Zalman F1 240GB SSD Review

Just days after looking at the 120GB model, Chris is back with the 240GB to see how it performs.

Published Tue, Sep 18 2012 12:59 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Zalman


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Last week we told you about the Zalman F1 120GB SSD and today we have the larger 240GB model. The F1 Series isn't Zalman's first go at an SSD. Two years ago, we tested the N Series and when it was released Zalman also launched the S Series. The F1 is Zalman's first SATA III drive, based on the LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller; this is one of the fastest drives on the market today, but an honor that is shared with many other Team SandForce members.

When we picked up our F1 samples at Computex Taipei we were right in the middle of the 501/502 firmware issue. After getting back to the lab I thought I checked the firmware, but I missed the true firmware on the shipping drives. Last night I dreamed that I bought a Ferrari and the first thing I did when I woke up was check the garage. Somewhere along the line I missed that Zalman used firmware 3.3.2, one of the best releases by SandForce to date. 3.3.2 also has working TRIM which is always nice to have!

Unlike the N and S Series SSDs from Zalman, the F Series isn't officially available in the USA. This isn't an issue for half of our readers because TweakTown is a global site with visitors from all over the globe. When looking around I found the Zalman F1 240GB drive available globally, even in the US where a few enterprising sellers have imported F1 drives and have them listed on EBay. Aside from the EBay sellers, the F1 is priced competitively with other SSDs from the same sellers.

Let's take a look at the specifications.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

Zalman F1 240GB SSD Review 02 |

Zalman doesn't give us a lot of information in their small specifications sheet, but the official product page is loaded with bits of information about performance, comparisons and such. The F1 Series consists of three capacity sizes - 60GB, 120GB and the 240GB size that we are reviewing today.

The 240GB model offers the highest random IOPS performance of the lineup. Zalman claims 45K IOPS read and write, but those are outdated numbers, as we'll show you today. The read IOPS performance is around 45K, but the 3.3.2 firmware delivers around 93K write IOPS, a large boost and a good showing of what SandForce is capable of when they finish their fine tuning of the firmware.

Firmware has become a hot issue over the last six months. In order to officially run 24nm Toshiba Toggle Mode flash LSI SandForce released firmware 5.0.1 and 5.0.2. Both of these releases broke the TRIM command, but LSI SF recently fixed the issue with 5.0.3. The Zalman F1 Series use IMFT flash and came loaded with firmware 3.3.2, one of the best SandForce firmware releases ever. With 3.3.2 we have working TRIM and very good performance, something we'll show you today.

Zalman offers a three year warranty and the F1 Series come with a desktop adapter bracket, screws for mounting and access to data migration software.


Zalman F1 240GB SSD Review 03 |

We like the retail packaging that Zalman chose for the F1 drives.

On the front Zalman includes performance data. When we go to retail shops we like to see the data right on the front since SSDs are usually in a glass case that doesn't allow us to take a deep look at the back of the package.

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On the back we found a general product statement about the F1 Series SSD in several different languages.

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Inside we found a tightly packed, efficient system with the drive positioned in a separate plastic container so it won't get scratched during shipping.

Zalman F1 Series 240GB

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The Zalman F1 240GB SSD uses an aluminum housing that is brushed then painted black. Most of the drive's information is on the front label.

Zalman F1 240GB SSD Review 07 |

On the back you'll find your serial number and Data Migration Software key. The software is on the Zalman website and is a quick download. With it you can easily clone your existing boot drive data to the SSD. At that point you just slide your Zalman F1 in and boot from it seamlessly.

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The F1 uses a notebook standard 9.5mm z-height and all of the mounting points are located where they should be. It won't fit in your new ultrabook, but it will fit in all other standard laptops.

Zalman F1 240GB SSD Review 09 |

The SATA power and data connectors are offset as they should be. The included desktop adapter bracket offsets the drive to the side so the cables are more in line with standard 3.5" form factor cables.

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Inside we found a LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller paired with synchronous 25nm NAND from Intel.

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This is third generation Intel 25nm NAND. There are 16 chips total with eight on each side.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, LSI, Corsair and Noctua.

You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.

In order to fully utilize SATA III you need a system with native SATA III support. P67, Z68, Z77 and X79 systems are preferred,, but AMD has made advances in their newer SATA III systems as well. Older X58 systems with Marvell based SATA III ports do not deliver the same high levels of performance, so we recommend newer systems when available.

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.

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In ATTO we measured a maximum read speed of just over 560MB/s. The write speed maxed out at 526MB/s in this test.

Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

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.

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In HD Tune Pro we measure sequential performance across the drive using compressible data. The Zalman F1 240GB delivers an average speed of 417MB/s with a maximum of 426MB/s. The graph was steady, but we did have a couple of dips along the way. The minimum speed was 412MB/s.

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The maximum write speed nearly knocked us out of our chairs at nearly 445MB/s. The average sequential write speed hit nearly 415MB/s, also an impressive number.

Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time

AIDA64 Random Access Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

AIDA64 offers 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 the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron and Toshiba.

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The Zalman F1 240GB gave us one of the best read latency scores we've recorded on a SandForce SATA III drive to date. The average read latency measured was just .09ms. This is mainly due to the 3.3.2 firmware and premium Intel NAND flash.

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The write latency was also very good for a SandForce based drive. The SandForce architecture doesn't use a DRAM buffer to mask true write latency so the latency is a little higher in this synthetic test.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark


Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Download here:

CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.

Key Features:-

* Sequential reads/writes

* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes

* Text copy

* Change dialog design

* internationalization (i18n)

Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.

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In CDM we get our first look at incompressible data performance. The Zalman F1 reads 4K data at an impressive 40MB/s and that number increases as the native command queuing increases.

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Writing incompressible data is more difficult for LSI SandForce drives since data that is compressible writes faster to the drives. Still, we observed an incompressible sequential speed of 308MB/s.

The 4K write speed peaked at over 135MB/s for a single command and ramped up to 263MB/s at QD32.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

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.

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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

Our real-world performance test, FutureMark's PCMark Vantage shows the Zalman F1 cracking the whip and pushing the SATA III bus into high speed.

There are several good SSDs on the market for normal desktop use as you can see here so more of an emphasis gets placed on other areas such as price, accessory package and performance with data on the drives.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article - full instructions are included.

- Brief Methodology

SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.

Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test

Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (128GB), 240 (256GB)

60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB

120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB

240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB

Empty, but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.

Zalman F1 240GB SSD Review 23 |

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

One of the most important benchmarks we run places data on the drives as they would run in your system. SSDs slow as they become populated, but not all SSDs lose performance at the same rate.

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:

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

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The file copy performance is excellent. This test moves data from one area of the drive to another.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: BETA 11

So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests, you can run a full test or just the read or the write test or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K DQ16.

Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet, but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.

The software can be used several different ways and to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.

0-Fill Compressible Data

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Incompressible Data

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As with nearly all SSDs based on SandForce architecture, the Zalman F1 240GB loses a bit of performance when working with incompressible data. You can see the distinction between data types here.

Random Read QD32

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The random read IOPS are in line with Zalman's specifications sheet.

Random Write QD32

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Random write performance is more than two times higher than Zalman's quoted specs.

Benchmarks - Passmark

Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1

Developer Homepage:

Test Homepage:

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.

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Zalman isn't advertising their F1 Series drives for enterprise use, but we still like to run these tests for those looking to purchase consumer SSDs to fill light use server roles.

Final Thoughts

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Zalman isn't the first name you think of when we bring up solid state drives, but their reputation for high quality and long lasting products certainly doesn't hurt them in this market. Over the years, Zalman has delivered a number of innovative products to the market, many of them based on quiet computing principals.

An SSD product line fits right in with their design philosophy. The SSD market is saturated though and it's very difficult to get ahead without a controller of your own or a fab for manufacturing NAND flash. Even if you have your own SSD producing factory, this is a tough market to be in.

To distinguish themselves Zalman took a page from their previous products and focused on quality and value. The F1 240GB unit we looked at today ships in a nice light, brushed aluminum base that matches several of its PC cases. Zalman also delivers free data migration software with their F Series SSDs, a step up over many other SSD makers and resellers. The intense blue desktop adapter bracket is also a nice touch, but it's all standard these days as is the three year warranty.

On the performance front the Zalman F1 240GB is right in the middle of the road for SandForce drives. This is a very tight group that requires a lot of distinction to break away from the pack. One way Zalman can separate themselves from everyone else is price, but sadly the F1 is not breaking new ground in that fight either. While the F1 240GB is at the lower end of the scale in most of the countries we found it for sale in, there were still a few companies lower in every country.

Zalman didn't bring the F1 to the United States of America and we don't blame them for it, this is easily the hottest contested market with SSDs from all over the world fighting it out for our government printed paper.

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