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Written by Olin Coles   
Thursday, 10 February 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Zalman N-Series Sandforce SSD SSD0128N1
Features and Specifications
Closer Look: Zalman N-Series SSD
SandForce SF-1200 SSD Controller
SSD Testing Methodology
AS-SSD Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Tests
Iometer IOPS Performance
EVEREST Disk Benchmark
HDD vs Hybrid Drive vs SSD
Zalman N-Series SSD Conclusion

Zalman N-Series SSD Conclusion

IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.

SandForce SSDs have taken the market by storm, which has helped companies like Zalman to expand their reach into the high-performance storage hardware segment. Not only are these SandForce-driven solid state drives extremely fast, but more importantly they're capable of SLC-level operational performance I/O and NAND durability. The Zalman N-Series builds from the powerful SandForce SF-1222 solid state processor, which brings innovation to the SSD industry by prolonging MLC NAND flash module lifetime and delivering RAID-like data redundancy. When one SandForce product is physically identical to another, the overall value depends on price, warranty, and customer support. If you're price shopping, a quick stroll through our other recent SandForce SF-1200 product reviews will reveal other SSD options.

Our performance rating considers how effective the Zalman N-Series solid state drive performs in operations against direct competitor storage solutions. For reference, SandForce specifies the SF-1200 at 260 MB/s read and write, which Zalman increases to 280 MB/s read and 270 write. The faster read/write speeds doesn't seem to push IOPS performance any lower, which is the tradeoff for some other SandForce SF-1200 based drives. In our benchmark tests, the Zalman N-Series performed at or above this speed, and occasionally surpassed other SSDs of the same SandForce SF-1200 processor. For example, the Zalman N-Series SSD delivered 286/276 MBps peak read and writes speeds using ATTO Disk Benchmark SSD speed tests, matching all of the fastest SandForce SSDs. Everest Disk Benchmark produced 271/257 MB/s, making this the fastest SATA-3GBps MLC SSD Benchmark Reviews has tested to date.

The retail SSD0128N1 kit that Zalman sent us for testing uses firmware capable of 50,000 IOPS, and in our own Iometer operational performance tests at a queue depth of 32 outstanding I/O's per target IOPS performance measured 42,314. In this particular test, the formatted Zalman N-Series SSD trails the chart leader by only 500 IOPS, which could easily be captured by testing with clean (unused) NAND. In the 4K 32QD tests with AS-SSD and CrystalDiskMark, the Zalman N-Series SSD topped our charts and became the new leader. In addition to matching or surpassing competitor products, Zalman's N-Series dominates SSDs lacking SandForce-driven controller technology while delivering impressive bandwidth speed and IOPS performance. With the results we received in our testing, enthusiasts can expect high operational performance and functionality for demanding applications.

Zalman-N-Series-SSD0128N1-Kit.jpg

Solid State Drives are low-visibility products: you see them just long enough to install and then they're forgotten. Like their Hard Disk Drive counterparts, Solid State Drives are meant to place function before fashion. Anything above and beyond a simple metal shell is already more than what's expected in terms of the appearance. Zalman has created a back-to-basics look with the black textured finish and white branding on their N-Series SSDs. As solid state storage controllers become faster and more advanced, heat dissipation through the enclosure walls may demand that chassis designs become more beneficial than they previously needed to be. This isn't the case yet, and a metal chassis suits SandForce SSDs nicely.

Construction is probably the strongest feature credited to any solid state product line, and the Zalman N-Series is no exception. Solid State Drives are by nature immune to most abuses because of their architecture and technology, but the hard metal shell adds a superfluous level of protection. If any Zalman N-Series SSD happens to fail during the 3-year warranty period, end-users may contact Zalman via their company website or by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Unfortunately, a toll-free telephone number for free technical support and customer service questions is not available.

Benchmark Reviews has tested the Zalman N-Series SSD against many of its closest competitors, and if by surprise, it demonstrated some of the best IOPS performance we've seen while also delivering the fastest bandwidth speeds of any SATA-3GB/s SSD. High-performance computer enthusiasts will enjoy the a noteworthy 0.14 ms response time, which assures a nearly-instant reactions when called upon. Based on the SATA-3.0 SandForce SF-1222TA3-SBH processor, the Zalman N-Series SSDs deliver native TRIM garbage collection (in Windows 7) and SMART support with impressive transfer speeds. More importantly, SandForce DuraClass technology adds their proprietary RAISE and DuraWrite features not available to other SSDs, and the end result is a product that could last up to five times longer with less wear on NAND flash modules due to 7% over-provisioning.

In terms of overall value, Zalman has priced their N-Series SSDs to be comparable to other SandForce-driven products of the same capacity. Mail-in rebates are available on most products, but are usually limited-time offers. As of 10 February 2011, Zalman offers two N-Series SSD capacities with an extremely competitive pricing. Newegg sells the following Zalman N-Series solid state drives:

$129.99 64GB SSD0064N1
$239.99 128GB SSD0128N1

The 128GB Zalman N-Series solid state drive managed to push bandwidth speed performance to the highest levels we've recorded for any SATA-3GB/s drive using Everest, and then went on to surpass our best results with AS-SSD and CrystalDiskMark. Zalman has priced their N-Series to give consumers the best possible value, and all drives feature their three-year product warranty. I recommend the Zalman N-Series SSDs for high-performance computer hardware enthusiasts and hardcore power-users, and because the Zalman N-Series offers blazing fast transfer speeds and outstanding operational performance (IOPS) at a fair price it earns our Golden Tachometer Award.

Pros:

+ Delivers excellent IOMeter IOPS performance
+ Outstanding 286/276 MBps read/write speed with ATTO
+ SandForce SF-1200 processor supports TRIM, SMART, and RAISE
+ DuraWrite technology extends NAND lifetime
+ Top-level enthusiast operational I/O performance
+ 3-Year Zalman product warranty support
+ 64 or 128GB high-speed SSD storage capacities
+ AES-128 Automatic encryption and password data protection
+ Lightweight compact storage solution
+ Resistant to extreme shock impact
+ Low power consumption may extend battery life

Cons:

- Not 3rd-Generation SATA-6.0 compliant
- Lacks integrated USB Mini-B data connection
- Some manufacturers offer five-year warranty

Ratings:

  • Performance: 9.75
  • Appearance: 8.75
  • Construction: 9.50
  • Functionality: 9.50
  • Value: 7.50

Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.

Benchmark Reviews invites you to leave constructive feedback below, or ask questions in our Discussion Forum.


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Comments 

 
# SSD is the way to goCom-Tek Chris 2011-02-10 20:57
Although I do not currently own this drive my current drive has the Sandforce controller and man does it smoke! I have 2x 120gig OCZ's in Raid 0 and the performance is stellar.
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# RE: SSD is the way to goWhyNotV2 2011-02-11 03:42
I agree that SSD is the way to go, but as the reviewer stated, it's the price point that's keeping myself and others away from full adoption. I also don't own the drive reviewed I also don't use one in my desktop as I favor the VelociRaptor 740 (running plenty strong since purchased in 2004) with other WD 7200rpm drives for storage and non-essential programs as a secondary drive(s). I do use a 64GB RunCore SSD in my HP netbook (1030nr) running the full version of Windows 7. I love both products, but while the raptor drives exist and the SSD technology is still young, I can't make the leap. As always, I will keep my eye out for price drops, trim/garbage improvements, etc. (thanks benchmarkreviews!!!) in hopes that in the months/years to come the price, stability, performance and longevity of SSDs nears that of the VelociRaptor drives.
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# RE: Zalman N-Series Sandforce SSD SSD0128N1Robert17 2011-02-12 03:03
Good review. Anything in the included documentation as to this being 34nm technology? I've included an article link below that I found interesting. Maybe the technology is reaching some limits to nand production/performance. Maybe we're about to see rapid (or more rapid) competition of the SSD controller development/deployment. That seems to be amongst the better design improvements anyway.

##nordichardware.com/news/86-storage/42306-25nm-nand-forces-ssd-makers-to-limit-storage.html

It also makes me think that hybrid drive development may get a push when thinking of nand, controllers, price, and real world applications. Any word on the street of upcoming changes in the industry?
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# RE: RE: Zalman N-Series Sandforce SSD SSD0128N1Olin Coles 2011-02-12 06:59
Sorry Robert, but the Zalman documentation is VERY scarce on information. I had to write to the manufacturer just to find out what the rated IOPS for this drive was. It is unlikely that this SSD is using 34nm technology, as it's physically the same drive as other SF-1200 SSDs. All that separates most SandForce-driven SSDs is firmware licensing.
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# Crucial?JAMF 2011-02-12 03:31
It would be nice if the Crucial RealSSD drives were tested, to see how they stack up.
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# OopsJAMF 2011-02-12 03:35
Was looking at the Random 4k/QD32 results as I wrote this. I wouldn't have thought it be that far down the list.
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# RE: OopsOlin Coles 2011-02-12 07:00
Glad you found it. While the Crucial RealSSD C300 is very fast, it's not so great at managing the same operational workload as SandForce SSDs.
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# RE: Zalman N-Series Sandforce SSD SSD0128N1aberkae 2011-02-12 08:17
Anyone know when we will see ssds with sanforce 2500 and 2600 controllers?
The C300 fell in price to $450 for 256 gig, and OCZ vertex 2 is usually on sale for 120 gig for $ 150 after MIR @ newegg. The revo x2 is on sale to as well for $ 564.
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# RE: RE: Zalman N-Series Sandforce SSD SSD0128N1Olin Coles 2011-02-12 08:26
March or later. Even then, the new SandForce SSDs are targeted towards enterprise storage.
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# HeightEmilio 2011-05-24 14:22
Hi, can someone tell me the height of this remarkable ssd? Thanks in advance!
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# RE: HeightOlin Coles 2011-05-24 15:52
Measured with calipers for you: 2.75" wide, 0.40" tall, and 3.95" long.
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# RE: HeightEmilio 2011-05-24 17:56
Thank you very much for your fast response, but 2.40 inch tall? Is this correct? That is about 60 milimmeters, I was hoping something between 9,5 and 12 milimeters. Perhaps 2.4 is the tall of the box?
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# RE: RE: HeightOlin Coles 2011-05-24 18:03
Oops, that's supposed to be 0.40" tall. I'll fix it.
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# Thanks!Emilio 2011-05-26 11:45
Thank you!!! Im going to buy this SSD for my hp mini 311, wich uses a 0.37" drive. That is less than 1 mm of difference. Dont think it will be a problem. Thanks again.
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# RE: Thanks!Olin Coles 2011-05-26 13:32
What is the make and model of your current hard drive?
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