The Zalman N Series 128GB SSD has a fair amount of overprovisioning with only 111GB being available to the user once Windows takes its share. This is a 15% chunk gone bye-bye but the tradeoff is that the extra room set aside will aid in drive longevity and generally, the more overprovisioning the better for drive life.
So what have we learned about the Zalman N Series SSD? Frankly, nothing that we couldn’t have forecast before even connecting it to our test bench. The benchmark scores show little, if any difference between the Zalman N Series drive and the other SandForce based drives of the same configuration.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing. The SandForce drives have pretty much been leading the way all year and have proven to be very resilient and this drive is no different. The performance pushes that of the SATA II interface and is about as far as we’ll see without RAID or interface changes. Zalman also offers a 3-year warranty which seems to be pretty much the norm although a few have precariously stepped out on the ledge with longer warranties. At an MSRP of $289 (this is likely to drop as supply increases), they are priced slightly higher than that of their peers.
The problem for Zalman is that they are a little late for the party. SandForce has already announced that they’ll be rolling out new controllers soon and there are at least a half dozen SandForce SF-1200 drives out there, including one by MicroCenter. There’s not much here to differentiate the N Series drive, so for the few who haven’t purchased yet, there’s little incentive to look Zalman’s way unless the customer is already a fan of the brand. The similar drives that have been on the market awhile are already being discounted with rebates and price cuts so Zalman has a bit of a hill to climb to play catch-up. I don’t want to sound like I’m picking on Zalman, because I’m not. They have a great drive on their hands but at this point the market seems to be saturated with a number of drives that are more or less clones.
Legit Bottom Line: The Zalman N Series 128GB SSD is just what we expected from a SandForce drive – speedy, resilient, and reliable. However, it remains to be seen if a company not typically associated with data storage can make a splash when entering the SSD market behind its established competitors.