Zalman SSD-F1 Series 240GB £349.99
24th Jan 2012 | 11:40
A 2.5-inch SATA III Solid State Drive (SSD) quoting reads up to 560MB/s
No you haven't woken up in a strange parallel universe where everybody's making everybody else's products. And yes, the Zalman SSD-F1 Series 240GB is made by the same Zalman that makes all those fancy-looking CPU coolers, among other things.
In fact this actually isn't Zalman's first go at a solid state drive (SSD) range - it had two drive ranges out previously, the Zalman N series using a first generation SandForce controller and the S series using a JMicron chip.
Now it has a new family of 2.5-inch SSDs - the F1 Series - to enable it to play with the big boys without sand being kicked in its face. This new drive uses the SandForce SF2281 controller and SATA 6Gb/s interface, and should make for some interesting comparisons with drives that have been around since the launch of the latest range of SandForce controllers.
This 240GB drive is the current flagship of the range, quoting IOPS (4K random) read and write speeds of 45,000, sequential reads of up to 560MB/s and sequential writes of up to 530MB/s. There are also 60GB and 120GB capacities available, both with quoted IOPS (4K random) read/writes of 30,000.
To test SSDs in as close to a real life scenario as possible, the drive was installed as a boot drive and a full operating system was installed and motherboard drivers loaded. We tested in this state, then filled it up with data, then deleted it, running through this cycle a few times before testing the drive again to see if there was much difference in the results after subjecting the drive to this usage cycle.
Sequential read/write performance (compressible data)
Sequential read/write performance (incompressible data)
4K random read/write performance
With everyone and their dog seemingly using the second generation of SandForce controllers as a basis for an SSD or three, there is always a tendency to yawn a little and offer a terse "go on then, show us what you've got."
Well, in the case of the Zalman SSD-F1 Series 240GB, that happens to be quite a lot. The drive is blessed with stunning performance and is more than a match for some of its SandForce competition.
While distracting the outside world with pretty-looking and highly efficient coolers, some people deep inside Korea were keeping a watchful eye on what was happening with the SSD market and biding their time before launching this second generation drive.
It appears that Zalman has taken full advantage of this time by the way the drive can keep up with the OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS in our benchmarks.
And it also shows it has access to the latest firmware tweaks that were applied to the MAX IOPS, despite the Zalman SSD-F1 Series 240GB drive using the Intel's 25nm MLC flash memory of the original Vertex 3, not the 32nm Toggle NAND that the MAX IOPS version uses.
Benchmark figures are all well and good, but what about in the real world, what does the F1 240GB drive bring to the table?
Well, installing Windows 7 from scratch took a mere 16 minutes from start to the password entry screen, while the operating system itself takes just 36 seconds from a cold boot to be ready for use. Loading a full copy of Windows Office 2010 Pro took a very rapid 4 minutes 41 seconds.
The Zalman SSD-F1 Series 240GB is a real shot from left field; no one really saw it coming, but performance-wise it really is hard to fault. It's not that badly priced either. Yes it's a bit more expensive than some of the competition but, perhaps more importantly, it's cheaper than the Vertex 3 MAX IOPS, which it practically matches for performance.
Having to download the migration software that comes in the shape of Acronis True Image HD is a bit of a pain, and there's no real excuse for it not being part of the box bundle. But no doubt Zalman would say it's to keep the cost down. But hey, that's a teeny logistical issue, not an actual SSD problem.
From nowhere to be among the leaders of the pack of SSDs is an impressive achievement from Zalman, to say the least.