ZOTAC Premium Edition 480GB SSD Review
Since their inception in 2006, Zotac has made a name for itself as being a company that is not afraid to push the limit. When other companies looked upon the small form-factor ‘barebones’ PCs as the red headed stepchild who suspiciously looked like the mailman, Zotac was there blazing a trail for others to follow with their Z-Box. More recently they have been known for creating some cutting edge, factory overclocked video cards that are arguably some of the best available today.
Ironically, after the SSD market went through some contraction in 2014 and parts of 2015, new companies are suddenly coming out of the woodwork with new models and lineups. Zotac is one of those and while they are no strangers to the SSD marketplace some of their latest products are making folks sit up and take notice. Granted, they are somewhat latecomers on the scene but this has never stopped Zotac before and they are quickly making up for lost time.
At this time Zotac actually offers numerous Solid State Drive models, but the one series that quickly gained knowledgeable enthusiasts’ attention is the Premium Edition. This series blends mainstream performance, with value orientated prices to create a unique blend of the two. Essentially, we see this as a direct competitor to the established and highly regarded Crucial MX200 and rather impressive PNY XLR8 CS2211 which we covered a few weeks ago. It also sits just below Zotac’s own T500 series which boasts slightly faster specifications.
The ZOTAC Premium Edition series is offered in two sizes while oddly skipping the key 960GB to 1TB market, and today we will be taking a close look at the large 480GB model. The 480GB capacity version has an online average asking price of $160 (or a reasonable 33 cents per Gigabyte), comes standard with a three-year warranty, is powered by the PHISON PS3110 controller, and best of all uses MLC NAND rather than the TLC version we’re so used to seeing on today’s mainstream SSDs.
Two important things to note about the chart above are the Random Performance and NAND Endurance columns. Unlike other manufacturers, Zotac rates their SSDs' Random Read / Write performance in Mb/s rather than the industry standard IOPS. In addition, you will notice the endurance rating for this drive sits at a stratospheric level when compared against very similar competitors (more on this down below) from Kingston and PNY. This may be down to different testing methodologies at Zotac or possibly a firmware enhancement we aren't aware of but we recommend you take the comparative abilities of this column with a grain of salt.
If all of this sounds eerily familiar, it is because it is. Zotac are not trying to push boundaries with this new series and rather are simply trying to prove to conservative consumers that they are serious about the SSD market. They’re building some street cred before putting out a full court press across various pricing segments. Put another way this is the foundation model upon which more exotic series – like their recently released SONIX – are going to be built upon.
This conservative approach is further carried over to the overall aesthetics of this model. A flat black color scheme with simple lettering may not be attention-getting but is perfectly suited for a wide variety of cases and useage scenarios.
More importantly the ZOTAC Premium Edition 480GB makes use of an all-metal chassis that conforms to the 7mm z-height, 2.5” form-factor standards. The only issue with this choice is that Zotac does not include a 2.5mm adapter, or 3.5” adapter plate, nor do they even include any back up / cloning software. All that you will find inside the shipping container, besides the drive, is four mounting screws.
While it may look like a full length PCB design – as the Premium Edition does use a full length PCB- the Zotac engineers opted for a half-length board design and then later simply expanded the PCB to completely fill the space. Hence, this SSD can only make use of up 8 NAND ICs which does give the controller a good level of NAND interleaving to make use of. We have to wonder what a 960GB model will look like should Zotac ever choose to release one.
Interestingly enough Zotac has chosen to not populate the secondary RAM IC location and instead the 480GB capacity makes use of one 256MB NANYA DDR3 chip. 256MB of cache is fairly typical for PHISON based models and is the same amount as PNY or Kingston use in their similar 480GB versions – even if they use two ICs instead of one.
Also of note is that unlike other companies who use cutting edge 15nm Toshiba Toggle MLC NAND ICs, Zotac has kept to the older 19nm chips. The use of older, slightly less capable NAND, does explain the slightly lower performance specifications of this model versus some competitors. However, this combination is exactly what Kingston and their HyperX Savage series uses, so the difference between this model and say the PNY XLR8 CS2211 should not be all that drastic.
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