAM: 23-24 Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m One Meter, One Foot

Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A Idle: 20 / AAM: 23 Seek: 25-26 dBA@1m One Meter, One Foot

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution, studio quality, digital recording system, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review. Two recordings of each noise level were made, one from a distance of one meter, and another from one foot away.

The one meter recording is intended to give you an idea of how the subject of this review sound in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. For best results, set your volume control so that the ambient noise is just barely audible. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The one foot recording is designed to bring out the fine details of the noise. Use this recording with caution! Although more detailed, it may not represent how the subject sounds in actual use. It is best to listen to this recording after you have listened to the one meter recording.

More details about how we make these recordings can be found in our short article: Audio Recording Methods Revised.

CONCLUSIONS

The Samsung T Series is an excellent addition to Samsung's range of hard drives. It upholds Samsung's reputation for low noise, and fixes the only real complaint we had about the P120 series: Sharp seeks. There is no question that this drive is suitable for a quiet system. Only a notebook drive is likely to be quieter... and notebook drives don't come in 400 GB capacities.

From a noise perspective, the Spinpoint T only has one real competitor: The Western Digital Caviar SE16. Neither drive clearly has the upper hand, and a choice between the two is likely to come down to the kind of noise that bothers you personally. Heavy users who want to avoid seek noise will probably prefer the Western Digital, but the large chunk of users whose drives spend most of their time in idle may prefer the smoother idle noise of the Spinpoint T.

Price, availability, and capacity may also play a role. For now, Samsung does not have a 500 GB drive, and availability may still be a problem for some. On the other hand, many retailers appear to be selling the Samsung at cheaper prices than other similarly sized drives which makes it quite unusual in the silencing world: A component that is both cheaper and quieter than the competition.

Many thanks to Samsung for the Spinpoint T Series sample.

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives
Western Digital Caviar SE16 500 GB: Big, Low Noise Champ?
Seagate Barracuda 7200.9, 500 GB
Samsung Spinpoint P120 200 & 250 GB Hard Drives

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