Gamers are a prime group targeted by SSD manufacturers. Brand loyalty is strong with this group. Many purchase video cards, headphones, keyboards, mice and other peripherals from the same company based on preference and trust in product quality.
Zotac is one of the companies cashing in with an expanding product portfolio. A subsidiary of PC Partner, Zotac went from selling video cards to offering motherboards, small form factor PCs, external storage enclosures and as of late, solid state drives.
The new Premium Edition solid state drives are not the company's first entry into the SSD market. Last June, Zotac released the Zotac Speed in China, a 120 GB SSD with up to 521 MB/s sequential read and 170 MB/s sequential write performance. The drive shipped in only one capacity. The limited performance from just a few interleaved NAND die wouldn't have made this a popular product in more developed nations. SSDs that sell well in China usually have a very low cost. Some companies even sell very low-performing products based on controllers designed for cache use in SSD + HDD configurations as premium solid state drives.
The Zotac Premium Edition SSDs (yes that is the product name) appears to be a global product. Zotac will bring the Phison S10-controlled models to market in 240 GB and 480 GB capacities. The quad-core S10 processor offers a number of exciting features such as end-to-end data path protection, Smart ECC, Smart Refresh, host power fail protection, and dynamic wear leveling. You can read our preview of the Phison S10 for a detailed look at the controller and feature set.
|Density||480 GB||240 GB|
|Controller||Phison S10||Phison S10|
|DRAM||512 MB DDR3||256 MB DDR3|
|Sequential Read||520 MB/s||520 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||500 MB/s||500 MB/s|
|Active Power||4.86 Watts||5 Watts|
|Idle Power||0.62 Watts||0.57 Watts|
|Endurance||480 TBW||214 TBW|
|Warranty||3 Years||3 Years|
Initially, the Phison S10 controller was billed as a premium part that would compete with Samsung's 850 Pro and SanDisk's Extreme PRO. Corsair released the first retail-branded SSD with the controller, the Neutron XT.
I remember Corsair employees excited about the product's performance and potential performance. Early performance tests run with compressible data showed that the S10 could compete with the best from South Korea at the time. Moving over to incompressible data, though, put the S10 performance more in line with mainstream SSDs at the time. Phison promised a future firmware update that would increase sustained random write performance to 10,000 IOPS. A year after release, users have turned blue in the face, passed out, or at the very least grown more gray hair for an update that never came. Now, the Phison S10 has entered the mainstream market with products from Kingston, Mushkin, Patriot Memory, and others -- including the just-announced Zotac Premium Edition.
However, this isn't a product we're very excited about for a couple of reasons. Patriot Memory already has a very low cost model on the market with a razor-thin margin (the Torch Pro 240 GB at $79.99, 480 GB at $139.99), and it delivers higher sequential read performance (up to 560 MB/s). I don't see Zotac being able to compete on price with more established SSD providers with just two SSD product lines. The NAND flash is the most expensive component of any client-based SSD, and Zotac just doesn't have the purchasing power to buy on the same scale as companies with several SSDs on the market.
The new Premium Edition SSD should be a solid offering in terms of reliability, though. Phison develops the hardware, writes the firmware and manufactures the drives in Toshiba factories that are known to produce some of the most reliable SSDs sold today.