With everyone and their dog seemingly using the second generation of SandForce controllers as a basis for an SSD or three, there is always a tendency to yawn a little and offer a terse "go on then, show us what you've got."

Well, in the case of the Zalman SSD-F1 Series 240GB, that happens to be quite a lot. The drive is blessed with stunning performance and is more than a match for some of its SandForce competition.

Zalman f1 benchmarks

While distracting the outside world with pretty-looking and highly efficient coolers, some people deep inside Korea were keeping a watchful eye on what was happening with the SSD market and biding their time before launching this second generation drive.

It appears that Zalman has taken full advantage of this time by the way the drive can keep up with the OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS in our benchmarks.

And it also shows it has access to the latest firmware tweaks that were applied to the MAX IOPS, despite the Zalman SSD-F1 Series 240GB drive using the Intel's 25nm MLC flash memory of the original Vertex 3, not the 32nm Toggle NAND that the MAX IOPS version uses.

Benchmark figures are all well and good, but what about in the real world, what does the F1 240GB drive bring to the table?

Well, installing Windows 7 from scratch took a mere 16 minutes from start to the password entry screen, while the operating system itself takes just 36 seconds from a cold boot to be ready for use. Loading a full copy of Windows Office 2010 Pro took a very rapid 4 minutes 41 seconds.

We liked

The Zalman SSD-F1 Series 240GB is a real shot from left field; no one really saw it coming, but performance-wise it really is hard to fault. It's not that badly priced either. Yes it's a bit more expensive than some of the competition but, perhaps more importantly, it's cheaper than the Vertex 3 MAX IOPS, which it practically matches for performance.

We disliked

Having to download the migration software that comes in the shape of Acronis True Image HD is a bit of a pain, and there's no real excuse for it not being part of the box bundle. But no doubt Zalman would say it's to keep the cost down. But hey, that's a teeny logistical issue, not an actual SSD problem.

Final verdict

From nowhere to be among the leaders of the pack of SSDs is an impressive achievement from Zalman, to say the least.