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Samsung SpinPoint SP1614N/SP1614C (7200RPM)
By CPU-zilla
Category : Storage
Published by Jimmy Tang on Wednesday, 5th November, 2003
Rating : 4 out of 5 stars  

Spinning the Samsung Tune

Samsung has been in the hard disk drive business since 1988 and only not so long ago that users began noticing Samsung's range of hard disk drives. Although they have shipped millions of units of hard disk drives, it was only last year that the drives started penetrating the retail market (at least in this region). Word of Samsung's SpinPoint hard disks spread like California's wildfire and before we know it, users were actually quite contented with Samsung's range of drives because it was a far departure from the amount of failure rates experienced with other brands. Of course, most of the RMA nightmare has died down today and we're beginning to see a market that is willing to try out almost any brand.

Joining the fracas, Samsung introduced two of their latest models in the P80 series which will stand to compete with the big boys. The P80 series are built with their latest 80GB per platter disk technology and it's currently the prevailing technology for all 7200RPM desktop hard disk drives. Unlike those from Western Digital, Maxtor and Hitachi which comes with a maximum capacity of 250GB through a combination of three disks and six recording heads, the P80 series will only be introduced with a maximum capacity of 160GB. 250GB is currently the industry's highest capacity although others like Seagate and Samsung prefers to integrate two disks instead of three. Both Samsung and Seagate may have lost the capacity war, but it doesn't mean that their drives are slower. In addition, failure rates of drives with two disks are much lower than those with three disks. Therefore, if the user is concerned about overall drive reliability, they should really consider getting the 160GB versions.

Both drives sent to us came with a large 8MB buffer although there's a version with 2MB buffer for the ATA-133 interface. The SATA version (SP1614C) came with the normal set of connectors and unlike Maxtor and Western Digital, Samsung only provided a SATA power connector instead of an additional legacy Molex connector for older power supply systems. Both the drives' controllers are powered by the Marvell 88i6522 which basically supports the ATA-133 interface specifications. For the SATA version, Samsung added a Marvell SERDES bridge (88i8030) which converts the parallel signals from the single-chip 88i6522 controller into serial. This is a common design method adopted by most manufacturers with the exception of Seagate. Although it's nothing fundamentally flawed, a native SATA controller would be beneficial when support for Native Command Queuing becomes available. In addition, a bridge will only communicate as fast as the controller would allow, and for this reason, such a SATA implementation would still be limited to a maximum throughput of 133MB/s.

The Marvell 88i6522 hard disk controller IC.

The commonly used Marvel 88i8030 SERDES (serializer-deserializer) chip.

The back view of the SpinPoint SP1614C.

For the buffer memory, Samsung used a Winbond SDRAM part instead of their own. Surprise, surprise! One wonders why they did not use their own part.

Both drives utilize a 64Mb Winbond SDRAM memory part. One wonders why they did not choose to use their own solution.

Samsung SpinPoint SP1614 Technical Specifications
Model No. SP1614N SP1614C
Interface Ultra ATA-133 Serial ATA 1.0
Capacity 160GB 160 GB
Number of Disks 2 2
Number of Heads 4 4
Bytes per Sector 512 512
Average Read Seek 8.9 ms 8.9 ms
Track-to-Track Seek 0.8 ms 0.8 ms
Full Stroke Read Seek 18.0 ms 18.0 ms
Average Latency 4.17 ms 4.17 ms
Rotational Speed 7,200 RPM 7,200 RPM
Data Transfer Rate 133MB/sec (external); 741Mbits/s (internal) 150MB/sec (external); 840Mbits/s (internal)
Buffer 8MB 8 MB
Power Requirements 8.6W (seek), 7.0W (idle), 0.5W (standby) 9.5W (seek), 7.7W (idle), 0.9W (standby)
Weight 1.4 lb 1.4 lb

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