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Samsung SpinPoint F4: HD322GJ (320 GB)

 

We usually collect HDDs of similar capacities for a review, but this review is going to cover HDDs of very different storage capacities. We have just introduced a 1-terabyte model and there will be models twice that large below, but now we have an HDD with a capacity of only 320 gigabytes. Why are we interested in it? Because it belongs to Samsung’s new SpinPoint F4 series. As far as we know, the series is based on 640-gigabyte platters, so this particular model has only one platter and one active read/write head. It’s our first encounter with the new recording density and it’s already 7200 RPM! Samsung’s reasoning is quite easy to comprehend, by the way. Such simpler HDDs sell best because they are installed into inexpensive computers which are assembled in large quantities all around the world. The higher recording density helps increase the capacity of such an HDD without making it more expensive. There are no additions to the cache memory. This model has 16 megabytes of it.

Samsung EcoGreen F2: HD154UI (1.5 TB)

 

Next goes the old and well-known EcoGreen F2 with a capacity of 1.5 terabytes. This was the first HDD to feature 500GB platters and also the first “green” product from Samsung. You can still find it in computer shops but we include it into this review mostly for the sake of comparison with newer products.

Samsung EcoGreen F3: HD153WI (1.5 TB)

 

The EcoGreen F3 series was released soon after the previous one. It had the same spindle rotation speed, was not supposed to offer higher recording density, and even had the same 32 megabytes of cache. Why did it have a new series number? Because Samsung had revised the internal design of the HDD. This particular model doesn’t show any noticeable benefits of that...

Samsung EcoGreen F3: HD203WI (2 TB)

 

This EcoGreen F3 series product makes the point of transitioning to the new platform obvious to anyone who is more or less familiar with Samsung HDDs. Samsung’s previous series had only been able to carry three platters, letting the company down in its competition with the opponents who could have offered 4- or even 5-platter products. Now Samsung could produce 4-platter HDDs, too. That is not as simple as it sounds, by the way. The more magnetic platters an HDD has, the more difficult it is to balance the whole block of platters. So that was quite a technical achievement for Samsung.

Samsung EcoGreen F4: HD204UI (2 TB)

 

After a while, Samsung acquired 667-gigabyte platters and began using them just everywhere. It is reasonable to use such platters not only in 7200RPM HDDs but also in energy-efficient ones where the higher recording density helps reduce the number of platters to three. A 4-platter design is good, but three platters produce less heat and are easier to balance, not to mention their lower cost. That’s why Samsung has rolled out its new series. We will test the 2TB model from it today.

Funnily enough, Samsung is somewhat inconsistent in its product nomenclature. They call their low-speed HDDs “Green”, but this model is included into the SpinPoint series, even though the letters EG take us back to EcoGreen. We’ve decided to stick to the older nomenclature and you can unambiguously identify this HDD by its part number: HD204WI.

Most intriguingly, a small notice at the company’s website says that this HDD has 4KB physical sectors with emulation of 512-byte logical sectors. Thus, we’ve got the same technology here as Western Digital’s Advanced Format but Samsung does not promote this feature and doesn’t say anything about the need to align the disk when you use it in old OSes. People at Samsung must be convinced that everyone has already transitioned to Windows 7. If you haven’t done that for some reason, we can remind you that HDDs with such sector emulation must be aligned after formatting in Windows XP. Otherwise, the HDD’s writing performance is going to be too low. Western Digital’s WD Align utility won’t work with other brands’ products, but there are third-party utilities available for that purpose.

By the way, the above-described fast 320GB drive has very similar platters but is not declared to have 4KB sectors. We will check this out easily in our random write test.

 
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