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Samsung 2TB EcoGreen F3 Hard Drive

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In contrast to Samsung’s highly visible marketing efforts in other sectors, its hard drives run virtually stealthed in the marketplace. They’ve long been prized for low noise by SPCR aficionados, however. We tackle the biggest of their F3 EcoGreen models, in response to popular demand.

Samsung 2TB F3ED

August 10, 2010 by Mike Chin

Product
Samsung EcoGreen 2TB F3 3.5" hard disk drive (HD203WI)
Sample Funding
Market Price
US$110~140

The Samsung EcoGreen is one of four lines competing in the green, quiet HDD
space, the others being the WD Caviar Green, and Seagate’s Barracuda LP and
Pipeline LP series. The EcoGreen drives, like the WD Caviar Green, spin at 5400
RPM, while Seagate’s LP offerings run at 5900 RPM. Seagate is a relative newcomer
to the sub-7200 RPM 3.5" HDD consumer/desktop market; SPCR’s own forum
members have a much longer history with the Samsung and WD green offerings.
The 2TB EcoGreen is the highest capacity model in Samsung’s lineup at the moment.

Why the EcoGreen 2TB is called F3 instead of the previous F2 is not particularly
clear from Samsung’s marketing or technical releases. The fact that there is
a SpinPoint 7200 RPM series also tagged F3 makes it even more confusing. It
has the same 500GB/platter density of earlier F2EG and very similar specifications.
A newer EcoGreen F4 clearly boasts higher 667GB/platter density, and a new 2TB
F4ED features just three platters.

In any case, the 2TB F3EG is very similar to the Western
Digital’s 2TB WD20EADS
, which remains — more than a year after
our review — on our Recommended HDD
list as the quietest and highest capacity drive. Can the 2TB EcoGreen F3 match
or surpass the WD?

Samsung is totally stingy about HDD samples for reviewers, and most of our
previous samples have come from direct purchases or loans from stores and readers.
The purchase of this HD203WI sample from Newegg was funded by our new Donate
for Review
program. Much thanks to forum members klankymen, frenchie,
sea2stars, and BillyBuerger for the generous contributions to
make this review possible.

FEATURES & SPECIFCATIONS


The HD203WI has a fairly standard Samsung HDD casing.


The cast aluminum frame feels and looks sturdy. Chips on the PCB include
a Marvell 88i8925e and a Texas Instruments SH6125b.

Samsung EcoGreen 2TB F3 HD203WI: Features &
Benefits
FEATURE & BRIEF Our Comment

• MAX.500GB Formatted Capacity Per Disk
• Serial ATA 3.0Gbps Interface Support
• Improved recording stability over temperature with PMR
• Advanced dynamic FOD control for best data integrity
• Intelligent compensation of external disturbance
• SATA Native Command Queuing Feature
• Device Initiated SATA Power Management
• Rotational vibration sensor
• Environment friendly product with RoHS compliance
• Improved performance with dual-ARM based firmware
• ATA S.M.A.R.T. Compliant
• ATA Automatic Acoustic Management Feature
• ATA 48-bit Address Feature
• ATA Device Configuration Overlay Feature
• NoiseGuard™
• SilentSeek™
• 3-year limited warranty

Ah so!

Samsung EcoGreen 2TB F3 HD203WI: Specifications
Capacity2 TB
Cache32 MB
Disks / Heads4 / 8
InterfaceSATA 3Gb/s
Rotation Speed5400 RPM
Data Transfer Rate / Buffer to/from Buffer
(Max.)
135 MB/s
Data Transfer Rate / Buffer to/from Host
(Max.)
300 MB/s
Average Seek time8.9 ms + 5.56 ms Avg Latency
Weight690 grams
Power Requirements:
Voltage
Spinup Current (Max)
Standby & Sleep / Idle / R&W / Seek
+5V, +12V
2A (on 12V line?)
1W / 5.4W / 6.2W / 7.1W
Acoustics:
Idle / Performance Seek
2.7 / 3.1 Bel

TESTING

Our samples were tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology
. As of mid-2008, we’re conducting most acoustics
tests in our own 10~11 dBA anechoic
chamber
, for more accurate low SPL readings than before. Our methodology
focuses specifically on noise, and great effort is taken to ensure it is comprehensively
measured and described. Performance is covered only lightly, for reasons discussed
in detail in the methodology article.

Two forms of hard drive noise are measured:

  1. Airborne acoustics
  2. Vibration-induced noise.

These two types of noise impact the subjective
perception of hard drive noise differently depending on how and where the drive
is mounted.

Both forms of noise are evaluated objectively and
subjectively. Airborne acoustics are measured in our anechoic chamber using a lab reference
microphone and computer audio measurement system
. Measurements are taken at a distance of one meter from the top
of the drive using an A-weighted filter. Vibration noise is rated on a scale
of 1-10 by comparing against our standard reference drives.

Summary of primary HDD testing tools:

A final caveat: As with most reviews, our comments
are relevant to the samples we tested. Your sample may not be identical. There
are always some sample variances, and manufacturers also make changes without
telling everyone.


Our Samsung EcoDrive 2TB F3 sample was made in May 2010.

Ambient conditions at time of testing were 10.5 dBA and 23°C.

ACOUSTICS

There were high expectations for the acoustics of the HD203WI because Samsung
has been a silent HDD leader for many years. We’re a bit disappointed this time
around. Sitting on foam to take vibration out of the equation, its noise profile
was very quiet but not record breaking. Compared to the WD Green 2TB, there
is a greater "hollow" aspect to the sound, which seems to be caused
by somewhat prominent peaks in the 1~2.5 kHz band. It seems more tonal than
the WD, which sounds largely broadband. The 2~3 dBA idle noise difference is
definitely audible, though that difference will be less audible inside a computer
case. Seeks were distinctly audible, where as the WD’s seeks were very muted.
Our sample arrived with AAM turned off. Turning it on to minimal noise with
HDD Scan 3.3 resulted
in very subtle changes that moight have amounted to a 1 dBA reduction at best.


The Samsung EcoGreen 2TB F3 is very quiet at idle, but doesn’t challenge
the WD Green 2TB, which is over 2 dBA quieter; the difference is audible.

POWER CONSUMPTION & VIBRATION

DRIVE NOISE TEST SUMMARY
Drive
Manufacture date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics
(dBA@1m)

Measured
Power

Samsung EcoGreen F3
2TB HD203WI
May 2010
firmware 1AN10003
7
Idle
15.5
4.7 W
AAM
17~18
6.1W
Seek
18~19
6.9 W

It’s no surprise that a 4-platter HDD has a bit more vibration than the best
on our recommended list. While it’s not bad, on par with the WD Caviar Green
2TB, there’s no doubt a mechanically decoupled mounting will reduce vibration-induced
noise in most PC cases. The power usage is low, better than average for a "green"
drive, a bit better than the 2TB WD Green, and substantially lower than a typical
7200 RPM model.

HD TACH / PERFORMANCE SUMMARY

The speed of the 2TB F3EG on HD Tach was a touch higher than that of the 2TB
WD Green, but sgnificantly slower than the 2TB Seagate Barrucada LP, wiht its
higher 5900 RPM spindle speed. It stands in the middle of the pack.

HD TACH RESULTS COMPARISON
3.5" Drive s
Random Access
Avg. Read
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500GB
14.2ms
109MB/s
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB
15.3ms
107MB/s
Seagate Pipeline HD Pro 1TB
17.0ms
102MB/s
Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB
14.9ms
97MB/s
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 500GB
18.6ms
96MB/s
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 1TB
15.0ms
95MB/s
WD Caviar Black 1TB
13.6ms
91MB/s
Samsung EcoGreen F3 2TB
16.8ms
89MB/s
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB
12.4ms
88MB/s
Samsung EcoGreen F2 500GB
16.7ms
87MB/s
WD Caviar Green 1.5TB
14.6ms
84MB/s
WD Caviar Green 2TB
17.9ms
82MB/s
Seagate Pipeline HD 500GB
17.7ms
75MB/s
5400~5900rpm drives in green, 7200rpm drives in blue.

The HD203WI’s performance is close enough to its closest competitors that differences
are not likely to be noticed. Minor differences in computer component performance
rarely get noticed in actual use. It usually takes a number of faster or slower
components working in tandem to see a significant general difference in PC performance.
For those seeking a more detailed performance analysis, here is Storage
Review’s review of the Samsung HD203WI
.

COMPETITIVE COMPARISON

The airborne acoustics of the Samsung EcoGreen F3 2TB are middling to high
for a low power drive, and its level of vibration is similarly middling. Power
consumption is low for a 2TB drive.

DRIVE NOISE TEST SUMMARY
Drive
Manufacture date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics
(dBA@1m)

Measured
Power

Samsung EcoGreen F3
2TB HD203WI
May 2010
firmware 1AN10003
7
Idle
15.5
4.7 W
AAM
17~18
6.1W
Seek
18~19
6.9 W
PREVIOUSLY TESTED DESKTOP DRIVES
WD Caviar Green
1.5TB WD15EADS
November 2009
firmware 01.00A01
9
Idle
13
4.5 W
(2.8 W heads unloaded)
Seek (AAM)
14
5.8 W
Seek
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500GB ST3500418AS
September 2009
firmware CC37
8
Idle
18
(16 muffled)
4.7 W
Seek
19~20
(18 muffled)
7.9W
Samsung F2 EcoGreen 500GB HD502HL
February 2009
firmware 1AG01114
8
Idle
12
3.2 W
Seek (AAM)
15
5.3 W
Seek (Normal)
16
6.1 W
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 1TB ST31000424CS
April 2009
firmware SC13
7
Idle
12
3.4W
Seek
16
8.0W
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 500GB ST3500414CS
March 2009
firmware SC13
8
Idle
13
3.0 W
Seek
13~14
7.0 W
WD Caviar Green
2TB WD20EADS

February 2009
firmware 01.00A01
7
Idle
13
6.4 W
(4.0 W heads unloaded)
Seek (AAM)
6.5 W
Seek (Normal)
13~14
Seagate Pipeline HD
500GB ST3500321CS

July 2008
firmware SC14
6
Idle
14
4.8 W
Seek
15
6.9 W
Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB ST32000542AS
June 2009
firmware CC32
6
Idle
14
4.4W
Seek
17
8.6W
Seagate Pipeline HD Pro
1TB ST31000533CS

September 2008
firmware SC15
4
Idle
15
7.1 W
Seek
16
10.1 W
WD VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS
300GB, 10K RPM
15 May 2008
firmware 03.03V01
8
[w/o frame]
Idle
15
8.2 W
Seek (AAM)
20
12.2 W
Seek (Normal)
22
12.2 W
WD Caviar SE16
640GB WD6400AAKS
February 2008
firmware 01.03B01
7
Idle
16
6.8 W
Seek (AAM)
16~17
8.1 W
Seek (Normal)
18~19
9.3 W
Samsung F1
750GB HD753LJ

February 2008
firmware 1AA01109
6
Idle
16
6.9 W
Seek (AAM)
18~19
8.9 W
Seek (Normal)
20~21
10.2 W
Seagate 7200.11
1.5TB ST31500341AS

October 2008
firmware SD17
4
Idle
17
8.8 W
Seek
19
10.7 W
WD Caviar Black
1TB WD1001FALS

July 2008
firmware 05.00K05
4
Idle
21
8.5 W
Seek (AAM)
10.9 W
Seek (Normal)
25
11.0 W

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11
dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s.
We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from
the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what
we heard during the review.

The recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds in
actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

The recording starts with around 10 seconds of ambient noise, then 10 second
segments of the drive in the following states: idle, seek with AAM enabled (if
applicable), and seek with AAM disabled (if applicable).

Comparatives:

CONCLUSIONS

Our sample of the Samsung F3 EcoGreen 2TB HD203WI proved to be
fairly quiet but not exceptional acoustically. Its noise level is nearly up
to the quietest 7200 RPM drives. It does not fare well in a comparison with
similar capacity quiet 3.5" drives from the WD Caviar Green or Seagate
Barracuda LP lines, and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Samsung’s own
single-platter 500GB F2 EcoGreen. Its vibration levels are decent but again
not exceptional. Power consumption is low, however, better than most others
in its class. Overall it is a good, but not the best, choice for a quiet 2TB
drive. Pricing might be a tad higher than some of the other low power 2TB models,
but the market varies enough that it’s hard to be definitive about this.

So among the low noise, highest capacity HDDs SPCR has reviewed,
the WD Caviar Green 2TB still holds the crown. Our F3 EcoGreen 2TB sample is
just high enough in noise (compared to earlier, lower capacity versions of the
EG series) to suspect the possibility of a slightly errant sample, but we’ll
never know unless we can get our hands on at least several more samples, ideally
from from different production runs. Samsung’s new F4EG 3-platter 2TB drive
should have a better chance at the crown. Hopefully, we will find out soon.

This review was made possible by the generous contributions
of forum members klankymen, frenchie, sea2stars, and
BillyBuerger in the SPCR
Donate for Review
program. Much thanks for their kind support.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest:
SPCR’s Hard Drive Testing
Methodology

SPCR’s Recommended Hard Drives

5900rpm Seagate Hard
Drives: Barracuda LP, Pipeline HD .2

Samsung
F2 EcoGreen HD502HI: Silent 500GB 3.5" HDD

WD
Caviar Green 2TB & Seagate Pipeline HD 500GB

* * *

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