Samsung SP1604N Hard Disk Drive Review
By Gabriel Torres on May 12, 2005


Hardware Secrets Golden Award

Samsung's SP1604N is a 160 GB ATA/133 hard drive, with a 2 MB buffer and rotating at 7,200 rpm, being part of Spinpoint P80 series. In this series you will also find models with 60 GB, 80 GB and 120 GB capacities, both ATA/133 and Serial ATA interfaces. Also, there is a version of the reviewed SP1604N with 8 MB buffer, called SP1614N, which should achieve a better performance.

Samsung SP1604N
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Figure 1: Samsung SP1604N, 160 GB, ATA/133 and 7,200 rpm hard disk drive.

Samsung SP1604N
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Figure 2: Other side of Samsung SP1604N hard disk drive.

This hard disk drive is controlled by Marvell 88i6522 chip, while its 2 MB buffer is done by ESMT M12L16161A-5T memory chip. The other chip that you see in Figure 3 is an ATMEL AT49F1024 flash memory, used to store the drive's firmware.

Samsung SP1604N
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Figure 3: Detail of the controller chip (Marvell) and of the SDRAM memory used as buffer (ESMT).

The real capacity of this hard drive is of 149.05 GB, since all manufacturers assume that 1 GB is 1 billion bytes, while 1 GB is in fact 1,073,741,824 bytes (2^30).

A very important detail is that your system may not recognize the drive's full capacity, since several computers aren't updated to recognize hard drives above 127 GB, which is the BIOS limit. There are several options if your computer doesn't recognize the drive's full capacity, like upgrading your motherboard BIOS or updating Windows by running Big Driver Enabler software (you can also use Samsung's own software, called EnableBigLba).

Main Specs

* Researched on on the day this review was published.

How We Tested

On our benchmarking we used the following configuration.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Benchmarking software used

We adopted a 3% error margin. So, performance differences below 3% cannot be considered meaningful. In other words, products where the performance difference is below 3% must be considered as having similar performance.

Our Tests

The software we use for measuring hard disk drive performance, DiskSpeed32, performs really long tests, since it reads all sectors on the hard disk measuring the achieved transfer rate and plotting a graph.

Normally the hard disk transfer rate varies according to the part of the disk that is being read. The disk transfer rate is higher at the disk's edge, lowering as it approaches its center. This occurs because of the zone bit recording (ZBR): in longer tracks (the ones away from the disk center) there are more sectors and more data is read at each disk spin. because of that, the software used shows three results: maximum transfer rate (obtained on the first disk cylinders, i.e., on the tracks located near the disk edge), minimum transfer rate (obtained on the last disk cylinders, i.e., on the most inner tracks), and average transfer rate, which is the result that we are usually interested in knowing.

Because of this effect we can also explain the need of hard disk defragging and why professional disk defrag utilities such as Norton Speed Disk allow you to move the operating system files to the beginning of the hard disk. As we explained, data stored on the beginning of the disk are read at a higher transfer rate than data stored in other sectors.

On the graph below you see our benchmarking results (in KB/s) and our analysis.

Samsung SP1604N

In our benchmarking Samsung's SP1604N hard disk drive achieved an excellent performance, obtaining a performance similar to 120 GB SP1203N hard drive also from Samsung. Its  maximum performance was 4.01% greater than Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 160 GB ATA/133, 16.64% greater than Western Digital WD2500 250 GB Serial ATA, 22.25% greater than Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 60 GB ATA/133 and 60.21% greater than Maxtor DiamondMax 16 250 GB ATA/133.

As for its average transfer rate, the reviewed model from Samsung was 4.07% faster than Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 160 GB ATA/133, 9.39% faster than Western Digital WD2500 250 GB Serial ATA, 18.64% faster than Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9 60 GB ATA/133 and 57.63% faster than Maxtor DiamondMax 16 250 GB ATA-133.


This is an excelent hard disk drive, you can buy it with your eyes closed. In our tests it was a little bit faster than it's main competitor, 160 GB DiamondMax Plus 9 from Maxtor. In our oppinion, Samsung's SP1604N is one of the best options on the market if you are looking for a hard disk drive on the 160 GB range.

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