Apacer began building system memory in 1997. Many of its original products were destined for OEM and ODM markets, so you probably owned them even without knowing it. The company was at the forefront of building SSDs for industry customers before the consumer SSD market even formed. In recent years, Apacer has shipped SSDs over the APAC region, but now the company is ready to tackle the most congested SSD market in the world.

For the most part, the Apacer Z280 is a cookie cutter Phison PS5007-E7 M.2 2280 drive that uses the reference design and off-the-shelf firmware like some of the other products we’ve tested. From a reviewers point of view, the Z280 isn’t all that exciting. We have several SSDs with matching specifications and abilities. It’s not until you find the drive on Newegg with a low price point that the numbers start to come together. Surprisingly, the Z280 sells for TLC prices, but it uses Toshiba 15nm MLC flash.

The Phison E7 controller picked up speed in late 2016. A recent firmware update increased performance and SSD manufacturers took notice. After Phison released the new firmware, we’ve seen several companies demo E7-based products with unique designs, mostly in the add-in card form factor. The reference-design M.2 2280 with 15nm MLC flash is still a powerful combination for most users. The Apacer Z280 isn’t a pure workstation product, but it does provide a powerful option at a low price point.

The drive faces stiff competition and adds to the clutter in the NVMe market, which is quickly being dominated by E7-based products. The increase in the number of E7 products stems from two factors. The E7 is a good controller for Toshiba NAND and delivers better-than-acceptable performance. But just as important, there is a lack of high-performance Silicon Motion, Inc. SM2260-based SSDs. SMI put significant resources into optimizing its SM2260 controller for IMFT (Intel Micron Flash Technology) 3D NAND. However, the IMFT 3D, in both TLC and MLC forms, doesn’t perform as well as Toshiba’s 15nm MLC when the SATA bottleneck isn’t masking the results.

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