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Closer Look at Zalman F1 SSD0120F1 (120GB)

Besides the F1 series, Zalman's other SSDs are not high-performance products. They are equipped with SATA 3 Gbit/s interface and feature slower controllers from JMicron and Phison. The F1 series, on the contrary, includes fast and modern SSDs based on the second-generation SandForce platform. As opposed to many other makers, Zalman doesn't provide too many models within it. The F1 series is comprised of only three products with storage capacities of 60, 120 and 240 gigabytes. We’ve got the midrange model for our tests.

The Zalman F1 series comes in a small cardboard box of sober design. The series name seems to refer to Formula 1 racing but we don't see such motifs in the product packaging. Moreover, the series is referred to as just F rather than F1, so we can expect Zalman to produce F2, F3 and other such SSD series in the future.

 

The product specs you can read from the front panel of the box are just what you can expect from a SandForce-based SSD. We can only note that the peak read and write speeds are very high: 560 and 530 MB/s, respectively. That’s very boastful as even OCZ’s Vertex 3 has lower performance specs. It’s either Zalman knows some technological secret or Zalman’s marketing department has no shame. Our tests will show.

Besides the SSD, the box contains a user manual from which you can learn that the manufacturer offers you to download Acronis True Image HD for free. The utility’s serial number is on the sticker attached to the SSD.

There is nothing extraordinary about the SSD’s design. It’s a black metallic brick of the 2.5-inch form factor that lacks any originality. Its appearance is somewhat enlivened by the black glossy sticker with specs, part number and a large fuchsia-colored F series logo.

Well, SSDs are not bought for their looks. It’s far more important what’s inside that black box.

The PCB we found inside our 120-gigabyte Zalman F1 carries a standard second-generation SandForce SF-2281 controller and 16 chips of NAND flash memory manufactured by Intel. Labeled 29F64G08ACME3, such memory chips were also installed in our sample of Corsair’s Force GT 120GB. Thus, the Zalman F1 is a typical SandForce-based SSD with 25nm synchronous MLC flash memory with ONFI 2.2 interface. It uses 2-way interleaving, just like other 120GB SSDs.

Looking at the hardware components, it is difficult to see why the Zalman F1 should be faster than other 120GB SandForce-based SSDs with synchronous flash. It seems to be no different from other products of its class such as the Corsair Force Series GT, Kingston HyperX, OCZ Vertex 3 and ADATA S511.

There is a possibility that Zalman introduced some substantial changes into the firmware, yet we doubt it. The more tests of SSDs with the SF-2281 controller we carry out, the more proof we have that their performance is only influenced by the type of NAND flash employed. Moreover, the Zalman F1’s firmware seems to be similar to the reference SandForce 3.3.2 firmware and even has the same version number.

Anyway, the increased read and write speeds are written into the official Zalman F1 120GB specs:

  • Controller: SandForce SF-2281
  • Interface: SATA 6 Gbit/s
  • Flash memory: synchronous 25 nm NAND
  • Capacity: 120 gigabytes
  • Cache memory: none
  • Sequential read speed: 560 MB/s
  • Sequential write speed: 530 MB/s
  • Random write speed (in 4 KB data blocks): no data.

Like many respectable SSD makers, Zalman provides a 3-year warranty for its products.

 
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