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Zotac Sonix NVMe SSD Review: Our First E7 Tests

Conclusion

Nine months have passed since we first saw working PS5007-E7 silicon under load. The E7 is an exciting processor that will improve as Phison works on its firmware. We're particularly excited because the controller isn't exclusive to just one company; several SSD vendors plan to launch drives based on it. Intel and Samsung have already proven themselves, so they get away charging a premium on their high-performance SSDs. Meanwhile, we expect that the brands working on Phison-based storage will compete for your business more aggressively.

Zotac is first out of the gate with Phison's newest technology in a retail product. Larger companies will wait for final firmware and a long validation cycle before stepping out on that limb.

Even though this is a review, we realize that we're looking at an early example of the Sonix. We know the drive will get better over time, when all of its features are enabled and performance is optimized. Frankly, I'm surprised that Phison signed off on Zotac's launch plans, and I'm more than a little disappointed to see enthusiasts exposed to release-candidate firmware. We get pre-production hardware all of the time, and as a reviewer I know not to load my important data onto an early sample. But shoppers on Amazon often don't have the inside scoop. Now, to be fair, in our brief time with the Sonix, it proved stable. We didn't run into any problems. However, we only used the SSD to run tests in our benchmark suite.

Of course, there is new firmware in development that confers better performance on the PS5007-E7. Strip away those disappointing results at low queue depths and Zotac's 480GB Sonix looks a lot more competitive versus its NVMe-based competition.

The Sonix's power numbers are in line with Samsung's NVMe-based M.2 drives, even though it's sold as an add-in card like Intel's SSD 750. We would have liked to see Zotac take better advantage of that more forgiving form factor. Add-in cards can use more power than M.2 SSDs by virtue of their dimensions. The Sonix has a decent-sized heat sink covering the controller, so we would trade some additional power consumption for more performance.

Zotac's Sonix is expensive for an SSD in 2016. Amazon sells the 480GB version for $370. If you don't routinely look at storage prices, that sounds pretty good for a high-performance drive with 512GB of Toshiba MLC flash. But Samsung's 512GB 950 Pro is currently available for $310 with free shipping and a five-year warranty. The Sonix is only covered for three years, and it's a lot less mature (plus there's no software bundle).


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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Chris Ramseyer
Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.