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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  • DanNeely - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    After my pata HDD decomissioning project I ended up with several sets containing torx bits. I started out with a large set of sears bits that included some torx ones I originally bought for other uses; added a set of 1/4" socket wrench style torx bits from an autozone because my sears set didn't go to anything smaller, and finally ended up ordering a set of mini bits from amazon after discovering I needed an even smaller size to crack open a few of the laptop drives. Reply
  • krumme - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    Lets pretend this can play 1080 flash video
    Lets pretend this is for all day computing
    Lets pretend all those BM have anything to do with real world usage pattern
    Lets pretend this will sell

    ARM15 and win 8 will end all the wet dreams that is left if it matter now it will not sell, and if you dont need the 28nm powerhouse of a bobcat AMD derived core.

    This looks more like a comercial to me than a review. This is more stupid than a BD for desktop.
  • morousg - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    I guess the legal battle will beguin soon. This is a perfect copy of fabrication processes, chassis dessing and even component selection and component placement inside the "CopyAir".

    They are copying even almost the price!!

    There are slight differences on I/O ports and the back color of the screen, but the ventilation system is also copied. It's the first PC I've ever seen copying the entire form factor and design from a Mac. The HP Envy line of PC's where very similar to MacBook Pros, but almost where made of plastic, and there where more differences. This time, it's every thing!!

    The battery is divided and disposed sa in the Macbook Air, and it occupies a similar proportion of space.
    The SSD has the same form farctor.
    The trackpad, is almost as big as the Macbook Air's.
    The screen even has a black edge, just to don't confuse you to think this is not a copy.
    Even the rubber around the age of the screen, is the same.
    And of course, as Apple does and so proudly exposes, Asus has taken a solid block of aluminum, and craved it to make a copy of the Apple's Unibody notebook chassis.
    You know what? Even the charger has a very similar shape.

    Is there any body able to create something new instead of always copying Apple??
  • Roland00Address - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    Let sue the bread companies for their bread is almost virtually identical to the almighty wonder bread. Reply
  • morousg - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    Let's say I have a patent about bread fabrication that makes my bread able to be preserved in a certain manner and do a certain final process in any bakery or even supermarket in a fast and cheap way.

    Let's say no one else (until I patented it) has done it before (in real life not in movies...) and I spent time and a suffered big amount of bucks to develop that process.

    Now, some on else copy it for free.

    If it where legal, we would provably still fight with rocks, because no body would invest on R+D. Don't forget the D, from Development. This is a costy part, from ideas to reality. There are lots of try-and-error steps, that consume worker hours and material. No body should dismiss that in the name of progress.

    And now, ask your self why oh why the bread is so cheap. Because it has always been? Think again.
  • karlostomy - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    morousg says "Is there any body able to create something new instead of always copying Apple?? "

    No offence, but that is just nonsense.

    Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg that you seem to be blissfully unaware of.
    How strange that you have been brainwashed to think other companies copy apple, when in the reverse is evidently true.
  • morousg - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    Thank you for the links. They where enlightening.

    But you, as many others, are missing "one more thing". The Development of the ideas.

    Having ideas is a fun thing to do. Any one can do it, mixing other ideas, changing them a bit etc… But few are so brave to try to do things (maybe the same things) but in a new way, or with something that no one has ever DEVELOPED.

    Trying to DEVELOP a new feature that erases others that are more or less well stablished (like the stylus or the notebook million pieces typical PC structure) is risky and costly. Few business do that, or if they do, the first failure makes them stop or reduce their efforts on R+D.

    That's the good thing from Apple, they never stop trying, even if they do some mistakes. Is good that someone invests in creating new thigs, or imporving existing things in a way that they seem completely new, because they have something much better and unique (again unique in the sense of being the first to develop it).

    So I think that is a good thing that a business that believes in R+D, tries to protect their investments in both R+D.

    I fact, probably, during the D part you are creating something new, like a fabrication process. A notebook is a notebook. But a traditional notebook chassis is definitely not a unibody chassis, and the technology involved is definitely not the same.

    Why should I spend money and time on trying to improve things, if others will copy my improvement or invention, and I won't get any benefit from the investment I did?

    Patents exist to protect PROGRESS, that is quite much more than just having nice ideas, and putting them on a movie.
  • Sunburn74 - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    What tradeoffs are people complaining about? All of these parts are parts found in lots of other notebooks out there. The only actual tradeoff I see here is the battery life for form factor trade.

    Those of you who are asking for HD screens, IPS panels, thunderbolt connectors, external gpus, and etc should realize Asus makes laptops for everyone, not just the 1% who know what an external gpu is. If you are one of those people asking for these things, be told very clearly now, you are in the <1% of people could care, could use, know how to use, and would actually use these things. The rest of us are perfectly happy working on our TN panels at 1366x766 surfing the web, checking email, typing up word documents, talking via skype with our webcams, and enjoying our beautiful form factor PC. We don't care about benchmarks when it comes to laptops, how many gflops my processor does or how many FPS my laptop gets in Civ 5. We care about how much fun it actually is to use the damn thing. My PC desktop screams, absolutely screams, but when it comes to laptops thats the only thing I care about and I'm as close to a normal person as you're gonna get on this forum. Done are my days of lugging around a 17in beast of a powerhouse laptop that was embarassing to pull out when all I wanted to do was check an email at the airport or write a quick note. All I care about now is how fun and easy and reliable the laptop is to use for my simple daily tasks. This represents the viewpoint of most people. If you disagree you are a moron because its that exploiting that very same viewpoints that has propelled apple to where they are today. Apple doesn't make the products with the most badass hardware. They make the products that are the most badass to actuall use.

    There are niches to laptops. Don't forget that. There are gaming laptops, there are pro/workstation laptops, there are ultraportables, and there are now ultrabooks (a refinement, be it more expensive refinement) of the ultraportable. Understand that, get a girlfriend, and shut up.
  • madmark4 - Thursday, November 3, 2011 - link

    Yes, exactly.

    If you want a laptop to replace your gaming desktop rig, this isn't for you.

    If you want something you can actually CARRY WITH YOU, and want to take on a plane, or even just drop in a bag for a trip to the coffee shop, this is nearly a perfect machine.

    I have an HP Elitebook 8440W with quad core i7, 8gb ram, and two hard drives. It has a 14" screen, and is smokin fast.

    It sits at home, whenever I go somewhere, because it also weighs 7 pounds, gets about 3 hours of battery life (which requires extra weight carrying the charger everywhere) and won't fit in something the size of a mailing envelope.

    I should also note that 1) no one but apple does anything with Thunderbolt. and 2) all those extra features mean higher costs. Would this be your 'ideal' laptop if it was twice as thick, weighed twice as much, and cost 700$ more because it had an IPS screen, thunderbolt, another USB 3 port, and a docking station plug? If so, they already make those, its called an HP Elitebook 8440W.

    My primary goal in a laptop is to get something that is fast enough to run what I want to run, even if it isn't the fastest at it, but it needs to do that while being portable enough that I will actually take it with me TO run those things. Ease of use and portability are worth more to me than an external GPU plug. I'm not buying this intending to run COD3 on it. I'm buying it to surf, run eclipse for programming jobs, use Word/Excel, and otherwise be productive.
  • shompa - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    This machine is silicon art, just like the Macbook Air.

    I wish that Asus supported thunderbolt. With Apples thunderbolt display you get a complete setup, something that Asus can't deliver.

    Thunderbolt --> USB/Firewire and gigabith ethernet. All in just one cable.

    When will BIOS die? UEFI have been around for 10 years. Why play around with a 1970 technology?

    With PCI-E thunderbolt cases. You can buy an macbook air and connect the latest AMD/Nvidia graphic card to it an play games.

    The only reason you should buy this product instead of Apple is if you hate Apple and want a couple % better speed. The reason why you should buy Apple is that you get world class support, can use both Windows and OSX, thunderbolt, rapid start, iCloud, Ilife and so on.

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