The JMicron JM602 controller, paired with insufficient cache, hobbled the first generation of consumer SSDs—once the cache filled, write speeds slowed to a crawl. Random-write latencies could get as bad as a fifth of a second (compared to .1ms for most modern SSDs), pulling average sustained writes down as low as 20MB/s in some cases. Manufacturers responded by adding more cache or by building future generations of drives on different controllers, such as the Barefoot Indilinx part. Since then, JMicron has been pretty quiet, but now Patriot’s Zephyr line has arrived, powered by JMicron’s new JMF612 SATA controller. Is this new effort enough to the put JMicron into our good graces?
JMicron's new controller in the Patriot Zephyr SSD is better than the infamous JM602, but not good enough.
For space reasons, we’re dropping the suspense. While average sustained reads over 200MB/s are impressive, a minimum sustained write speed of 0.6MB/s and an average write speed of just 62.9MB/s in HDTune show the telltale signs: the drive stutters. Not in every benchmark—HDTach averaged 164MB/s writes with no sign of jitters—but it does happen. The massive 64MB of DRAM cache should mitigate the jitters in most real-world circumstances, but not all—the Zephyr’s Premiere Pro write times are slower than any SSD we’ve tested recently, bar two: the Marvell-based Plextor drive and WD’s SiliconEdge Blue, both tested in our June roundup. Read and write IOPS are likewise less than impressive, especially the latter, which averaged a decidedly non-leet 1,337 IOPS.
Ultimately, the JMF612 controller can’t match the performance of either the Barefoot or SandForce controllers. And while the price is nice, most people who can afford a performance SSD at all can afford to spend a few more dollars for one based on a more stable controller.
At $365 for 128GB, the Patriot Zephyr offers more capacity for the price than current-gen SandForce drives, which trend toward $400 for 100GB. But we don’t think the price break is worth the performance cut. If you’re looking for a cheaper and more capacious alternative to a 100GB SandForce drive, look to Barefoot drives such as the Corsair Nova V128 or Patriot’s own Torqx.