hard drive history

21st century: big, cheap, bland

Samsung SpinPoint SP4002

Photo: Red Hill.

Samsung SpinPoint P40

Samsung's forte had always been cheap, quick, ultra-reliable 5400 RPM value-class drives. This, Samsung's third entry in the higher-speed 7200 RPM market, did not stand out from the crowd in the way that the company's 5400s did, though it remained a worthy drive.

The P40 did not offer quite the same speed as the Western Digital 400BB or the Maxtor 740DX, but fell into the same category as the Seagate Barracuda ATAs: a "value-class" 7200. Like the Seagate 7200s, it traded a slightly lower price and near-silent operation on the one hand, for slightly lower performance on the other. The way the performance differed was quite different though: the Seagate drives had excellent data transfer rates and good cache optimisation but poor seek performance, where the P40, in traditional Samsung style, did the opposite.

In 5400 RPM drives, Samsung was far and away our favourite brand through '01 and early '02, and we normally only carried other brands to cover shortages. In the 7200s though, we used a mix of the Western Digitals for performance, and Samsungs for slightly lower price and well-proven reliability. (Why the WD and not the 740DX? Because although they are almost universally regarded as excellent drives, here in Australia where Maxtors were a rarity, the 540DX and 740DX were much too expensive and would have needed to be head and shoulders above the competition to be worth it.)

Around the autumn of 2002 the price of the 40GB P40s dropped to within five dollars of most 5400 RPM drives of the same capacity and, at that tiny premium, there was no longer any point in carrying 5400s at all. We switched to using the P40s for everything bar the 60GB and 80GB sizes. A little later we decided that neither the marginal performance advantage of the Western Digital 7200s nor the noticable price advantage of the Barracuda ATAs — about $15 Australian — was sufficient to outweigh the proven reliability of the Samsung drives. We couldn't find a reason to keep any other drive in stock. The missing 60GB model (which was not sold in Australia) made us ponder Seagate from time to time, but 60GB was a slow-moving category in any case: most buyers were happy to either stay with 40GB or step all the way up to an 80.

Data rate557 Mbit/secSpin rate7200 RPM
Seek time8.9msBuffer2MB
Platter capacity40GBInterfaceATA-100
SP2001H20GB1 GMR head
SP4002H40GB2 GMR heads*****
SP6003H60GB3 GMR heads
SP8004H80GB4 GMR heads**