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Samsung SpinPoint P20
  July 6, 2001 Author: Eugene Ra  

Samsung SpinPoint P20 Available Capacities *
Model Number
10 GB
20 GB
30 GB
40 GB
* The benchmark scores presented in this review represent expected performance across the entire line.
Estimated Flagship Price: $119 (40 GB)
Evaluation unit provided by Samsung of America.


About a year ago we had the opportunity to review Samsung's SpinPoint V10200 through an evaluation unit supplied by Australian retailer Red Hill Technology. It proved to be an interesting performer, delivering the quietest operation we'd witnessed combined with the highest IOMeter scores we had seen from a 5400 RPM drive. Many readers wondered how a Samsung unit would perform when freed from the shackles of a 5400 RPM spindle speed.

A couple months ago Samsung of America expressed interest in supplying evaluation units of its latest drives to SR. As a result, we were able to bring you a look at the SpinPoint V20400, a drive that featured a more contemporary 20 GB/platter. Yet the unit that likely interests readers most is performance-oriented version, the 7200 RPM SpinPoint P20.

Though they've quietly been manufacturing hard disks for years, Samsung is a relatively new contestant in the 7200 RPM drive stakes. Folks may remember a press release from the company about a year and a half ago that outlined the "release" of a 7200 RPM drive that featured 10 GB/platter. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the drive anywhere and had to let it pass. The P20 represents Samsung's next generation, featuring 20 GB/platter. The flagship model (SP4004, reviewed here) features 2 platters yielding a top-line capacity of 40 gigabytes. Samsung specs the drive with a relatively modest 9 millisecond seek time. A standard 2-megabyte buffer rounds out the package.

High-end desktop machines and entry-level servers represent the P20's target market, placing it squarely against other entrants such as IBM's Deskstar 60GXP and Western Digital's WD800BB. A 3-year warranty protects the drive.

The P20 ships exclusively with an ATA-100 interface. Remember, since ATA drives have yet to break sequential transfer rates greater than even 45 MB/sec that ATA-66 (and in many cases, even ATA-33) interfaces will run a drive with optimal performance. Our testbed remains equipped with a Promise Ultra66 controller.

WB99/Win2k Low-Level Measurements

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Click here to examine the STR graph for this drive

WinBench 99 measures the P20's access time at 13.5 milliseconds, just wee bit higher than a the tightly grouped trio of the Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 60, the Quantum Fireball Plus AS, and the Western Digital WD800BB. This in turn results in an access time significantly higher than IBM's Deskstar 60GXP and significantly lower than Seagate's Barracuda ATA III. Subtracting the average rotational latency of 4.2 milliseconds for 7200 RPM operation yields a measured seek time of 9.2 milliseconds... slightly off the mark.

An outer-zone transfer rate of 34.5 MB/sec places the P20 at the lower end of the pack. Our sample exhibits some dips in the transfer rate graph indicative of remapped sectors... these shouldn't affect performance tests, however.

WB99/Win2k WinMarks

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Samsung's drive turns in a Business Disk WinMark 99 score of 5.6 MB/sec, significantly trailing the competition. Western Digital's Caviar WD800BB, for example, outraces the P20 by a staggering 52%. The P20's High-End Disk Winmark is similarly disappointing... at 12.7 MB/sec It trails the competition by similar margins.

IOMeter Performance

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The story changes significantly here. Samsung's drive turns in excellent IOMeter scores, second only to the IBM Deskstar 60GXP by some small margins. The unit's Workstation index (a normalized average of Light, Medium, and Heavy loads) in particular matches the score turned in by Western Digital's Caviar WD800BB and trails IBM by just 2%. Not too shabby.


The big question... how quiet is the P20? After all, previous Samsung drives have plumbed the depths when it comes to noise floor. Overall, the P20 is probably the quietest 7200 RPM drive we've heard when it comes to both idle and seek noises. It doesn't, however, match the legendary silence of the company's 5400 RPM drives. Both idle and seek noises come in at just a notch higher than the SpinPoint V20400. Its overall character is not unlike WDs 800BB, a quiet drive in its own right. At just two platters, the V20400 operates only warm to the touch even after extended heavy use.

In conclusion though the P20 delivers great IOMeter scores it falls short when compared to drives from IBM and WD in WinBench 99. This and the drive's relatively small capacity (just 40 GB compared to IBM's 60 and WD's 80) may make the latter two units a better choice for most readers. Samsung's drive does, however, offer great IOMeter performance... if you're looking for a whisper-quiet drive to anchor a budget file server, the P20 warrants consideration.

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