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ADATA Premier Pro SP920 SSD Family Review
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Date: Apr 01, 2014
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

A few weeks back, we took a look at a new series of solid state drives from Crucial, the M550, which leveraged Marvell controller technology, 20nm MLC NAND flash memory, and firmware optimizations gleaned from the last couple of years of SATA SSD advancements. Ultimately, we found the M550 series of drives to be solid offerings, with well-rounded performance and competitive pricing.

Well, today, another major player—ADATA—is releasing its own family of drives featuring similar technology at its core. The brand new ADATA SP920 Premiere Pro family of drives we’ll be showing you here use the same controller and NAND as the M550 series, though ADATA takes a few steps to help differentiate their drives from the competition.

We’ve got the whole ADATA SP920 Premiere Pro family in house, in capacities ranging from 128GB all the way on up to 1TB, and plan to show you what they’re made of on the pages ahead. Up first, some specs and information about the drives, and then we’ll dig into the numbers...

ADATA Premiere Pro SP920 Series
Specifications & Features


Before we take a look at closer look at the new ADATA SP920 Premiere Pro family of drives, we want to quickly draw some attention to its accessory bundle.

ADATA is one of a decreasing number of companies that bundle its drives with not only a 2.5” to 3.5” mounting adapter, but a 2.5mm spacer, and with a license for Acronis True Image HD (Windows 8 compatible) as well. Though the mounting adapter and spacers are growing less important as newer cases that include 2.5” mounting locations are released, the inclusion of Acronis and these other accessories is a noteworthy value add in our opinion.

 

Externally, the ADATA Premiere Pro SP920 series of SSDs looks just like many of the other 2.5” solid state drives currently on the market. The drive has a slim, 7mm Z-Height (though, an adapter is included in the box to add 2.5mm if necessary), and it is adorned with a couple of decals listing the product family, model number and some other identifying information, but other than that, there’s not much to see.

 

Open up the drives, however, and you’ll find that there are built around the tried-and-true Marvell 88SS9189 SATA 6Gbs controller, which has been used by a variety of other SSD manufacturers as well. This particular drive is a 1TB model, and as you can see, the PCB is outfitted with 16 pieces of NAND—or more specifically, 16 pieces of 20nm IMFT MLC NAND (all SP920 drives features 20nm NAND)—and a bit of DRAM cache as well.

The ADATA Premiere Pro SP920 series of drives are rated for 550MB/s sequential reads with 500MB/s writes (180MB/s on the 128GB drive, and 360MB/s on the 256GB drive) and random read and write IOPS of 98K – 90K and 80K – 45K, respectively. All of the drives support technologies like SMART and TRIM, and have built-in AES 256-bit encryption capabilities. In addition, the drives' firmware supports active garbage collection, data path protection, and adaptive thermal monitoring too.
 

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Test Setup, IOMeter 1.1 RC

Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a separate drive used for the OS and benchmark installations. Out testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI (or RAID) mode was enabled. The SSDs were secure erased prior to testing, and left blank without partitions for some tests, while others required them to be partitioned and formatted, as is the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 and SSD Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Storage -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-4770K

Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH
(Z87 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

Intel HD 4600

8GB G.SKILL DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

Corsair Force GT (OS Drive)
AData XPG SX900 (256GB)
SanDisk Extreme II (480GB)
Samsung SSD 840 EVO (250GB)
ADATA SP920 (128GB - 1TB)
OCZ Verrtex 460 (240GB)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 8.1 Pro x64
Intel 9.4.0.1027, iRST 12.8.0.1016
DirectX 11

Intel HD 10.18.10.33

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tune v5.50
ATTO v2.47
AS SSD
CrystalDiskMark v3.0.3 x64
PCMark 7
SiSoftware Sandra 2014

IOMeter
I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool

As we've noted in previous SSD articles, though IOMeter is clearly a well-respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're not completely comfortable with it for testing SSDs. The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to scale properly, it is debatable whether or not certain access patterns, as they are presented to and measured on an SSD, actually provide a valid example of real-world performance for the average end user. That said, we do think IOMeter is a reliable gauge for relative available throughput within a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you can't with most other storage benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our custom Workstation pattern, with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and a 4K access pattern with a 4K transfer size, comprised of 67% reads (34% writes) and 100% random access.

The ADATA Premiere Pro SP920 series drives performed very well in our IOMeter testing, hanging with some of the fastest drives we've reviewed to date. The higher capacity drives offered better performance, but that was to be expected.

In terms of available bandwidth, we see more of the same, The higher capacity drives put up the best numbers, though the lower capacity drives were still competitive.

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SANDRA and ATTO Disk Benchmark

Next we ran SiSoft SANDRA 2014, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provide the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run on unformatted drives and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.

SiSoft SANDRA 2014
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

 

Read performance amongst all of the drives tested here was competitive across the board. Writes favored the higher capacity drives (once again), with the ADATA drives trailing only the Vertex 460.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w

ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc.

The ADATA Premiere Pro SP920 series of drives remained competitive in the ATTO benchmarks too. Of course, the lower capacity drives didn't offer writes that were as fast as the higher capacity drives, but again, that is to be expected since the drives aren't leveraging all of the capabilities of the controller.

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HD Tune Benchmarks
EFD Software's HD Tune is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more." The latest version of the benchmark added temperature statistics and improved support for SSDs, among a few other updates and fixes.

HD Tune v5.50
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com





The ADATA Premiere Pro SP920 series of drives was competitive in the HD Tune benchmarks as well. Transfer speeds were right there with the Intel and OCZ drives and access times were nice and low across the board.
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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests

Our CrystalDiskMark numbers with the ADATA SP920 series drives look good as well. Sequential transfers and 4K transfers at QD32 were especially strong.

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AS-SSD Compression Test

Next up we ran the Compression Benchmark built-into AS SSD, an SSD specific benchmark being developed by Alex Intelligent Software. This test is interesting because it uses a mix of compressible and incompressible data and outputs both Read and Write throughput of the drive. We only graphed a small fraction of the data (1% compressible, 50% compressible, and 100% compressible), but the trend is representative of the benchmark’s complete results.

AS-SSD Compression Benchmark
Bring Your Translator: http://bit.ly/aRx11n

The compressibility of the data being transferred has no effect on the performance of the ADATA SP920 series of drives.

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PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks
We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.

Futuremark's PCMark 7 Secondary Storage
http://www.futuremark.com

Though the deltas separating the higher capacity drives here are relatively small, technically all of the ADATA Premiere Pro SP920 series drives trailed the OCZ and Intel offerings. The lower write performance of the lower capacity drives, pushes them towards the bottom, though the 1TB faltered a bit as well.

If you look at the individual tests, the ADATA drives did well in the starting applications and video editing tests, but trailed in some of the others.

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Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: In the conclusion to our M550 review, we said, “We can’t speak to the lower-capacity drives in the series, but the Crucial M550 1TB and 512GB 2.5” drives we tested here offered strong performance, virtually across the board. The drives performed particularly well with 4K transfers, especially at higher queue depths. Sequential reads and writes were also among the best we’ve seen in a variety of tests, access times were very good, and performance remained consistent regardless of the compressibility of data being transferred.” All of that remains true with the ADATA SP920 Premiere Pro family of drives, though we now have a clearer picture of how lower capacity drives perform too. As you saw on the previous pages, the 128GB and 256GB drives perform similarly to the higher capacity drives in read operations, but write performance is significantly lower.


The ADATA Premiere Pro SP920 SSD Family - Find Them @ Amazon

The ADATA Premiere Pro SP920 series of solid state drives may not use any proprietary technology, like Intel’s or OCZ’s recent SSD offerings, but that doesn’t detract from them in our opinion. These new ADATA drives use a Marvell controller that has proven to be reliable and overall performance is top-notch in light of competing drives.

ADATA has set the MSRPs of the Premiere Pro SP920 series as follows:

  • 128GB: $89.99 ($.70 per GB)
  • 256GB: $159.99 ($.62 per GB)
  • 512GB: $334.99 ($.65 per GB)
  • 1TB: $529.99 ($.50 per GB)

Although we expect street prices to drift downward once availability ramps up, even at those MSRPs these drives are price competitively. The lower capacity drives aren’t quite as attractive in terms of cost per GB (at roughly $0.62 - $0.65 per GB), but the 1TB model is price very aggressively at about $.50 per GB, especially considering its performance and the fact that ADATA includes useful accessories and Acronis imaging software.

We dug ADATA’s Premiere Pro SP920 series of drives and think they’re solid offerings in the current SSD landscape. If you’re in the market for an SSD, and want to get the best deal possible, the ADATA Premiere Pro SP920 series of drives perform well and are priced competitively.

 

  • Strong Performance
  • Competitive Pricing
  • Useful Accessory Bundle with Acronis
  • Price Per GB of Lower Capacity Drives.



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