The more solid state drives grow in popularity, the larger the need to make them affordable. As it sits now, companies are choosing between two paths to achieve low priced drives. The first has been to extend the lifecycle for current products on the market, either leaving the existing model numbers in tact or releasing a new product SKU based on existing technology. A good example of this is the Corsair Nova, a slightly revised Indilinx Barefoot controlled drive that is very close to the original Performance Series offered by Corsair last year.
The second way to achieve a low cost product is to introduce an entirely new product SKU and use older technology that is for the most part, obsolete. This also has a documented parity and can be found in the Kingston SSDNow V Series, second generation drive. The second generation V Series uses a JMicron controller once thought to have served its purpose on the market even though it was released last June at Computex. The drive performs much slower at real world tasks than the Indilinx Barefoot, but Kingston has priced the drive so low that would be purchasers with the understanding of You Get What You Pay For know that you are paying little for little performance. At 259 USD the Kingston SSDNow V Series has a much lower cost than the Corsair Nova that is currently selling for 330 USD.
I hold no ill feelings for either of these two methods when it comes to offering low cost solid state drives on the market in 2010. That said, what happens when a company chooses to take a product from paragraph 2 and price it like a product from paragraph 1? We are going to examine that today since that is exactly what Patriot has done with their entry into the low cost SSD market; Zephyr.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
On the surface everything appears to be going well for Zephyr, the God of the West Wind. The name symbolizes spring and with spring we think fresh or the beginning of all things green. Once we get past the rated read speed of 240MB/s and write speed of 180MB/s, it becomes very clear that Zephyr is not a fresh green product like we had hoped, but a product that many of us hoped had withered and passed away in the brown mud long ago. The Patriot Zephyr uses the JMicron 612 controller.
To be fair, the JM612 is not the controller that left purchasers steaming mad two years ago, it is the updated, revised and with cache controller that came out in 2009. But even at that point it was disregarded as a serious product for the solid state market since its real world performance was so far behind anything from Intel or Indilinx. The studdering issue is not known to affect the JM612, but its real world performance has not been all that exciting either.
In the last few months we have seen a few new products introduced to the market with the controller; one of the largest launches came from Western Digital, but they coupled their JMicron controller with a massive 512MB cache and crossed their fingers that anything written to the drive would not fill the cache before the data transfer was completed. The second noteworthy, newly released JMicron product to be introduced was the previously mentioned Kingston V Series that is currently available from Newegg for 259 USD as a bare drive or with a large accessory package for slightly more.
This leads us to the cost of the Patriot Zypher, since if the price is right and a true low cost product was achieved, we completely understand and follow the code of You Get What You Pay For. I was able to find the Patriot Zephyr at Amazon, Patriot's exclusive launch partner for a staggering 358.40 USD, a full 100 USD more than the cost of the Kingston SSDNow V Series in matching 128GB capacity. Patriot also has the 64GB Zephyr on Amazon for 185 USD.
Both versions of the already available Zephyr use a single 64MB cache module, just like the Kingston V Series, yet the Patriot model has a substantially higher price. Today we are going to take a look at the 128GB Patriot Zephyr and see if the additional cost equates to additional features or performance.
Patriot came up with a basic package design for the Zephyr that shows the drive and capacity in the window and has some basic information on the front of the package.
On the back we found some general data on the drive as well as the three year warranty, but no performance data was given and the JMicron controller was omitted completely.
The inner package keeps the drive secure for shipping, but the Zephyr doesn't include additional accessories like a SATA cable or software disk.
The Patriot Zephyr
The Patriot Zephyr uses a holographic label that shows the drives capacity and model name.
On the back we found the model number and serial number.
On the side of the Zephyr we found both of the mounting screw holes in the correct places.
The back of the drive has the standard SATA power and data connectors in place. We also found a four prong diagnostic port that may have consumer use down the road.
On the inside we found the JMicron JM612 controller, 64MB cache module from Samsung and Intel NAND flash.
Sixteen flash chips make up the 128GB used on the drive and they are single stack. The 256GB model will most likely be double stacked and the 64GB model will only populate a single side of the PCB.
Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, Patriot, Cooler Master, LSI and Noctua.
You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.
Today we will be testing the Patriot Zephyr in our Storage Product Workstation and comparing the drives performance with several other drives that we have tested this past year.
ATTO Baseline Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34
ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.
In our workstation we found that Patriot's read speed claims were accurate, but the write speed wasn't close to the 180MB/s that was quoted in the marketing material. Patriot did make a footnote that said 180MB/s was only accurate for the 256GB capacity model, so they were not trying to mislead us, but they didn't go as far as to publish write speeds for the entire product range either.
Before we get started with the testing, let me add my own little footnote. In this industry there are some really shady companies that routinely do questionable things and half truths with their marketing. It has been my experience that Patriot isn't one of those companies. Not giving the write speeds for all of the Zephyr models is not something I would have expected from Patriot.
The company hasn't tried to hide the controller used in the drive either, like some other companies have in the past. It clearly states on the specifications that this drive uses a JMicron JM612 controller. Our only issue thus far is this controller being used on a product at this price point. Let's move into the testing.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
- Benchmark: measures the performance
- Info: shows detailed information
- Health: checks the health status by using SMART
- Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
- Temperature display
HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
There are three current model JMicron controlled drives on the chart, the WD Silicon Edge Blue, Kingston V Series and the drive we are looking at today, the Patriot Zephyr. Of the three the Zephyr has the lowest average read speed in the synthetic HD Tune Read test.
The firmware and cache play a large role in the write tests we will see today with the JM drives. Kingston spent a great deal of time with JMicron when they released their first drive with the controller and looking at the minimum write speeds it appears that the tricks they learned to keep the drive from dropping to studder speeds has paid off. Here we see both the Patriot and WD drives hit absolute rock bottom.
Benchmarks - Everest Random Access Time
Everest Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Everest Ultimate and Corporate Edition offer several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.
Drives with only one or two tests displayed in write the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cached fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron.
Of all the drives shown on the chart today the Zephyr has the highest maximum latancy, even higher than the two other JM drives. That said, the average is lower than the other JM drives.
When it comes to the JMicron drives, I don't even bother to show the maximum and average latency since they wreck the other tables in the chart. In this test the Patriot Zephyr scored an average write latency of 28.93ms. This is around 10 times the amount found on the Corsair Nova. The maximum write latency scored 119.57, more than a full second.
Benchmarks - Crystal Disk Mark
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 is not available to the public yet, but the Technical Preview does allow us to test 4K performance at queue depths of 4 and 32 in addition to 1. The current release Crystal Disk Mark only shows us QD 1.
The JMicron controller does not scale at all with Native Command Queuing and we observed less than 20 MB/s in the 4K tests.
I was very surprised to see that the Zephyr was able to perform quite well in the 4K write tests. It would appear that WD and Patriot use a closely related firmware.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.
HDD1 - Windows Defender
HDD2 - Gaming
HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery
HDD4 - Vista Startup
HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker
HDD6 - Windows Media Center
HDD7 - Windows Media Player
HDD8 - Application Loading
When it comes to real world Windows tests in PCMark, the Patriot Zephyr performed poorly in many of the tests. In a few of the tests we actually got higher performance with the Western Digital VelociRaptor. Of course, the WD VR does cost less and offers five times the capacity.
Benchmarks - AS SSD
AS SSD Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.3577.40358
Developer Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software
Product Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software
Download here: http://www.alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/downloads.php?cat_id=4&download_id=9
AS determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without the use of the operating system caches.
In all synthetic tests the test file size is 1GB. AS can also determine the access time of the SSD, the access of which the drive is determined to read through the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke). The write access test is only to be met with a 1 GB big test file. At the end of the tests three values for the read and write as well as the overall performance will be issued. In addition to the calculated values which are shown in MB/s, they are also represented in IO per seconds (IOPS).
Note: AS SSD is a great benchmark for many tests, but since Crystal Disk Mark covers a broader range of 4K tests and HD Tune Pro covering sequential speeds, we will only use the Copy Benchmark from AS SSD.
- Copy Benchmark
Of all the tests performed AS SSD was the most surprising. Here we see that the Patriot Zephyr is actually pretty quick at transferring data back and forth. It would be fun to see what an array of these could do in a file server.
Benchmarks - Passmark
Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.passmark.com
Test Homepage: http://www.passmark.com
Many users complain that I/O Meter is too complicated of a benchmark to replicate results so my quest to find an alternative was started. Passmark has added several multi-user tests that measure a hard drives ability to operate in a multi-user environment.
The tests use different settings to mimic basic multi-user operations as they would play out on your server. Variances is read / write percentage as well as random / sequential reads are common in certain applications, Web Servers read nearly 100% of the time while Database Servers write a small amount of data.
The Workstation test is the only single user environment and will be similar to how you use your system at home.
JMicron drives will most likely never end up in a real server, but here we see the Patriot Zephyr doing fairly well in the Web and File Server categories. These speeds are higher than what some of the platter drives are able to achieve.
There is one thing you have to praise JMicron on; they must have one helluva SSD controller sales team. If it wasn't shocking enough to find one of their controllers in the first Western Digital SSD, they managed to convince Patriot that a JM612 with 64MB of cache would be sellable at the 350USD price point. I would have loved to have been around for that pitch.
I think we have hammered the Zephyr enough on performance and you have already written this one off at the current price point. If you are still looking for a drive with this controller / cache configuration, but with a little more studder free firmware, there is the Kingston SSDNow V Series that currently sells at Newegg for 259 or around 100USD less than the Zephyr.
On the other end of the scale, if you can afford to spend a little more money, I found a pretty insane deal the other day at MyDigitalDiscount.com on the A-DATA S596 that uses the Indilinx Barefoot controller and only costs 309.99 USD. This is the lowest price I have seen to date on a 128GB Indilinx Barefoot controlled drive. When we reviewed the drive it shipped with an older firmware, but A-DATA now has the latest firmware on their website and the performance is quite impressive for this amount of money. ADATA has also stated to us that the S599, their SandForce SF-1200 product has an MSRP of only 380 USD in 100GB capacity and at this time is one of the fastest SSDs available on the market.
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