Zotac displayed an upcoming add-in card (AIC) SSD at CES 2016 but didn't reveal a product name until today. We just received word that the new NVMe-based drive will sell as the SONIX.
SONIX is an interesting entry to the SSD market for a number of reasons. This looks to be the first drive based on Phison's PS5007-E7 controller that we've talked about for nearly a year now. The E7 uses the NVMe protocol like Intel's SSD 750 and Samsung's 950 Pro/SM951-NVMe SSDs. By using the add-in card form factor, Zotac doesn't have to stick to the very low power limits that restrict M.2 form factor SSDs. The form factor also allows Zotac to cool the E7 controller with a heatsink, something the PCI-SIG didn't include space for in the M.2 specifications.
|Form Factor||Add-in Card|
|Interface||NVMe 1.2 PCIe 3.0 x4|
|Flash||Toshiba 15nm MLC 3,000 P/E Cycle|
|Sequential Read||Up to 2,600 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||Up to 1,300 MB/s|
Zotac calls the SONIX "The Silent Silver Bullet." SSDs are silent, and the NVMe protocol is the fastest interface for non-volatile memory to date. The drive compares well on paper to both of Samsung's NVMe-based SSDs and even Intel's consumer-focused SSD 750 built with an enterprise controller. Zotac did not release any random data performance numbers. When we tested the E7 last, the random performance was strong and put the M.2 model in with the best consumer SSDs ever released. Random performance and performance consistency have been a high priority for Phison over the last year, so we don't want to speculate on the final random performance numbers at this time. We expect to see an improvement over our previous tests with the retail products.
The increase may come in the form of an optimized NVMe driver. Both Intel and Samsung released NVMe protocol drives with SSD specific drivers that increased performance over the Microsoft driver. Phison does spec the E7 at 350,000 random read IOPS and 250,000 random write IOPS.
We've been hot for the Phison E7 for quite a while now. At Computex last June, we ran tests on an early prototype at Phison's office and came away impressed with the performance and how mature the product looked. Several companies had E7 SSDs on display at Computex, and that carried over to CES, as well. When available, consumers will have several options available from companies like Patriot, G.Skill, PNY, Mushkin and now Zotac, to name a few. Zotac is the first company to release detailed information about an end product, but that will not give the company an advantage when it comes to time-to-market.
We learned that the E7 is still at least three weeks away from shipping to manufacturers. That doesn't take into account final validation testing. Companies are targeting CeBIT in mid March to show off retail wares, but don't expect products at your favorite e-tail distributor at that time. We were told that E7-based SSDs will ship before Computex in June 2016, though.
We're also looking at that same time frame for OCZ Storage Solutions to officially launch the RevoDrive 400, a competitor to the E7-based products. We recently tested Toshiba's XG3 PCIe NVMe SSD that is the base for the upcoming RevoDrive 400. You can read the review here.