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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  • 8steve8 - Sunday, July 15, 2007 - link

    ive had 2 of these drives for 8 months now,, so the review seems late.

    obviously the new samsung 1TB 3platter drives are immensly interesting.

    the specs and samsungs history in this market makes it seem to be the drive to have in the next 12 months.

  • natebsi - Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - link

    I've purchased 3 of these drives, and 2 have failed in about 4 months time. One was in my pc, the other was in an external enclosure. (The one still working is in my HTPC).
    2 out of 3 failures in such a short time is pretty bad.

    However... the reason I won't be buying any more Samsung drives is not because they failed, but because they don't have an advance replacement program. That was fairly shocking to me! I took it for granted after sending it failed drives to Maxtor and WD (both of whom have outstanding service when it comes to that, BTW).

    Hard drive failures are a given, and I can't deal with that. A drive failure is too critical a problem to wait for a replacement more than a couple days. In my opinion anyway...
  • Final Hamlet - Thursday, July 12, 2007 - link

    Backup + cooling = No need to worry.

    I remember having a 20gb Western Digital Caviar, which did me the favour of giving me a special sign that it had come near the end of it's life, so I could replace it in time. If only all HDs could issue that kind of warning...
  • TA152H - Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - link

    Oh boy. Useful to know this. I guess I will wait to buy them.

    You're a lot more forgiving than I am. I really hate hard drive failures, because they take so long to recover from. It's the worst type of failure in my opinion. And also, because I'm stupid and go a few days without doing a proper backup sometimes. So, for hard disks, I value reliability more than any other part (except maybe the power supply, which tends to screw up a lot of things further down the food chain).

    The replacement policy shows that Samsung doesn't quite get it. They don't seem to understand how important reliability is, or how important it is to get someone up and running again as quickly as possible. I always carry a spare or two if it's for a RAID array, but Samsung is selling these to residential people too, and no one likes being without their computer, and they aren't going to keep spare hard disks.
  • natebsi - Thursday, July 12, 2007 - link

    It's not that I'm forgiving, its more that I've excepted the fact(or at least high probability) that any hard drive I buy today, from any manufacturer, will fail. Maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, maybe 5 years from now.
    So as a consequence, I am extremely diligent about backing up my data. I use both RAID and a backup service from for the most important data.
    Also, I hear a lot of talk about how "Maxtor sucks!" or "Seagate sucks" or "<insert manufactuer> sucks!". The simple fact of the matter is: Without factual data from the hard drive makers themselves, there will NEVER be any method of determining which hard drive manufacturers are the most reliable. And none of them will ever produce that data for obvious reasons.
    Case in point: I've had more hard drives than I can even remember in the last 15+ years, and I truly can't think of "the best manufacturer". Every time I've thought I had a great series of drives, I had failures at some point that made me rethink it. So...... backup, backup, backup, and go with the company that provides the best warranty, service, etc. Which, IMHO, ain't Samsung.
  • TA152H - Thursday, July 12, 2007 - link

    Well, you have some factual data from Seagate, look at their warranty.

    Hard drives can fail, but I have had none from Seagate fail, and this included drives over 5 years old, actually, some over 10. And this goes back to the ST-255 and ST-251, although you'd have to low level them every few years because they were steppers. Crashtors I never bought, but they were so widely recognized as bad, it was way past anecdotal. IBM's drive problems were also not anecdotal, they were widely publicized and even recognized by IBM. Western Digital's were similar, although I don't remember exactly what Western Digital did to fix it. I had bought two of their drives around that time, and both died as well. So, it's not just people blabbing, some of it is very clearly bigger than that. I have never seen Seagate get into that situation, and they sell a lot of drives.

    I actually did have a Seagate fail, but it was some 10K monster made in the 1990s, and it was left in a garage for about three years. I can't really blame it for that, it probably got stepped on and kicked and slept on by a raccoon. But, it worked before it's garage experience. Having used well over 200 Seagate hard drives over the years, just my own, not for a company, that's not a bad success rate, especially since the ones in my main machines I don't change often. The one on this machine is from 2001, and doesn't make a sound and is on 24/7. Try that with a Samsung.

    I do agree, back up early and often. I forget to sometimes though, I wish I didn't, but I do. You really have no control over it, it can happen any time, so the only way to address that truly is to make sure the impact of it happening is limited. But, I'm a moron, I don't do it as often as I should, and I just don't seem to be able to get into the habit of it.
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - link

    I am not too impressed with the Hybrid drives and Vista right now. ;) We will have that review up next week.
  • crimson117 - Monday, July 9, 2007 - link

    How do I read the full blurb? On the main page, I see

    "Our first look at Samsung's latest SpinPoint T166 drive reveals a quick and affordable drive... oh yeah, did we.."

    but I can't find anywhere that shows the remainder of the text. It's not anywhere in the article.
  • crimson117 - Monday, July 9, 2007 - link

    I found the whole blurb when I do a search for the article.
  • Frumious1 - Monday, July 9, 2007 - link

    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?

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