|Zalman N-Series Sandforce SSD SSD0128N1|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 10 February 2011|
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Zalman N-Series Solid State Drive Review
Zalman is best known for their very quiet coolers, stylish computer cases, and power supply units. Now they're adding high-speed storage devices to their product stack, begining with a SandForce-driven Zalman N-Series SSD. The Zalman N-Series solid state drive is capable of 50,000 IOPS, with read bandwidth topping 280 MB/s while maximum write speeds reach up to 270 MB/s. In this article, Benchmark Reviews demonstrates that 4K IOPS performance is more important than speed for high-power computer users tests, and tests the 128GB Zalman SSD0128N1 SSD against some of the most popular storage devices available.
SandForce-driven SSDs continue to be the hot ticket for solid state technology into 2011, offering outstanding bandwidth speed and operational performance at an affordable price. SandForce RAISE technology provides redundant protection for single SSD computer systems, while data is automatically secured with AES-128 encryption. SandForce's SF-1200 storage controller has already found its way into many of the fastest SSDs available, paving the way for Zalman to utilizes the SandForce SF-1222TA3-SBH processor in their N-Series MLC SSD's.
Over the past two years, Solid State Drive storage devices have become the a must-have item for high-performance computer enthusiasts. Impartial towards either PC, Linux, or Apple platforms, SSDs have the power to transform slow computers into blazing-fast speed machines. The SandForce SF-1200 has quickly become the de facto SSD controller for companies seeking recognition, and for good reason. The Zalman N-Series embraces the SandForce SF-1222TA3-SBH processor, and according to Zalman it can produce up to 50,000 IOPS with only 7% over-provisioning to generate maximum performance with optimal capacity.
Just when PCs were starting to seem irrelevant in this fast-paced world of mobile gadgets and smart phones, along comes a new product that changes the entire landscape. SSDs, or more formally Solid State Drives, have finally lifted computers beyond the age of spinning metal magnetic platters. Delivering a boost in speed that no memory upgrade or new processor could ever dream of, solid state drive technology has sent hard disk drives packing. Zalman, an enthusiast cooling, case, and power supply company, further commits to their passion for high-speed storage and delivers the N-Series solid state drive. Based on the SandForce SF1200 controller, the Zalman N-Series SSD delivers up to 280 MB/s read bandwidth and 270 MB/s write speeds. Best of all, the Zalman N-Series comes with a three-year warranty to protect the consumer whenever trouble might occur.
For decades, the slowest component in any computer system was the hard drive. Most modern processors operate within approximately 1-ns (nanosecond = one billionth of one second) response time, while system memory responds between 30-90 ns. Traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) technology utilizes magnetic spinning media, and even the fastest spinning desktop storage products exhibit a 9,000,000 ns - or 9 ms (millisecond = one thousandth of one second) initial response time. In more relevant terms, The processor receives the command and waits for system memory to fetch related data from the storage drive. This is why any computer system is only as fast as the slowest component in the data chain; which is usually the hard drive.
The theoretical goal for achieving optimal performance is for system memory to operate as quickly as the central processor, and the storage drive to operate as fast as memory. With present technology this is an impossible task, so enthusiasts try to close the speed gaps between components as much as possible. Although system memory is up to 90x (9000%) slower than most processors, just consider that the hard drive is an added 1000x (100,000%) slower than that same memory. Essentially, these three components are as different in speed as walking is to driving and flying.
Solid State Drive technology bridges the largest gap. The difference a SSD makes to operational reaction times and program speeds is dramatic, and takes the storage drive from a slow 'walking' speed to a much faster 'driving' speed. Solid State Drive technology improves initial response times by more than 450x (45,000%) for applications and Operating System software, when compared to their HDD counterparts. The biggest mistake PC hardware enthusiast make with regard to SSD technology is grading them based on bandwidth speed. File transfer speeds are important, but only so long as the operational IOPS performance can sustain that bandwidth under load.
Manufacturer: Zalman Tech Co Ltd
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by Zalman.
Bandwidth Speed vs Operational Performance
As we've explained in our SSD Benchmark Tests: SATA IDE vs AHCI Mode guide, Solid State Drive performance revolves around two dynamics: bandwidth speed (MB/s) and operational performance (IOPS). These two metrics work together, but one is more important than the other. Consider this analogy: bandwidth determines how much cargo a ship can transport in one voyage, and operational IOPS performance is how fast the ship moves. By understanding this and applying it to SSD storage, there is a clear importance set on each variable depending on the task at hand.
For casual users, especially those with laptop or desktop computers that have been upgraded to use an SSD, the naturally quick response time is enough to automatically improve the user experience. Bandwidth speed is important, but only to the extent that operational performance meets the minimum needs of the system. If an SSD has a very high bandwidth speed but a low operational performance, it will take longer to load applications and boot the computer into Windows than if the SSD offered a higher IOPS performance.