Samsung introduced the SpinPoint T166 series last fall after the P120 series had success in the market as a low cost alternative to similar offerings from Seagate, Maxtor, Hitachi, and Western Digital. While the P120 series was certainly a bargain in terms of cost, the drive series did not receive much press coverage nor did Samsung actively promote the product in the same manner you see from their competitors. However, those drives developed almost a cult following from people who perceived them as great price to performance alternatives, not to mention drives that were whisper quiet and easy on the electric bill.

We have always liked the P120 series but our experiences with earlier Samsung storage products usually ended in disappointment either through sub-par performance or reliability issues. It also seemed at times that Samsung was almost embarrassed to admit they were in the storage market as their products consistently lagged behind others in both technology and performance. Over the past two years, we have seen some dramatic changes at Samsung and they are now committed to providing class leading performance in the desktop market at the lowest possible cost.


The SpinPoint T166 series brings Samsung close (if not even) to the other manufacturers in offering performance competitive drives at somewhat discounted prices. We have also seen and experienced an improvement in both reliability and customer support to the point that we think Samsung is on the right track, if not the fast track, to meeting their goals.

From a technology viewpoint, they were first to market this year with Hybrid hard drives that feature 256MB of NAND Flash memory and full support for Vista's new ReadyBoost technology. We will take a look at this interesting meld of technology in the near future but for now they are the leaders in this developing market. Also of note will be Samsung's entry into the Perpendicular Magnetic Recording desktop market with their new F1 series.

The F1 features capacities up to 1TB utilizing a three disk design with 334GB per-platter capacities in a SATA 3Gb/s interface. Hitachi is using 200GB per-platter capacities and later this month we will see Seagate introduce their 250GB per-platter design in the new 7200.11 series. The F1 also features 32MB cache and their NoiseGuard/SilentSeek technologies with the promise to provide whisper-quiet operation and the best thermals in the 1TB range of drives. While we are excited about the specifications, we will hold off on making any judgment calls until we have tested this new drive. After all, making the jump from 167GB per-platter designs to an all new PMR drive with a 33% density improvement over the nearest competitor has its risks.

In our review today of the SpinPoint T166 500GB (HD501LJ), we will see how far Samsung has come in its drive technology, and if it stands above the competition or just merely comes close. Let's now find out how Samsung's newest drive performs against our other 500GB offerings.

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  • Gary Key - Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - link

    quote:

    If you click on the storage header that will take you to a page where you can see all the intro text for those articles - same goes for the other areas, of course. Not like it really matters much, does it?


    It did in this case, we actually put some thought into it this time. LOL....
    Reply
  • JKing76 - Monday, July 9, 2007 - link

    Hey Gary -- mATX roundup? Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - link

    This Friday you will have part one up, finally, and then it will be followed by four or five sections over the next four weeks. We will cover everything from cases to keyboards, HD-DVD or Blu-ray, 8600GT or 2600XT, etc, etc. It turns out not just to be about motherboards this time, but the entire system. ;) Reply
  • TA152H - Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - link

    Gary,

    Have you considered reviewing any of the old IBM type keyboards? They don't make them anymore, or so most people believe, so they sell for a ton of money on eBay. But, there is a place that says they sell the exact type of keyboard, with the real feedback, and click. I haven't tried one, because I don't use a regular keyboard (they don't make the natural style), but since most people still do, you might want to contact these folks and see what they have. That type of feel is so much better, and I'd buy one instead of this Microsoft crap except for the layout. It's hard to go back to a regular keyboard after you get used to a natural one :( .

    Here is the link if you are interested - http://www.pckeyboard.com">http://www.pckeyboard.com .

    I'm guessing they'd be really interested in you reviewing their products, and for people that use normal keyboards, if they are what they say they are, it would be a very useful review. I surely miss those clicky keyboards, I think a lot of people do.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Monday, July 9, 2007 - link

    Gary,

    I have a question for you after reading how much you like this drive. Would you actually use one? I have had nothing but trouble with Samsung drives, and from your opening paragraph you have too. They apparently were junk, and their very low ratings for how long they expect the drive to last don't exactly instill confidence. So, you've got a really high opinion on a drive that could be real junk, since I think most people would favor reliability over just about anything else. Do you know more than you said in this article about reliability? Have you guys been having more success lately with Samsung drives? Samsung normally makes really good products, despite their horrible hard disks of the past, so I'm wondering if I should give them another shot. Now that Seagate bought "Crashtor", their quality is liable to go down for a while.

    One thing that's in their favor is the low heat. Low heat tends to make things more reliable. But then, their own ratings aren't very good. Seagate's don't last only five years. I don't know how long they last, they always outlive their useful lives even if they are used all the time.
    Reply
  • yehuda - Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - link

    Maybe it just me, but I wasn't overly impressed with the Samsung P120 that I bought last year. Back then I was in the market for a quiet drive, and the choice toward Samsung came naturally to me with all the hype that surrounded it. I recall that everywhere I turned I'd hear Samsung drives are the quietest.

    Unfortunately, the one I got (SP2014N with a nidec motor) fell behind my expectations. It had a louder and less pleasant idle noise than the Hitachi 7K80 drive it was meant to replace and also vibrated a lot and had an annoying high-pitched whine. As a point of reference, my ongoing experience with Western Digital WD1600AAJS has been far more positive.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - link

    One of the drives I bought had a terrible whining too. I just threw the thing out. I couldn't stand it and my cat threatened to leave me if I didn't address it. My drives were 5400 RPM, so I didn't have the vibration problems, but that whining was enough to make me scream. And I almost lost my cat over it. Reply
  • goinginstyle - Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - link

    I have two P120s, one is extremely quiet, more so than the WD1600AAJS, the other likes to whistle at times for lack of better words. I picked up one of these T166 500GB drives and have been impressed with it except for the vibration issue that was noted, four rubber grommets later and that was solved. Glad to see a Samsung review finally by the way. :) Reply
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - link

    quote:

    I have a question for you after reading how much you like this drive. Would you actually use one?


    We bought two of these drives (we always buy at least one review sample to compare to the drives provided by the suppliers, which in this case Samsung did not) for the review about three months back. Since that time we have had both drives running practically 24/7 in a variety of cases, most with minimal cooling, without issue. This testing is for our m-ATX roundup as this drive will be our recommendation in a low cost HTPC setup. After the first month without any issues, I personally bought a couple of the drives to use in personal systems, once again no issues to date and this includes my work machine.

    As much as we like the drive, we still cross our fingers and say a couple of prayers when checking on the test systems. The main reason, I had some horrible experiences in the past with Samsung, to the point that it was very difficult to say yes when asked to review their drives as I just expected something to go wrong with them if I ended up saying something positive. ;) So far, they have proved me wrong and from reports from other websites, and people like Eugene at Storage Review, this drive series is a winner to date. This does not mean you might not get a bad drive, it happens, but it appears the DeathStar type failures Samsung has had in the past is gone now. I am still a little apprehensive but so far so good, in fact, we had a couple of Seagates and WD drives fail here lately so nobody is immune.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - link

    Thanks for your response.

    I had similar problems with them, but I was stubborn and kept buying more because I liked Samsung as a company. Also, they made 5400 RPM drives, which is what I was after since I prefered the low power use and less heat to the extra performance. At the time, they were about the only game in town at those sizes, and I had a strong preference for the 5400 RPM. So, I kept trying different models, and they all sucked. Now I just buy the notebook drives and use a small adapter for it. They are expensive though for the capacity, but it does work well.

    I'm going to try them again at some point too, because I think it's a good company overall and they will get things right. Hopefully they already have.
    Reply

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