Samsung – SpinPoint SP2504C review

250GB SATA-II hard drive
Photo of Samsung – SpinPoint SP2504C
£84.99 (200GB), £129 (250GB)

Samsung has released four new hard drives in its SpinPoint P120 series. We’ll ignore two of them as they’re Parallel ATA models which use the old ribbon cable, but the other two use the new SATA-II interface and that makes them fascinating, as they’re the world’s first Serial ATA II drives to hit the shops.

The headline change is that the SATA-II interface is rated at 3Gb/second, compared to the 1.5Gb/second of the original SATA. This isn’t of great significance as there’s no evidence that any hard drive is hitting a limit at 1.5GB/second, but there’s never any harm in having some head room.

The main point of interest is that the SATA-II standard includes NCQ (Native Command Queuing) which uses a pre-fetch system to call data from the hard drive before the processor even knows that it needs the information. Naturally NCQ requires a chipset that supports this feature and happily nForce4 is just such a chipset.

In addition SATA-II supports Staggered Spin-up Support to make life easier on your power supply when you start up a server that has a large number of drives attached, and of course it continues to support hot plug. During testing of the SpinPoint SP2504C we decided to try this feature for the first time. With the Samsung running as a Slave data drive on a Windows PC we unplugged the data cable and the drive duly vanished. We then plugged in a WD Raptor (original SATA you’ll note) and the drive duly appeared in Windows Explorer like magic.

The Samsung P120 comes in either 200GB or 250GB capacities with a spin speed of 7,200rpm and 8MB of cache. Both models use two platters so the 250GB clearly uses four read/write heads but we’re not sure if the 200GB model uses three heads or whether it is de-stroked to limit the capacity. Samsung gave us a list price of £84.99 for the 200GB and £129 for the 250GB which sounded relatively expensive, but we were able to find them on sale and in stock online for rather less than that.

Naturally these are native SATA designs and interestingly, instead of a PATA-SATA bridge chip such as you find on some SATA drives, the Samsungs use a Marvell 88i6525 System On Chip to provide SATA-II support.

In recent times Samsung has been boasting that its hard drives are quieter than the competition, and whether we have the NoiseGuard or SilentSeek technology to thank for this, we can confirm that the SpinPoint SP2504C is very quiet in operation. Samsung claims a noise level of 25-28dB and while we can’t comment on that we can state quite categorically that the drive was effectively silent in operation.

It also performs very well indeed. We ran WinBench 99 and got test results in Business Disk of 14.5MB/s and in High-End Disk of 32.2MB/second. For comparison we ganged up a pair of Raptor WD740 drives in RAID 0 and ran the same test, where we saw 11.8MB/s in Business Disk and in the High-End Disk test we got 27.5MB/s.

Company: Samsung

Contact: 00 49 6196 66 1679


Verdict
In the past we've had mixed results with Samsung hard drives but the SpinPoint SP2504C SATA-II drive has changed all that. Not only is it quiet in operation but it is also very effective and fast, and if you shop around the price is very fair too.