In the last year, we've given Phison's S10 controller a lot of attention. Our interest always involved the processor's potential, rather than how it was actually performing at the time. After all, when you lay out its specifications, features and advanced technologies, there's a lot to get excited about.
Optimism often leads to a mismanagement of expectations, and for a period of time we started to doubt the PS3110-S10 would ever live up to its full potential. The latest 1.6 firmware increases performance and is certainly a step in the right direction. But we're still waiting for version 2.0. At least we have a target date for its release.
Focusing on the drive in front of us, Zotac started with a really good foundation for a gaming-oriented SSD. Its Premium Edition SSD delivers solid and consistent sequential read and write performance at a very low price. Competing SSDs ship with three-bit-per-cell (TLC) flash that cannot sustain high write speeds; Samsung's 850 EVO is the lone exception. Everything else quickly bleeds through its emulated SLC cache and falls back to native TLC performance, which is often slower than a mechanical hard disk. When you install a game, big blocks of data are being written sequentially. TLC just isn't ideal for that.
Further, games require a lot of capacity. Flash is still expensive compared to rotating media, but Zotac manages to get the price down on its Premium Edition SSDs. The 240GB model sells for just $65 and the 480GB version goes for $140. We would love to see a 1TB implementation for less than $300, though Zotac hasn't gone there yet. As we write this, the Premium Edition SSD is one of the least-expensive solid-state drives on Newegg at both capacities. Zotac is undercutting the other mainstream MLC-based drives, the entry-level TLC-based products and, most importantly, Samsung's 850 EVO.
That last part is huge. Zotac's Premium Edition is the first drive that slides in under the 850 EVO by enough of a margin to earn our recommendation. More thought goes into an endorsement than just pricing, too: Zotac also achieves comparable performance. But be aware that's where the similarities end. Zotac only equips you with a three-year warranty, and you don't get any cloning software to facilitate a smoother transition from your existing hard drive to the SSD. Samsung's package is a little more generous, justifying a bit of its premium.