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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

SandForce SF-1200 SSD Controller

The SandForce SF-1200 SATA-3GBps controller is new to the industry, but many manufacturers are already hailing it as the replacement for Indilinx's industry-leading Barefoot processor. Both are second-generation SATA products limited to 3.0 GB/s transfer speeds, and both offer similar specifications. SandForce adds DuraClass technology to their SF-1200 processor, which claims to provide best-in-class endurance, performance, and lower power consumption. DuraWrite technology extends the endurance of MLC-NAND memory by providing at least five year lifecycles measured with 3000-5000 cycle MLC flash. Additionally, SandForce RAISE technology provides RAID-like protection for single SSD computer systems, and data is secured with AES-128 automatic encryption.

SandForce hit the 2010 SSD industry with full force, much the same way that Indilinx did back in 2009, and now controls retail consumer market share. Finished-goods companies can utilize the SandForce SF1200 processor in their own product line, which then receives a "SandForce Driven" badge. The SandForce SF-1222 processor is presently utilized in at least two-dozen products on the solid state drive market.

SandForce_SF-1200_SSD_Processor_Top.jpg

From the view above the printed circuit board (PCB), it doesn't look like there's anything dramatically innovative on the SandForce Solid State Drive. Eight flash NAND modules make a horseshoe around the SandForce SF-1200 SSD processor, and plenty of electronics fill in the remaining space atop the printed circuit board. But once the SandForce SSD board is turned to expose the underside, the difference is obvious: SandForce has used their DuraClass technology to remove the DRAM buffer.

SandForce_SF-1200_SSD_Processor_Bottom.jpg

The 2nd-generation SATA-3.0GBps SandForce SF-1222TA3-SBH processor is part of their SF-1200 family of SSD controller chips, and SSDs will utilize either the SF-1200 processor for retail consumers or SF-1500 for enterprise devices. All SandForce SSD controllers offer native TRIM support in Microsoft Windows-7, Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with 32 command slots, and Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) command set. While not directly important to transfer speeds or operational performance, SandForce utilizes a Tensilica Diamond Core DC-570T CPU inside the SF-1200 processor.

SandForce_SF-1222TA3-SBH_Processor.jpg

Another benefit of SandForce's SF-1200 architecture is that the SSD keeps all information on the NAND grid and removes the need for a separate cache buffer DRAM module. The result is a faster transaction, albeit at the expense of total storage capacity. SandForce SSDs utilize over-provisioning technology, which allocates a portion of NAND for data storage and the remainder reserved for transaction and cache buffer space. SandForce has also marketed custom firmware to the finished-goods companies that sell their SSDs, which remove performance restrictions.

The SF-1200 SSD processor provides ECC data protection and includes SandForce's unique RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology. RAISE provides the protection and reliability of RAID on a single SSD drive, thanks to flash architecture, without the significant write overhead of parity. The SandForce DuraClass technology automatically stores data in AES-128 encrypted format, preventing data extraction directly from the physical flash memory modules.

Micron-Intel_DRAM_29F64G08CAMDB.jpg

Sixteen multi-layer cell Intel 29F64G08CAMDB flash NAND modules are joined to the SandForce SF-1200 controller. On professional-level 28% over-provisioned SandForce SSDs, these NAND modules may combine for 128GB of physical storage space yet only 100GB of this capacity is designated for data. Consumer-level SandForce SSDs receive 7% over-provisioning and 128GB devices will yield 120GB of usable storage space.

Because the SandForce SF-1200 SSD processor inside many SSDs is a non-exclusive component available market-wide, Benchmark Reviews expects to see many new solid state storage products using this controller in the near future. Please continue on for details and performance results for this Solid State Drive...



 

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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