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Samsung EcoGreen F4 & Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB Hard Drives

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The Samsung EcoGreen F4 2TB emphasizes low noise and energy efficiency, while the Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB is all about performance, with 64MB cache and new SATA 6Gbps interface. We examine the noise, vibration, energy efficiency, and performance of these two equally large, but very different drives.

HD204UI ST32000651AS

October 3, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Samsung EcoGreen F4 HD204UI
2TB 3.5" HDD
Seagate Barracuda XT ST32000651AS
2TB 3.5" HDD
Sample Supplier
Seagate
Street Price
US$100~$110US$200

The F4 is the newest edition to Samsung’s environmentally-friendly EcoGreen
desktop hard drive line. Like Western Digital’s popular Caviar Green series,
the EcoGreens employ a rotational speed of only 5400 RPM and large platters
to cut down on cost, noise, vibration, and power consumption. The 2TB F4 has
three massive 667GB disks inside which we hope will give it an acoustic advantage
over its four-platter predecessor. The EcoGreen
F3
was a big disappointment in this regard, with noise levels much higher
than expected.

The Seagate Barracuda XT on the other hand places an emphasis on performance.
An improvement in acoustics and energy efficiency would be welcome over the
previous generation, but these aren’t its main selling points. On paper, the
XT seems suspiciously similar to its ancestor, the Barracuda 7200.12. Both have
500GB platters and the exact same specified average seek time and latency. We
suspect nothing has really changed except for the cache doubling from 32MB to
64MB and the incorporation of the new SATA 6Gbps interface. The latter makes
for great marketing but keep in mind that many mechanical drives cannot even
saturate the 1.5Gbps bus of first generation SATA controllers — for a HDD,
this is window dressing more than anything.

There is also a huge price disparity between the two drives. The 2TB EcoGreen
F4 retails for about the same as the 2TB
Caviar Green
, as low as US$100, the best capacity-to-price ratio on
the market. The 2TB Barracuda XT is twice as expensive at US$200, $30 more than
WD’s fastest consumer 2TB model, the Caviar Black. For that kind of money, it
better deliver a very high level of performance indeed.




EcoGreen F4 on the left, Barracuda XT on the right. Both appear almost
identical to their respective predecessors.

Specifications:
Samsung EcoGreen F4 2TB vs. Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB

Model NumberHD204UIST32000651AS
Capacity2 TB2TB
Cache32 MB64MB
InterfaceSerial ATA 3.0GbpsSerial ATA 6.0Gbps
Rotational speed5400 RPM7200 RPM
Heads / Disks6 / 38 / 4
Average seek time8.9 ms8.5 ms read, 9.5 ms write
Average latency5.52 ms4.16 ms
Weight650 grams700 grams
Power: Idle / Seek5.1 / 5.7 W6.39 / 7.3 W
Acoustics: Idle / Seek2.5~2.6 / 2.8~2.9 bels2.8 / 3.2 bels

TESTING

Our samples were tested according to our standard
hard drive testing methodology
. As of mid-2008, we have been conducting
most acoustics tests in our
own 10~11 dBA anechoic chamber
, which results in more accurate, lower SPL
readings than before, especially with <20 dBA@1m SPL. 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:

Performance Test System:

Performance Test Tools:

Benchmark Details

  • COD5: Load time for "Downfall" level.
  • Far Cry 2: Load time for initial screen plus one level.
  • NOD32: Virus scan of 32 files/archives of varying size.
  • ExactFile: Creating a MD5 check file of our entire test suite folder.
  • TrueCrypt: Creating a 8GB encrypted file container.
  • 3DMark06: Install time, longest interval between prompts.
  • PowerDVD: Install time, longest interval between prompts.
  • Small File Copy: Copy time for 1,278 files ranging from 10KB to 4MB
    in size.
  • Large File Copy: Copy time for 4 files, 2 x 700MB and 2 x 1400MB
    in size.

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.

Ambient conditions at time of testing were 10.5 dBA and 22°C.


Our F4 sample was manufactured in August of 2010.

Seagate’s sample came off the assembly line three months earlier in
May.

PERFORMANCE

Our entire test suite was run start to finish three times on each drive with
a reboot and defragmentation in between runs for each drive except for SSDs
and the Momentus XT (defragmentation resets optimizations made to the XT’s flash
memory). The best times were collected for comparison.

Load time was very low for the Barracuda XT, beaten only by the Kingston SSDNow,
and the Momentus XT, Seagate’s Hybrid laptop drive. Total loading time for all
three tests was shaved by a few seconds compared to the 1TB Barracuda 7200.11.
The EcoGreen F4 came in second last. It was slightly behind its predecessor,
the F3, and the WD Scorpio Blue in total load time, a slightly disappointing
result.

Application performance was even more impressive for the Barracuda XT, taking
the crown in anti-virus scanning using NOD32, and coming in second behind the
SSDNow in ExactFile. Both drives performed extremely well in TrueCrypt, but
the F4’s total time for all three application tests was five seconds slower
than the F3.

When copying files to itself, both drives are pretty fast, particularly with
large files.

Timed installs of PowerDVD and 3DMark06 favored the SSDNow and Barracuda 7200.11.
Both the Barracuda XT and EcoGreen F4 hold their own here, marginally faster
than the rest of the field.

ACOUSTICS, VIBRATION & POWER

Samsung EcoGreen F4 2TB

The previous EcoGreen model, the F3, generated 15~16 dBA when idle and 18~19
dBA in our anechoic chamber at one meter’s distance. Its overall noise level
was disappointingly closer to that of a 7200 RPM drive. The F4 seems to have
rectified the problem, whether due to an improved casing or simply the reduction
in platters, the end result places it in good company.



The rotation of the platters causes a low frequency spike between 80
and 100 Hz, suggesting that the EcoGreen F4 spins at close to 5400 RPM.

Our F4 sample was very quiet, emitting only 13 dBA when idle and up to 15 dBA
when seeking measured from one meter away. This is about on par with recent
drives from Western Digital’s Caviar Green series. The acoustics were very smooth
when idle and seek activity was barely audible in the form of soft thumping.
We have usually tested Samsung drives with AAM enabled as well, but that feature
is now apparently locked.

2TB DRIVE COMPARISON
HDD
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics
(dBA@1m)

Measured
Power

WD Caviar Green
2TB WD20EADS

February 2009
firmware 01.00A01
7
Idle
13
6.4 W (4.0W heads unloaded)
Seek (AAM)
6.5 W
Seek
13~14
6.5 W
Samsung EcoGreen F4 2TB
HD204UI
August 2010
firmware 1AQ10001
7
Idle
13
4.0 W
Seek
15
5.6 W
Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB ST32000542AS
June 2009
firmware CC32
6
Idle
14
4.7W
Seek
17
7.9W
Samsung EcoGreen F3
2TB HD203WI
May 2010
firmware 1AN10003
7
Idle
15~16
4.7 W
Seek (AAM)
17~18
6.1W
Seek
18~19
6.9 W

The shedding of the fourth platter did little to alter the level of vibration
produced by newest EcoGreen, but it did give it a distinct power advantage.
We’re pleased to report it has the lowest power consumption of any high capacity
(1TB or greater) drive we’ve tested. In idle it consumes only 4.0 W, the same
amount as the WD Green 2TB with its heads unloaded. The F4 seems to be the just
the ticket for users who want quiet, high efficiency drives but are paranoid
about the frequent head-parking endemic to the Caviar Greens.

Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB



The Barracuda XT is fairly loud by desktop drive standards. At one
meter’s distance it measured 17 dBA idle and 18~19 dBA when seeking.

Being a high performance 7200 RPM drive, the Barracuda XT is much louder all
around. Our drives (we received two from Seagate) had similar acoustics, measuring
17 dBA when idle and 18~19 dBA when seeking at one meter’s distance, more or
less comparable to the old 7200.11 series. However neither sample produced any
whine or significant tonality, just a clearly audible but soft benign hissing
when idle. It was much worse during seek activity when they emitted sharp, pronounced
clicking noises.

COMPARABLE DRIVES
HDD
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics
(dBA@1m)

Measured
Power

Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB ST32000651AS
May 2010
firmware CC13
7/8
Idle
17
7.0 W
Seek
18~19
7.9 W
Seagate Barracuda 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
25
11.0 W

While the XT isn’t any quieter than previous models 7200 RPM Barracudas, the
level of vibration has been cut down a great deal. One of the samples scored
a 7 on our subjective vibration scale, while the other scored an impressive
8. For comparison, we recently received shipment of six WD Caviar Green drives
with similar results — half of them were 7 while the other half were 8.

Power consumption has also been dialed down, 7W when idle and about 8W during
seek, very low for a 7200 RPM four-platter drive.

DRIVE COMPARISON TABLE

Drive
Mfg date
firmware version
Vibration
1-10
(10 = no vibration)
Activity State

Airborne Acoustics
(dBA@1m)

Measured
Power

5,400 ~ 5,900 RPM DESKTOP DRIVES
Samsung EcoGreen F2 500GB HD502HI
February 2009
firmware 1AG01114
8
Idle
12
3.2 W
Seek (AAM)
15
5.3 W
Seek
16
6.1 W
Seagate Pipeline HD .2 1TB ST31000424CS
April 2009
firmware SC13
7
Idle
12
4.3 W
Seek
16
7.3 W
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 Pipeline HD .2 500GB ST3500414CS
March 2009
firmware SC13
8
Idle
13
2.7 W
Seek
14
6.7 W
WD Caviar Green
2TB WD20EADS

February 2009
firmware 01.00A01
7
Idle
13
6.4 W (4.0W heads unloaded)
Seek (AAM)
6.5 W
Seek
13~14
6.5 W
Samsung EcoGreen F4 2TB HD204UI
August 2010
firmware 1AQ10001
7
Idle
13
4.0 W
Seek
15
5.6 W
Seagate Pipeline HD
500GB ST3500321CS

July 2008
firmware SC14
6
Idle
14
4.1 W
Seek
15
6.9 W
Seagate Barracuda LP 2TB ST32000542AS
June 2009
firmware CC32
6
Idle
14
4.7W
Seek
17
7.9W
Samsung EcoGreen F3
2TB HD203WI
May 2010
firmware 1AN10003
7
Idle
15~16
4.7 W
Seek (AAM)
17~18
6.1W
Seek
18~19
6.9 W
7,200 RPM DESKTOP DRIVES
Seagate Pipeline HD Pro
1TB ST31000533CS

September 2008
firmware SC15
4
Idle
15
7.1 W
Seek
16
10.1 W
Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB ST32000651AS
May 2010
firmware CC13
7~8
Idle
17
7.0 W
Seek
18~19
7.9 W
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11
1.5TB ST31500341AS

October 2008
firmware SD17
4
Idle
17
8.8 W
Seek
19
10.7 W
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 500GB ST3500418AS
September 2009
firmware CC37
8
Idle [muffled]
18
[16]
4.7 W
Seek [muffled]
19~20
[18]
7.9W
WD Caviar Black
1TB WD1001FALS

July 2008
firmware 05.00K05
4
Idle
21
8.5 W
Seek (AAM)
10.9 W
Seek
25
11.0 W
10,000 RPM DESKTOP DRIVES
WD VelociRaptor 300GB WD3000GLFS
May 2008
firmware 03.03V01
8
(w/o frame)
Idle
15
8.2 W
Seek (AAM)
20
12.2 W
Seek
22
12.2 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.

These 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 recordings start with 5 to 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.

Comparatives:

CONCLUSIONS

Samsung EcoGreen F4 2TB

The newest EcoGreen is a huge improvement noise-wise over the
disappointing F3. Measuring only 13 dBA and 15 dBA at one meter when idle and
seeking, respectively, the acoustics of the 2TB F4 at last brings EcoGreen parity
with Caviar Green. When it comes to power consumption, the 2TB F4 is actually
superior to the 2TB Green, using almost 1W less when seeking, and it idles using
the same amount of energy as the WD with its heads parked. (It should be noted
however that the 2TB WD Green we are comparing it to is an older 4-platter model.
Newer WD GP revisions have been shipping recently with three 667GB platters,
which probably brings power down. We’ll be checking on this soon.)

From a performance standpoint, like most "green" models,
the F4 is relatively slow compared to 7200 RPM drives. Boot and loading times
are a step behind, and when copying small files it can only beat 2.5" variants.
Copying large files is the one area in which it excels, its one saving grace.
We wouldn’t employ it as a boot drive to hold an operating system and applications
for daily use, but it is almost perfect for media storage. Retailing for between
US$100 and US$110, it is also extremely affordable.

Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB

The latest member of the iconic Seagate Barracuda family is not
a very quiet drive, but its acoustic character is adequate in quality. It will
be clearly audible in most systems, but it sounds quite soft and isn’t irritating
except when seeking. Its overall noise level is about the same as the Barracuda
7200.11/7200.12, but Seagate did make huge strives in bringing down the level
of vibration. In this regard, it is comparable to 5400 RPM models from Samsung
and WD — this can make a huge difference in real world acoustics, especially
in cases with mechanically poor drive cages and/or if multiple drives are present.
Power consumption has also been reduced significantly.

Of course the main advantage of a 7200 RPM drive is speed, and
the XT definitely has that. It performed very well in our test suite, beaten
only by a SSD in application and file copy performance, and coming in third
behind a SSD and Seagate’s hybrid Momentus
XT
in boot and loading times. However, it wasn’t that much faster than
a 1TB Barracuda 7200.11, so its US$200 price-tag seems inflated, perhaps
due to its SATA 6Gbps controller. Unless you require high capacity for applications
and games, you would probably be better off with a budget SSD coupled with a
large 5400 RPM HDD; such a combination can be purchased for a comparable amount.

Many thanks to Seagate
and Samsung respectively for the
EcoGreen F4 2TB and Barracuda XT 2TB samples.

* * *

SPCR Articles of Related Interest:

Seagate Momentus XT: The Best
of Both Worlds?

Samsung
2TB EcoGreen F3 Hard Drive

Western
Digital Green 1.5TB vs. Seagate 7200.12 500GB

More
500GB notebook drives: Seagate 7200.4 & Hitachi 5K500.B

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

Samsung F2 EcoGreen
HD502HI: Silent 500GB 3.5" HDD

* * *

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