Today we bring a comparison between three mainstream 160 hard disk drives: Maxtor STM2160215AS, Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 160 GB and Samsung HD161HJ. Which one is the fastest 160 GB hard disk drive? Read on!

We decided to benchmark 160 GB models because this is still the standard for low-end and mainstream PCs. You can still find some 80 GB and 120 GB models on the market, but they seem to be vanishing fast. Also, whoever decides to buy a new hard drive to his (or her) computer doubtfully will buy a unit below 160 GB, since the price difference between a 160 GB and a unit below that is too small. Of course there is the option of buying a 250 GB or bigger model, but on this review we decided to focus on the low-cost market, leaving models with higher capacity for a future round-up (you can count on it!).

We compared Maxtor STM3160215AS, Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 160 GB and Samsung HD161HJ. Even though they come from different parts of the world (the first was made in China, the second on Thailand and the third on South Korea), they can be found on the same price range, USD 50.In the table below we summarized the main features of the three reviewed hard disk drives.

Manufacturer Model Nominal Cap. Real Cap. Rot. Speed Buffer Interface Origin
Maxtor STM3160215AS 160 GB 149 GB 7.200 rpm 2 MB SATA-300 China
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 160 GB 160 GB 149 GB 7.200 rpm 2 MB SATA-300 Thailand
Samsung HD161HJ 160 GB 149 GB 7.200 rpm 8 MB SATA-300 South Korea

It is always important to remember that the nominal capacity of a hard drive (160 GB in our case) isn’t the real capacity of the unit. This occurs because the hard drive manufacturers define 1 GB as being 1 billion of bytes (10^9) while in reality 1 GB represents 2^30 bytes or 1,073,741,824 bytes. All reviewed drives are in fact 149 GB units. If you are interested in this subject please read our Hard Disk Drives Capacity Limits tutorial.

All drives have similar features, except that the first two have a 2 MB buffer (cache), while the third has 8 MB cache. But will this cache four times bigger play an important role in performance? That is what we are going to analyze in this review.

160 GB HDs RoundupFigure 1: The three reviewed models

160 GB HDs RoundupFigure 2: Maxtor STM3160215AS

 160 GB HDs RoundupFigure 3: Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 160 GB

 160 GB HDs RoundupFigure 4: Samsung HD161HJ

But wait… Pay attention on the above pictures. Don’t you have a déjà vu feeling by comparing Maxtor’s and Seagate’s models? Well, they ARE the same hard disk drive. On the Seagate drive you can see, right below its serial number, its model number, ST3160215AS, the same number present on Maxtor’s. This isn’t a coincidence: Seagate bought Maxtor more than two years ago but kept both brands on the market. They, however, aren’t identical. In Figure 5, you can see their logical boards and, even though they look like the same the routing of the wires on the PCB are different. But is the performance the same? Check it out in the next pages.

 160 GB HDs RoundupFigure 5: The other side from the reviewed hard disk drives


Rafael Otto Coelho is a physicist, a PhD student, and is a college professor in Brazil.