Two SSD Options: SandForce and SanDisk

Like many OEMs, ASUS sources SSDs from two vendors for its Zenbook line: ADATA and SanDisk. Unlike Apple however, the division isn't random. ADATA supplies all 128GB drives while SanDisk handles the 256GB drives. The explanation is simple: ASUS needed a drive that could fit all of its NAND on a single side. SanDisk had a 256GB offering that met those needs; ADATA/SandForce did not.

ASUS didn't specify what SanDisk controller was in use on the 256GB drives, but I suspect it's the U100. ASUS supplied the following test data comparing the two SSDs:

Performance is actually comparable between the two, which is surprising. I'm going to see about getting my hands on a 256GB SanDisk model for comparison to verify for myself. The sample laptop we received comes with the 128GB ADATA drive, which performed quite well in our tests:

Granted you're looking at highly compressible datasets, but being able to break 500MB/s puts this drive up there with the standard desktop SF-2281 offerings.

If you caught our Zenbook teardown you may have noticed a firmware label on the ADATA drive indicating it was using SandForce firmware revision 3.2.2. Uhoh! SandForce just recently announced that there is a known bug in all version of the SF-2281 firmware prior to 3.3.2 that can cause BSODs. I asked ASUS when we'd see an updated firmware and why on earth it chose to ship a drive with a widely known bug.

During development, ASUS tested 100+ Zenbooks with 100+ samples of the ADATA drive. The testing included over 50,000 accumulated reliability tests including rapid sleep/wake cycles, 3DMark and other application based tests. In addition to pre-production testing, ASUS conducted additional testing on mass production units. Throughout this entire process ASUS didn't see any reliability issues with the SandForce drives and thus felt comfortable shipping with them. I should add that we have seen many cases where the SF BSOD bug simply won't appear on certain platforms, lending credibility to ASUS' claims that the SandForce drives proved stable during testing.

That being said, I'd still feel more comfortable with an upgrade to 3.3.2 if it turns out that this firmware revision does in fact fix a known issue with the drive.

I pointed out the obvious rework on the ADATA SSD to ASUS engineering. The team responded by saying the rework was implemented to reduce EMI, which was a bit too close to the margins before the change. The rework has since been incorporated into a surface mount component design which will ship in a future spin of the drive. I'm not a huge fan of reworks on shipping products but from time to time they do appear. The nature of the rework and quality of the workmanship are also important to keep in mind, both of which are less alarming in this case than others.

The Zenbook The Keyboard & Trackpad
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  • Lu-Max - Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - link

    I own a UX31E and I can confirm that the Atheros AR9485WB-EG WIFI adapter installed in it is 2.4GHz capable ONLY. I was very disappointed when it would not connect to my N AP which was running in 5GHz mode.

    I confirmed this information with ASUS Technical Support. I could not find this specification listed anywhere for the Zenbook, not even on the ASUS site. Had I know this prior to purchase it would have been a key decision factor.
    Reply
  • chrnochime - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    You whining about this laptop? Don't buy it. There's a new concept.

    Oh and btw 5GHz has sh!tty range/wall penetration so not everyone wants great speed at short ranges and no signal beyond that at all.
    Reply
  • Filiprino - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - link

    Adding 5Ghz is $10 more at most. And 5Ghz is less prone to interferences. It's great for videostreaming, backups... Reply
  • jjj - Saturday, October 22, 2011 - link

    Crappy perf,crappy battery life,crappy screen,crappy connectivity ,overpriced but thin. Reply
  • Devo2007 - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    You forgot to add "crappy post" at the end. Crappy troll Reply
  • duploxxx - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    expensive typing machine is a better word... afterall that is what you can do with it.
    fancy, fast enough cpu and HD without any graphics performance. Sure i can believe that it will only start to increase sales when IVY arrives, then they might finally be able to achieve some level of graphic performance.

    silly OEM always follow the silly Intel rules just to sell there way to expensive cpu.
    Reply
  • B3an - Saturday, October 22, 2011 - link

    Nice first attempt. But i'd also like a better display, specifically better viewing angles, thats most important. Secondly i'd like a higher res for the 11 inch model, and 1080p for the 13 inch model. If this atleast had better viewing angles i would have bought this right away. Shame.

    I love how the battery life on this is better than the AIR, even with improved specs but same battery capacity on the Zenbook.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Saturday, October 22, 2011 - link

    Any plans to review the UX31 or will it be too redundant? I'm curious whether that model's screen will fare any better... I think it's probably gonna be the more popular model too. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, October 22, 2011 - link

    Should be coming soon.... Reply
  • Impulses - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    Cool, thanks! Reply

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