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Even though Seagate’s behemoth 750GB Barracuda is getting all the love from the media these days, most people can’t afford a drive that spacious. The sweet spot is still at 300-400GB drives, but even those prices fluctuate. Enter the SpinPoint HD400LJ—a drive that offers both ample room and extreme affordability.
Although it sports a measly (by today’s standards) 8MB buffer, the 400GB SpinPoint ran amazingly fast in our sequential read speed test, besting nearly every 7,200rpm drive we’ve ever tested. Its read speed of 61MB/s outpaces even the mighty WD4000KD, running neck-and-neck with that drive’s big brother, the WD5000KS. The SpinPoint is not as fast as the 750GB Seagate Barracuda, but that’s not surprising— nothing is as fast as the big, bad ‘Cuda.
Aside from its stellar performance in the sequential read test, however, the SpinPoint delivered lackluster results in the rest of our benchmark suite. Its seek time of 15.4ms is surprisingly offspec, and this helped it limp to a substandard score of 26.4 in our application index. The drive also scored poorly in our IOmeter test, but performed decently in realworld file-transfer tests.
Yes, the SpinPoint’s performance falls short of first place, but it’s not a terrible drive—and it has a few noteworthy things going for it. First, you have to consider this drive's $150 price tag. Can you believe it? We searched our favorite price comparison engines, and couldn’t find a less expensive 7,200rpm 400GB drive, anywhere. It’s also one of the quietest drives we’ve ever tested. Even during seeks it’s barely audible, and it makes no noise at all while idling.
In the final tally, the SpinPoint drive is a compromise. It delivers respectable performance and decent capacity, but it’s no match for today’s high-end 7,200rpm drives. While we’d never choose this drive over a faster performer, it’s great for folks on a budget. We just wonder what Samsung could do if it paired this drive with a 16MB buffer.
Month Reviewed: October 2006