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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  • Fradelius - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    what if i work in a corporative enterprise (90% windows) ? do i have to switch to osx, wich i dont like, coss its not for working?

    btw im a unix sysadmin

    and still prefer windows for workstations.. ALL THE WAY...

    the real question is, why would i go with a portable that has a different os than my workstation?

    you dont have to hate apple to like this thing...
  • pdjblum - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    It seems the vast majority of folks responding have a hard-on for apple and believe they are superior because of it. Jobs certainly did, the arrogant bastard. Some of us are still tech enthusiasts and still prefer using Windows and the freedom it affords. This site has become apple-centric, no doubt. Reply
  • lukarak - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    Is Apple forcing you to use their OS? Reply
  • pdjblum - Monday, October 24, 2011 - link

    How twisted are you man? This is a review of a windows laptop. How has it turned into a discussion by a bunch of apple fanboys about how great macs are? No one is forcing you to be a total dick. Reply
  • jconan - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    But then you would have to partition the drive and give away that precious space to Win7 and 64gigs the bare minimum on a MBA is a bit already stranded. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    I dont understand why so much memory is used in standby. Why not swap most out and then have one single low power DRAM chip powered up to store the ~256MB~512MB that cant be swapped out? Then you can sleep a long time and still have fast resume. Reply
  • pdjblum - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    Some of us who frequent AnandTech still prefer windows. Obviously Anand prefers apple and so do many, if not most, of his readers, or at least his more vocal ones. Comparing a windows machine to an apple machine is like comparing apples to oranges. Apple's control over hardware and software makes it much easier to insure things work just right; however that control is limiting as far as windows users are concerned.

    Of course, many of your apple users will react badly to my sentiment, which is odd since I don't see how I could have offended. You, and your readers, can make out of that sort of reaction what you will, but why be defensive if you have such a great thing, which I am sure it is, at least to you, and your readers.

  • lukarak - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    It will not be a bad reaction. However, buying a mac is not limiting, as you are free to use any operating system you wish. Buying any other pc is, because you are generally left without OSX.

    I have been using windows my whole life. And i still use them every day. But they run inside VMs on my Macs and other PCs i have 'equipped' with Mac OS X.
  • Sunburn74 - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    Not pcs fault that OSX can't run. Reply
  • lukarak - Sunday, October 23, 2011 - link

    So? It's a fact, i don't care whose fault it is. It is not even a subject of fault. The clear fact is that with a mac i'm not limited in OS selection, either through VMs or 'native', and with a PC i am. So how is buying a mac limiting? Reply

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