Samsung F2 EcoGreen HD502HI: Silent 500GB 3.5" HDD

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TESTING

Our samples were tested according to our standard hard drive testing methodology. A significant change in our testing procedure is that as of mid-2008, we're conducting most acoustics tests in our own 10~11 dBA anechoic chamber, which results in more accurate, lower SPL readings than before, especially as the SPL approaches 20 dBA and below, which is the territory of laptop drives. Our methodology focuses specifically on noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively measured and described. Performance is covered only lightly, for reasons discussed in detail in the methodology article.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise.

These two 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. Airborne acoustics are measured in our anechoic chamber using a lab reference microphone and computer audio measurement system. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter from 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.

Summary of primary HDD testing tools:

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


This sample was made in February 2009
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Ambient conditions at time of testing were 10.5 dBA and 23°C.

ACOUSTICS

The low frequency peak at ~90Hz shows that the rotational speed of the HD502HL is indeed 5400rpm. The pitch of the sound corresponds to the frequency of the vibration, which is caused by its rotational speed. The former, Hz, is cycles per second, while the latter is rotations per minute.


Samsung HD502HL in idle
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The confirmation of rotational speed pales against the measured SPL at 1m while the drive is in idle: Less than 12 dBA, barely a single decibel above the ambient level of the anechoic chamber. The overall sound can be described as very difficult to hear. From up close, it's smooth and muted with no obvious tonalities. The vibration level of both HD502HL samples was low enough that placing a piece of soft foam between it and the testing table made almost no difference in perceived noise. Normally, without the soft foam, the vibrations of the hard drive are amplified by the table top, causing a thrumming low frequency sound. There was virtually none of that effect.

The overall noise is low enough that this 3.5" drive is worth comparing to a 2.5" notebook drive, the recently reviewed WD Scorpio Blue 500GB. Admittedly this is a 2-platter model, but still, it is a laptop drive, and they have always had a significant noise advantage over 3.5" drives.


The graph for the WD Scorpio Blue is not in exactly the same format, but the SPL number is plain as day. So is the 10 dBA peak at 90Hz.

It turns out that the Samsung HD502HL is quieter than the WD Scorpio Blue by over 3 dBA@1m, and its primary motor noise peak at 90Hz is 15 dBA@1m lower. That means it vibrates less. (In our review, we gave the Scorpio Blue 7 for vibration, compared to the 8 the Samsung gets here.) The Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB 2.5" examined in the same review matches the HD502HL for vibration but measured >4 dBA@1m higher. This is quite a dramatic "upset".


Samsung HD502HL in seek with AAM engaged
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The quiet performance continued in seek mode. The drive was subject to the extreme seek condition of the Hitachi Feature Tool acoustic management test/check utility. This utility applies a constant seek mode which makes most drives chatter more loudly than they ever do in real use. With AAM turned on it measured 15 dBA@1m, which is excellent. The sound had a muted chattering quality. Turning AAM off increased the seek noise a touch, to a measured peak of 16.5 dBA@1m. The seek sound became a bit sharper.

POWER CONSUMPTION

DRIVE TEST SUMMARY
Drive
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State
Airborne Acoustics
(dBA@1m)
Measured
Power
Samsung 500GB
HD502HL F2 EcoGreen

February 2009
firmware 1AG01114
8
Idle
12
3.2 W
Seek (AAM)
15
5.3 W
Seek (Normal)
16
6.1 W

The power consumption of the Samsung HD502HI is the lowest of any 3.5" drive tested. The idle power is especially low, at just 3.2W. The previous lows were held by the Seagate Pipeline HD 500GB ST3500321CS at 4.6W and the single platter 320GB 7200rpm WD Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS-00B3A0 at 4.5W. The only contenders for the 3.5" HDD low power crown are the new single platter WD Caviar Green 500GB and Seagate Pipeline II 500/250GB.



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