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Hardware Review: ZOTAC 10 Year Anniversary Sonix PCIe SSD

Christopher Coke Posted:
Hardware Reviews 0

This week, we were lucky enough to get our hands on Zotac’s latest solid state drive, the 10 Year Anniversary Sonix 480GB SSD. This edition celebrates 10 years of operation for Zotac and joins their Anniversary Edition GTX 1080 video cards offering refreshed aesthetics, features, and increased performance.

As an NVMe add-in card utilizing the PCI-Express pipeline, we know the drive is faster than your average SATA SSD. Let’s see how it holds up in the real world.

The system used in our hardware test features the following configuration: MSI Z270 Gaming M7 motherboard, i7-7700k 4.5GHz, 16GB G.Skill DDR4 RAM 3200Mhz, (3) 7200RPM mechanical HDDs - 2TB total capacity, EVGA GTX 1080SC2 GPU, Corsair HX1050 PSU.

Zotac is positioning the 10 Year Anniversary Edition Sonix as a card for gamers and users who need to draw on large files with lightning speed. The PCIe interface allows the Sonix to achieve incredible transfer rates, far outclassing its competition which use SATA interfaces. Whereas popular SATA based drives often hover around 500MB/s in sequential read and write benchmarks, Zotac markets the anniversary Sonix at 2800MB/s and 1500MB/s respectively. These rates are a solid 200MB/s faster than the original version while also coming in a full $30 cheaper on Amazon as of this writing. This kind of performance doesn’t come cheap, but when you’re quadrupling the speeds of cheaper SATA drives, that’s to be expected.

Apart from boosted transfer rates, the Anniversary Edition also comes with a new, all black color scheme. The rear of the card retains the Zotac branding from last year’s version, but rather than content themselves with a cutout, here the name lights up with a white LED that looks great against the anodized black backplate. There are no wires, nothing to clutter an otherwise clean rig. It’s a sleek card that would look good in any system.

Back to the internals, the drive features a 480GB capacity which results in 447GB of useable space. Zotac has opted for an MLC flash array to keep costs down, which is a sound decision given the speed and reliability these arrays are have demonstrated in recent years. Power consumption is minimal at 5.57W read and 7.27W write, with a 0.5W draw at idle. Zotac is quoting a Mean Time Before Failure of 2,000,000 hours.

Getting up and running with the Sonix couldn’t be easier. It’s as simple as inserting it into an open PCIe slot and powering on. On Windows 10, the drive detected and was fully functional without any need for driver installs; however, Windows 7 users will need Zotac’s NVMe software. Using Macrium Reflect and EasyBCD, we were able to clone our Windows drive and with a quick pit stop in the BIOS to change our boot disk, we were up and running with a bootable drive ready for our tests.

Unlike straight hardware test sites, MMORPG rarely has a stable of competitive hardware run comparative benchmarks against. Instead, we strive to provide real world performance data to help you make the best decision. For this review, we’re testing against a Western Digital 7200RPM drive to model the types of improvements users upgrading for the first time might encounter.

If you’re curious how the drive stacks up against other NVMe and SATA SSDs, check out the good work of our friends at Guru3D who took a look at last year’s drive (few reviews of the Anniversary Sonix are currently available). Last year’s version was neck and neck with its competition, but with the transfer rate improvements and lower price, it should easily become one of, if not the best, price to performance value drive in its category.

For our purposes, we looked at three key elements: boot time, transfer time, and load times in major games. To accomplish this, we tested each element on a mechanical drive and then performed the exact same operation on the Sonix. Here is what we found:

Recorded boot-to-boot times. Post-BIOS times are 13.5 seconds and 36.7 seconds respectively

Boot times showed a drastic improvement, speeding up by a speedy 51-percent. Returning from hibernation was also improved making the system feel much snappier.

Minimum and maximum speeds were typically milliseconds before stabilizing

When testing file transfer speeds, we used a 20.9GB folder for our Steam installation of Skyrim. We performed a copy/paste from one on the 7200 drive itself, from the 7200 to the Sonix, from the Sonix back, and a copy/paste on the SSD itself. Any test with a mechanical is obviously limited with the 7200 still in the chain. As you can see, reading and writing to the Sonix is a whopping 85% faster (in seconds) than a traditional drive - from four and a half minutes down to just over thirty seconds!

Finally, we come to it. For our tests, we timed the load into each game from character selection (or, for Mass Effect, continuing the campaign). This load is typically one of the longest and most intensive due to the lack of cached files and is also representational of the kind of improvements users would be most likely to appreciate. Each MMO was loaded into a highly populated area to add player model loading as a contributing factor. As you can see, the Sonix showed remarkable improvements over our 7200RPM drive, though perhaps not quite as much as the 2800MBs/1800MBs would indicate; however, it’s worth noting that with most games, data throughput isn’t likely to push a drive such as the Sonix to its peaks. Again, we refer current SATA owners to our friends at Guru3D whose research still shows a clear, observable improvement with the upgrade to Zotac’s NVMe.

It’s clear that the Zotac 10 Year Anniversary Sonix 480GB is an incredible improvement over a traditional drive. Anyone waiting to upgrade can see just how far hard drive technology has come by looking to the Sonix. Even against other NVMe drives in its pricing category, the improvements in the anniversary edition should easily keep it a top performer and one of the best price to performance ratio NVMe solid state drives on the market. The results speak for themselves: if you’re consider the jump to a solid state drive, the Sonix is a system changer.

The hardware analyzed in this article was provided by ZOTAC for the purposes of review.


Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight