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Samsung Spinpoint F3 (HD103SJ)

Three New Desktop Hard Drives For 2010

We received two new Spinpoint F3s: the 500GB and 1TB versions. The 2TB flagship, however, is still missing. This is a bit of a bummer because the terabyte drive delivers new throughput records, so we would have expected good things from the larger disk as well. Samsung's HD103SJ is the first desktop hard drive that delivers more than a 150 MB/s maximum transfer rate. It even raises the minimum transfer rate to almost 76 MB/s. To put that into perspective, this is higher sequential throughput result than what we've seen from Western Digital's 10,000 RPM VelociRaptor drive! Writes are equally fast. Streaming read and write performance is almost as quick at over 142 MB/s, leaving the competitors in the dust.

However, the winning streak doesn't last forever. Samsung seems to have optimized the drive for throughput by compromising on a few of its other characteristics. Although the measured access time of 13.6ms is still the quickest result in this review, the Spinpoint F3 1TB is the clear loser in three out of four I/O tests, disqualifying the drive for many business-oriented application environments. As a storage or system drive, the new F3 does well, but this doesn’t means that it's also a fast application drive. According to PCMark Vantage, the HD103SJ isn’t faster than the old 1TB Spinpoint F1 when it comes to loading applications, running Windows Defender, or importing pictures into Windows Photo Gallery. But it is quicker in starting Windows Vista, gaming, and video editing (where the much-accelerated throughput really pays off).

The drive has a few more goodies in stock. The first is its operating range of 0°C  to 60°C, allowing it to continue running all the way down to freezing. Other hard drives will typically only run down to 5°C. Only Seagate’s Barracuda XT is ready for more extreme temperatures.

We also like this Samsung drive’s power consumption of 4.9W at idle. Only a VelociRaptor or one of the specialized low-power 3.5” drives have been able to reach lower numbers in our test lab. The maximum power of 7.9W is less spectacular, but still decent. This also applies to power during HD video playback. There was one more surprise waiting with the power consumption at workstation I/O load, though. The new F3 drives seem to be most efficient here, which also probably explains the low I/O performance. We can only guess that Samsung tweaked the drive in favor of throughput and power consumption rather than I/O scores. Be careful which Spinpoint F3 drive you select, as Samsung offers various models between 160GB and 1TB. The 160GB to 320GB drives are available with 8MB or 16MB of cache, while the 750GB and 1TB models come with 32MB of buffer memory.

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  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 20 February 2010 06:06
    Kudos to Western digital on the improvements but I wish some of there competitors would come out with some competition for the raptor series to drive down the prices a little. I wonder if this will happen before SSD's become a standard for desktops.
  • 0 Hide
    kyzar , 22 February 2010 15:22
    rusthedayKudos to Western digital on the improvements but I wish some of there competitors would come out with some competition for the raptor series to drive down the prices a little. I wonder if this will happen before SSD's become a standard for desktops.

    I swapped from 2 x 500gb drives in RAID0 on my desktop to a single 'raptor 300gb. While it's still quick, it's nothing like as fast as the RAID setup, even just using the mobo's crappy RAID controller.

    I think in future, I'll stick with RAID0 and regular backups rather than even look at the 'raptors.
  • -2 Hide
    v12v12 , 23 February 2010 04:54
    So to make this long article succinct; WESTERN DIGITAL is the drive maker you ought/should go with if you want the best over-all/fastest performance. These other drives are just failed attempts at METERED-technology; aka they haven't found new innovation marketing-gimmicks to break out with yet, so they dressed up some some old models with new names and worthless "innovation" filler updates.

    Most of you do realize that "metered-technology," has been the mantra of HD makers for the last decade.... Aside from Raptors and SSDs... Mechanical HD's are a fraud... If you bought the cheapest drive out of all the 1-2TB line up, put them in randomly selected boxes; NONE and I mean NONE of you people could discern the diffs between any of these drives w/o running multiple tests over and over again... ONLY the top and bottom drives would show any slight noticeable diffs.

    STOP FALLING FOR THIS MARKETING CRAP people... Geesh. Numbers this and that don't mean a thing if your PERCEPTION (reality) of the differences isn't clear. I've had raptors and multiple 1TBs in RAID-0+1 and that was certainly noticeable. Even a plain raptor provides serious access time adv over the rest of these spinning lumps. The more you keep pouring dollars into this metered CON game, the more they'll keep pushing this worthless junk upon us...

    Who needs a brand new drive that performs what... less than 10% faster overall than it's 3yr old cousin? Get the WESTERN Digital and call it a day; it's the only mechanical drive manufacturer that actually innovates. 7200 rpm, WHAT A JOKE... they could have LONG went to 10Krpm/or a hybrid/variable-speed (completely negating the whole "green" fraud-line. Why have diff drives, when 1 drive with some NEW AI, could vary the drive's speed based on the conditions it's faced OR that you set for it to run????) technology. But guess what... they played the metered-tech hand a little too long and now Mechanical drives are becoming antiquated junk faster than they can meter it out...

    ***Prices of memory... huh?*** Umm 128M of flash ram/cache is DIRT CHEAP. There's no (LOGICAL) reason why we don't have 2TB-HYBRID drives with a fat 128M+ of cache etc. You know as well as I do that it's just marketing and metered-tech. Yeah Anand's gotta make cash to pay for staff and such; agreed cost of living... But that's like someone trying to blindingly justify going to the bar and paying $6/draft+$1tip/drink. We all know it's a farce. $6/drink Vs $8 for a 6-er at the deli/gas station... FRAUD. Again "smart" business is 100% anti-consumer; logically so. Business is about making MONEY these days; not innovating beyond the call to make the BEST product. It's about making a product line, then spending the majority of your funds on clever marketing, gimmicks and finding new ways to chop up that product into 10 diff drives, to sell to the stupid public. I work in marketing, so I KNOW exactly how it is; cut the non-sense and soft wrist-slapping Anand-STAFF...

    HAIL Raptors & SSDs; they rest is JUNK. Why invest in AILING technology? Get yourselves some cheapo 1TB drives and wait till SSD/Raptors increase in density.

    -Reality out...
  • 1 Hide
    technobod , 24 February 2010 04:42
    Whilst I can see the point of innovating to make the best HDDs because SSDs aren't suitable as a high write drive, why don't all these companies spend more time and money researching how to make longer life SSDs rather than shave tenths of milliseconds of access times or tenths of watts off power consumption when SSDs are far far superior in both these respects to HDDs just not suitable due to low multiple write capabilities.
    Hmmm... some companies make me wonder sometimes :S
  • 0 Hide
    thelivingflesh , 24 February 2010 05:06
    Technobod: i totally agree with you
  • 0 Hide
    v12v12 , 24 February 2010 19:23
    Agreed also... The marketing game is about these little, finite, and nearly imperceivable numbers. And pitting their numbers against another's in order to claim superiority; reality shows that very few if anyone can perceive the advantages of said numbers. What they ought to be focusing on is RELIABILITY!
    __Warranties are declining here and there and nobody seems to make note of it? Newer drives from my exp don't last nearly as long as the older drives. They'll still spin up & go with a little bearing noise ... These new mech/FDBearing drives fail—they fail HARD. Little warning is given by the drive; SMART doesn't help when a catastrophic failure happens.

    I'd like to also see SDD manu's focus on density and reliability. These drives are way faster than what most anyone (mass public, since they'll be the one's fronting the cost so they can innovate. Power-users are a small fraction of incoming revenue.) could make use of in their daily lives. A "power-user/performance" 1TB SSD, that's got a 5yr warranty would be a GOLDEN product!