Samsung F2 EcoGreen HD502HI: Silent 500GB 3.5" HDD

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AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, 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.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds 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. 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 recording starts with 5 to 10 seconds of ambient noise, then 10 second segments of the drive in the following states: idle, seek with AAM enabled (if applicable), and seek with AAM disabled (if applicable).

  • Samsung F2 EcoGreen HD502HIIdle: 12 / Seek (AAM): 15 / Seek (Normal): 16 dBA@1mOne Meter
    The drive starts about 7 seconds into the recording. A deliberate silent pause had to be inserted because otherwise, it's easy to miss when the drive noise begins. It's that close to the ambient level in the anechoic chamber. AAM seek starts at ~17 seconds, and seek w/o AAM starts at 28 seconds.

Comparatives:

  • Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EADSIdle: 13 / Seek (AAM): 13 / Seek (Normal): 13~14 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Seagate Pipeline HD ST3500321CSIdle: 14 / Seek: 15 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Seagate Pipeline HD Pro 1TB ST31000533CSIdle: 15 / Seek: 16 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Western Digital Caviar Blue 640GB WD6400AAKSIdle: 16 / Seek (AAM): 16~17 / Seek (Normal): 18~19 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Samsung F1 750GB HD753LJIdle: 16 / Seek (AAM): 18~19 / Seek (Normal): 20~21 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB ST31500341ASIdle: 17 / Seek: 19 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Seagate 7200.11 1TB ST31000340ASIdle: 18 / Seek: 19 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Western Digital Caviar SE16 500GB WD5000KSIdle: 19 / Seek (AAM): 19 / Seek (Normal): 22 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB WD1001FALSIdle: 21 / Seek (AAM): 21 / Seek (Normal): 25 dBA@1mOne Meter
  • Western Digital Raptor 150GB WD1500ADFDIdle: 16 / Seek (AAM): 26~27 / Seek (Normal): 26~27 dBA@1mOne Meter

CONCLUSIONS

The Samsung EcoGreen F2 HD502HI is a dream come true for the quiet PC seeker.

  • It is inaudible in idle, which is the single most important HDD characteristic for low noise computing.
  • Its vibration level at idle is so low than unless the PC case is particularly flimsy and resonant or placed very close to the user, there may be little benefit to mechanically decoupling the drive from the chassis. It's the first time since starting this site over seven years ago that I can write this about a 3.5" HDD.
  • In seek with AAM engaged, it's a bit noisier than the WD Green 2TB, but still very quiet, and the noise may be reassuring for those who prefer to know the drive is actually working. Of course, if you're so inclined, that noise can be virtually elminated with elastic cord suspension (still the most effective way to mechanically decouple the drive from the chassis).
  • Its performance is very good, with only random access falling a bit behind 7200rpm desktop drives.
  • The power demands are lower than any drive tested in the past, not by some increment of a watt, but by some 1.5W at idle over its closest competitor.
  • This Samsung does not employ the "head park" feature which is a source of anxiety about possible early failure in the WD Green drives.
  • Finally, it's priced so low than almost anyone can afford one.

It is difficult to find something to quibble about in this product, but here is one: Why is it not sold by any Canadian stores? If it's true that Samsung is simply not distributing the EcoGreen line here, why the heck not??

Recently, the cost of viable performance SSDs have dropped to the point where they are the best choice for a silent PC. SPCR's own lab PCs have recently gone the route of combining a low capacity SSD for the OS and programs, with NAS for data storage on a gigabit network. This reduces the PC noise down to virtually nil. But it is a bit more complex and expensive than the single HDD PC, and you need a closet to hide and damp the NAS which might make a fair bit of noise. The Samsung HD502HI makes an inexpensive, silent, conventional PC easier to attain than ever before. Suspended elastically in a sturdy case, it is an exclamatory counterpoint (in terms of noise) to the SSD at a price some 40 times cheaper per gigabyte. ($130 for a 30GB OCZ Vertex SSD vs. $50~60 for the 500GB Samsung.)

The Samsung HD502HI sits at the top of quiet HDDs reviewed by SPCR. It edges the WD Caviar Green 2TB for vibration and idle noise, although many users may be pressed to discern between the two drives in a controlled test with two otherwise identical systems — the ambient room noise would have to be absolutely minimal and the other components in the systems would have to be near-silent. The HD502HI clearly surpasses the Seagate Pipeline drives (that we've reviewed) in every way. The Samsung's lone top position may not be for long, however, as there are new single-platter 500GB models in the WD Green, Seagate Pipeline 2 and Seagate Barracuda LP series. We will be examining those models in the near future with hopes that they can rise to the new summit scaled by the Samsung HD502HI.

Many thanks to Jonathan, aka SPCR forum member frEEk, for the review samples.



SPCR Editor's Choice Award

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR's Hard Drive Testing Methodology
SPCR's Recommended Hard Drives
Momentus 5400.6 & Scorpio Blue: Seagate & WD 2.5" HDDs at 500GB
Seagate Pipeline HD Pro 1TB Hard Drive
WD Caviar Green 2TB & Seagate Pipeline HD 500GB
WD and Seagate take steps to fix terabyte drives
Caviar Black: WD's Performance 1TB HDD
Samsung F1 750GB & 1TB Drives: Fast... and Silent?
WD SE16 Caviar 640GB is now Blue
WD VelociRaptor: A Triple Crown

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