ASUS Zenbook SSD Review – Not Necessarily SandForce Driven Hits A Speed Bump

REPORT ANALYSIS AND FINAL THOUGHTS

Let’s start this off by saying we are thrilled by the fact that ASUS was the first to manufacturer a retail SATA 3 ultrabook and it is great to see incredible speed in such a small form factor.  In fact, if they would have elected to just supply us with the Sandisk SSD in the Zenbook, all would have been fine and there would have been a ton of people ecstatic to have a SATA 3 ultrabook spitting out 6Gbps transfer speeds.

ASUS went one further though and, I am going to believe, tried to do just a bit better for the consumer by adapting the AData XM11 ‘SandForce Driven’ SATA 3 SSD.  The XM11 contains the revered LSI Sandforce SF-2281 processor, capable of read and write performance in excess of 500MB/s and a total IOPS score somewhere above 80,000 which, sadly, makes the Sandisk U100 SATA 3 SSD just look bad.

The difficulty comes in their decision not to place the product stickers on the outside of the box as many others do, but rather, it can only be found once the product is purchased and opened.  Let’s face it, we are not comparing apples to oranges here, but rather, Ferrari’s to Ford Fusion’s.  If we believe the most important visible upgrade we can see in a computer today is the SSD, then why wouldn’t we announce it’s manufacturer and type in our specifications just as we would the CPU? At very least, we could correctly identify the capacity of the SSD on the exterior of the package (120GB and not 128GB for the AData).

PERFORMANCE

The performance of the Zenbook, at this time, is untouchable but we knew that from the start.  It’s the performance of the AData XM11 ‘SandForce Driven’ SSD, in comparison to the Sandisk U100, that we are focusing on closely here.  Both are SATA 3, and if capacity were a factor, the U100 was actually the only 256GB release in this form factor until our review Samsung PM830 mSATA review just yesterday.  Our concern stems from the fact that the results we attained from the U100 are amongst the lowest we had ever received from a solid state drive when looking at all benchmarks as a whole.

Our Vantage tests were a great depiction of both SSD’s ability when it comes to ‘true to life’ scenarios and the XM11 trumped the U100 in Total Points with 43524 points compared to the U100’s score of 12154.  Again, that is the lowest result (12154) that I think I have ever seen from an SSD.  The XM11 displayed an incredible high transfer speeds of 352MB/s , while testing in Media Center, while the U100 couldn’t even reach SATA 3 speeds. The XM11 is just that good.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am going to guess that there are a significant number of readers that arrived here in search of confirmation that the ASUS Zenbook is, in fact, the ultrabook for them and we couldn’t agree more.  It is a gorgeous system which is very solid and well built and, well lets face it, SATA 3 ultrabooks are not so easy to find.  An educated buyer is a happy buyer, however, and I don’t believe many stores would stop you from exchanging your new Zenbook purchase if you decided that the ‘SandForce Driven’ Zenbook was the one for you. It is a bit like an Easter egg hunt isn’t it?

All in all, good luck in your search and, if I may pass a word to ASUS, think CUSTOMER FIRST and get the SSD identification where it should be.  As for me, I can’t decide which system I prefer, the 11.6″ UX21 or the 13.3″ UX31.  Oh ya, the smaller is ‘SandForce Driven’ in this case which makes that an easy decision.

Regarding any concerns that ASUS or Sandisk may have with respect to the report, Test Regimen or results attained, both are invited to contact us should they feel that our results are substantially different to their own.  We would be happy to conduct a follow up review of a Zenbook of equal configuration and to amend our results accordingly, if need be.

See Ultrabook Prices at Amazon.com.

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AData XM11 owner
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AData XM11 owner

The Sandisk U100 owners at least can laugh at the AData XM11 owners when they stumble on the Sandforce SF-2281 BSOD bug…

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Old news and severely blown out of proportion.

Ryomitomo
Guest
Ryomitomo

My cousin’s OCZ Vertex3 SF drive BSOD almost daily. I don’t think the problem was blown out of proportions…

name
Guest
name

hello, I know this is a very old article. however i just want to know if i could use the adata xm11 drive in my desktop? can I just plug it into my sata and power connector? thanks

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

It depends on whether you have the original Zen that we tested in this article, or a newer model with M.2 SATA listed in the specs. Can you advise?

Kira Bondarev
Guest

I have a UX31 with a Sandisk U100 and I get the BSOD pretty often as well. I am not a expert, but my guess would be that all since SSD is still a pretty new technology and not that popular as the HDD it’s not yet perfect and still has some issues and bugs.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

I have been with SSDs since there first release in 2007 and I wouldn’t believe that your BSODs are common because of it being a new technology. Typically there is another reason which hasn’t yet surfaced. I have been through just about every SSD on the market and run 10 or so systems and laptops and I never experience BODSs randomly.

Someone
Guest
Someone

The SandForce BSOD bug has been fixed as it has been tested and verified by AnandTech and many other publications. I don’t like SandForce, but you have to admit they (or at least Intel) have stabilized their firmware and their SSD’s are now very competitive with the rest.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

The SandForce bug was overblown. I couldn’t count the numbet of drives we reviewed and tested an, to this day, I only know of one instance of a drive bricking personally. This is compounded by the fact that I have installed probably over a hundred drives in the past two years for clients in my area and they have yet to experience the issue as well

Pedro Amador
Guest

Is the bug fixed or not? Thanks in advance!

amb9800
Guest
amb9800

Interesting follow-up to this is that the 256GB SanDisk U100 seems to be far worse– the machine stutters and freezes with even light multitasking and can barely handle 480p local video without stuttering.

Here’s ATTO from my UX31 (results are the same even with less data on the drive): comment image

CrystalDiskMark: comment image

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Understandable as the specs would be much the same and for any but typical usage their would be just that.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Thank you very much. As a reviewer, it is hard to make a decision in testing, as with this review, and to decide whether to hold back and get another sample for testing or to go ahead and believe the results are similar to what others have received.

My initial decision relied upon that of other forum posts and its nice to have validation here as well.

Pedro Amador
Guest

This is
totally true, I have a SanDisk SSD U100 256GB in a new ASUS and the performance
is horrible. With all the resources stopped, I’m not able to see a film…
sometimes is stopping!

Do you know if there is a solution or I need to change the hard disk or
computer?

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Thank you for the personal experience to validate our findings Pedro and we are sorry of your predicament.

Pedro Amador
Guest

But your blog helps a lot… congratulations… I’m a new fan 😀

By the way… I had been working as a performance consultant with ERP system 12 years ago. I was strange what you mention to turn off the pagefile of Windowns (Totally?), are you sure about this? (I guest that people with just 1GB can’t do it, people with 8GB can do it… but with 4GB???)

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Believe it or not, I have been suggesting such since 07 and have watched the world slowly move to my side. 4GB minimum for the typical user is the recommendation. If you have highly intensive needs, I would recommend 8GB but many would be amazed how much they can get going in Win 7 before they resources suffer.

I haven’t had PF on since the day I got 4GB RAM and have never once experienced a warning or problem….and I can be fairly intensive!

Pedro Amador
Guest

Thanks for the answer! I turned off some days ago… and the performance is better (but I’m not very happy with this SDD… it is the third one I have it, and I found it very slow).

Best regards

mattseds
Guest
mattseds

Unreal. I had no idea there was ever a difference offered, and found this thread while searching for potential firmware updates for the U100. I was quite sure the SSD was my issue, as there was ZERO capability to do any simultaneous disk activity. Unzipping something while surfing the net, and the net crawls because it can’t load pages into cache. Anyhow, just adding that the disabling of the page file makes a huge improvement. I’m guessing that this disk is so IO thread-limited that performing one operation while Windows swaps to the page file is enough to bring it… Read more »

mattseds
Guest
mattseds

Just correcting my above that the sustained spike was 100MB/s, not 10MB/s

Pedro Amador
Guest

It is not really good. I have the pagefile turned off. But some times Windows is not working… and start a crazy state!

amb9800
Guest
amb9800

@TheSSDReview:disqus, do you know of any 256GB (or larger) SSDs in the same form-factor as the U100? I’d love to replace it, but looks to be a proprietary shape/connector and incompatible with Apple’s SSD pinouts?

A bit surprised that Asus is still using the U100 in the Zenbook Prime series…

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

The ‘gumstick’ form factor of the Zen is similar but not compatible with its Mac counterpart, so unfortunately the OWC drive will not work. The ONLY other drive that would work is the ADATA twin of that drive that we reviewed and it is not available through consumer sales. Sorry.

amb9800
Guest
amb9800

For what it’s worth, upgrading to Windows 8 CP gave me a pretty nice bump in SSD performance. A few months in, and while it’s still horrible (gets stuck while switching between desktop and Metro, had a few multi-minute full-system freezes during I/O-intensive tasks, videos are hopeless, etc.), it’s at least better than under Win 7. Also, for some reason, switching to an older version of the Intel AHCI driver gives a 5-10% bump in write performance.

Me
Guest
Me

Running only synthetic benchmarks is not enough, I would expect to see some user scenario measurements and also some power consumption comparison.
I got the Zenbook with SanDisk U100 and after 2 weeks I can say that I’m very happy.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

The review displays the most realistic method of ‘true user experience’ evaluation seen today with PCMark Vantage and, as well, AS SSD Copy Benchmark is also a true copy test benchmark. There is nothing defective about the U100 whatsoever and in typical use, it would be difficult to differentiate from any other. The difficulty lies in anyone purchasing a system with this ssd for specific uses such as photography, movie editing and whatnot. It took 47 seconds to move a file….those are back to HDD days!

Lun916
Guest
Lun916

I find an interesting video on YouTube.
Its talking about the Sandisk SSD compared with ADATA that use in Zenbook.
Check it ! LOL

http://youtu.be/QjY7Ki85dWw

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Excellent Find!