Samsung has had a reputation for manufacturing cheap hard drives that appeal to OEMs for many years. That means the drives tend to be small in capacity and presumably they are priced keenly to the OEMs too. Although this is an important market it can be very hard to make profits when hard drives are treated like commodities and Samsung has made repeated efforts to break into the premium upgrade and retail market.
To succeed in the retail sector Samsung needs high capacity drives that are fast and reliable, and the SpinPoint P series aims to be just that. There are 2MB cache and 8MB cache ATA133 drives in the P series, but we're interested in the three Serial ATA drives that have a C suffix on their model codes. Available in 80, 120 and 160GB versions, we tested the 80GB SP0812C which has a single platter, compared to the two bigger versions that have two platter and either three or four heads.
It's a true Serial ATA drive in that it doesn't have a Molex power connector and the sooner we see power supplies with the appropriate connectors the better. At present we have to rely on motherboard manufacturers to include adapters.
On paper this is an impressive dive, with Fluid Dynamic Bearings, 8MB cache, 7,200rpm spindle speed, an average latency of 4.17ms and average seek time of 8.9ms. In short, you can't separate the Samsung from the competition on paper, but in our tests this drive was a poor performer. The real problem was its slow read speed, which was half of that seen on the Maxtor, Seagate and WD drives. The read speed was so slow that it was actually slower than the write speed of the drive, and that's most unusual.
The read burst speed test was also very slow, and the result was plain to see in our real world file copying test. The Samsung kept pace with the Seagate 7200.7 in the write test, but in the read test it was over one minute slower.
One thing that somewhat makes up for the Samsung's poor performance is the price. The drive is not currently available in the UK, but we have been told that Watford Electronics will be stocking it in the next couple of weeks at a price of Â£62.28. This equates to 78 pence per GB which is pretty reasonable overall.
Samsung claims that it has made huge leaps forward with reliability and the quoted maximum shock figure of 350G is certainly impressive, but there's no way for us to test this claim scientifically.
The tests we carried out showed the SpinPoint 80GB SP0812C to be very disappointing, and our instinct is that the 120GB and 160GB versions would perform no better and may even be slower.
It could well be a case of back to the drawing board for Samsung.