Adata Premier Pro SP920 SSD: From 128 To 1024 GB, Reviewed

Adata SP920: Adding Value With A Nice Bundle

There are a couple of different directions I could go with this wrap-up. On one hand, it'd be easy to take a swipe at Adata for rebadging a Micron storage platform. But the fact of the matter is that I'd do the same thing in Adata's position. There are several companies needing a drive like the SP920 right now

Lots of companies need a drive like the SP920 that can tide them over until LSI's next-gen SandForce controller is ready. Adata had to look at its options and decide that it'd take too long to develop a home-grown Marvell-based platform. Going with a fast, modern, and, most important, available SSD like the M550 simply made the most sense. Adata gets a solid product able to soften the wait, and Micron (Crucial's parent company) gets to move more volume. 

Neither Micron nor Adata wants to volunteer details, and legally, they're probably prohibited from doing so. But we can fill in the gaps with educated guesses. Adata had to know that we'd figure all of this out relatively quickly, so the company gets my respect for making this decision, sticking with it, and doing what's best until the next wave of SSDs is ready. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Adata is making quite a statement about the M550. And hopefully, a variation on that theme turns into better prices on the same great performance, benefiting enthusiasts.

We know that these drives come off of Micron's production lines. See that "Product of Singapore" label attached to the SP920? Adata's production happens in Taiwan. Micron's SSDs, on the other hand, come from Singapore. This suggests that, despite its considerable manufacturing capacity, Adata isn't cranking out Micron-designed drives in its own factories, but rather doing a bit of branding. And thus, my first indication that the SP920 isn't Adata's own (the chassis, from page one), is all but confirmed by a silly little sticker. 

Now, this isn't to say that the SP920 is exactly a Crucial M550. Despite the similar boards, controllers, and firmware, there are some slight behavioral differences on the test bench. It's possible that Micron did not want to outfit the lower-capacity SP920s with the M550's equivalent flash. We know that Crucial's 128 and 256 GB models rock twice as many dies as Adata's versions with 128 Gb densities. Once you get up to the 1 TB size, though, both competing repositories match each other almost exactly.

There's one thing Adata doesn't get for the SP920 that Micron keeps for itself, or that Adata didn't want: TCG Opal 2.0 and Microsoft eDrive support, two awesome encryption features.

The important question to ask, then, is why would you want a 1024 GB SP920 rather than a 1024 GB M550? Should you buy one company's 512 GB model over the other's? Pricing should be equal. Three-year warranties cover all models. And neither brand truly outperforms the other. Adata does ship its Premier Pro SP920s with a 3.5" adapter sled and a 7-to-9 mm spacer.  It's handy, but not (pardon the pun) crucial. The SP920s also come with Adata's own toolbox utility. Firmware updates, diagnostics, TRIM, and secure erasures are all enabled through it. I like the software, and think all SSD vendors should offer something like it. Crucial does not bundle a suite of tools with its own drives. But the best value-add included with the SP920 is an OEM version of Acronis True Image HD 2013, which lets you clone an existing operating system. Unlike proprietary versions of imaging software, this one works with any drive, and there are other features built in to True Image that just cloning.

In the end, picking Adata's SP920 over the M550 makes sense when bundled extras make a difference to the value equation, providing prices do end up relatively similar. My recommendations change based on the specific model, though. The 128 and 256 GB SP920s should sell for about $10 less than the M550's suggested prices. We don't have a 128 or 256 GB M550s, so we can't recommend them based on our own experiences. But you'll probably find that they're faster than the SP920 at those capacities, since we know they're using twice the die. The 512 and 1024 GB SP920s are easier for me to stand behind. With functionally-identical performance, value is the biggest variable. If Adata's extras are enough to tip the scale for you, both capacities are solid options.

Of course, given low-ball prices on Crucial's M500, buying one of those and pocketing the difference isn't a bad way to go. Then again, the same holds true for almost every other SSD out there with a history of aggressive price cuts and almost-as-good performance.

Adata isn't the only vendor suffering in the absence of third-gen SandForce hardware. In truth, I'm a little surprised that more companies haven't diversified their storage portfolios to be less dependent on one supplier. Silicon Motion's SM2246EN controller is a solution I would have expected to start showing up in lower-capacity drives by now. Unlike Marvell, Silicon Motion will sell you a more complete SSD package. Or, if you want its controller for a completely original design, you can do that too.

Whatever circumstances led Adata to today's launch, the company made the right move to keep its name on our tongues through 2014. I'm naturally waiting with bated breath for LSI's response, but that doesn't make products based on Marvell's silicon any less compelling. We already know that the SP920 is an evolution of hardware wringing every last bit of performance from the SATA 6Gb/s interface. And there's nothing wrong with that.

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21 comments
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  • rolli59
    Would buy one in a heartbeat. Regardless of who makes them, nice move Adata.
    0
  • blackmagnum
    I prefer Sandisk, if you don't mind.
    0
  • cryan
    Anonymous said:
    I prefer Sandisk, if you don't mind.


    The X210 is pretty awesome, but newer Marvell implementations are built with Haswell-style power features in mind. If you're looking for a drive to use in mobile applications, mind the heat and power consumption stats.

    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
    1
  • rajangel
    Awhile back I purchased a few different SSD's to test out (OCZ, Crucial, Patriot, Adata). The Adata is the only one still running and was always the quickest. I don't know how this one is built, but the last Adata was built tough. The OCZ was so flimsy it felt like paper. The Crucial and the Patriot were slightly better in build quality. Now that I'm in the market for a new drive I may consider this.
    -2
  • cryan
    Anonymous said:
    Awhile back I purchased a few different SSD's to test out (OCZ, Crucial, Patriot, Adata). The Adata is the only one still running and was always the quickest. I don't know how this one is built, but the last Adata was built tough. The OCZ was so flimsy it felt like paper. The Crucial and the Patriot were slightly better in build quality. Now that I'm in the market for a new drive I may consider this.


    I have to say, the plastic or metal chassis a drive comes in doesn't mean much. In the lab, I like a nice heavy metal SSD casing, but in a laptop? You probably want a flimsy plastic chassis. It's not conductive and doesn't add much weight.


    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
    1
  • rajangel
    It's a matter of opinion. I like things that are built well, and have a quality appearance. I think build quality does affect performance (read reliability). Especially when connectors/etc are cheap in construction. However, just my opinion.
    -2
  • cryan
    Anonymous said:
    It's a matter of opinion. I like things that are built well, and have a quality appearance. I think build quality does affect performance (read reliability). Especially when connectors/etc are cheap in construction. However, just my opinion.


    I agree that a substantial chassis tends to reinforce the perception of a drive's build quality, but much of the time its aesthetic. The component choice on the PCB speaks more to quality. I've seen some downright terrible drives in the fanciest of cases.

    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
    1
  • rajangel
    I think there should be a restriction that prevents the article author from replying, unless there is a substantial mistake that was noted. I feel like tomshardware authors troll their own threads. This has become a problem lately. I'm at the point where I feel my business and time would be better spent on a real tech website. Tomshardware is like the Yahoo of tech sites lately.
    -4
  • iltamies
    Typo on last page: "Adata gets a solid product able to soften the wait, and Micron (Crucial's parent company) gets to more more volume." should read "move more volume."
    0
  • Wisecracker
    Impressive ... power consumption is a bit high though, compared to the Samsung 120GB Evo (my current $80 fav)

    Are 'microseconds' considered 'milliseconds' ??
    0
  • Pibee
    Interesting review, sadly yet understandably reviews never examine the range issues that can arise in everyday usage, and consequently how something that begins relatively small can grow to be an absolute killer for what would otherwise be a good and very competitive product.

    Case in point. I read ADATA had released driver updates back in February. I have a SX 900 64G I use for benchmarking. After downloading and running the 525 FieldUpdater it was obvious that no matching driver was included in the newly released 525 driver update package I had downloaded despite the SX 900 being on the list.

    I emailed tech support and didn't receive a reply for 7 days despite the confirmation of receipt stating a response would come in 1 to 3 days. I did get a reply after a posting the issue to their Facebook page in which I was told "Please see the attached for the signature file you needed for the firmware update as it took us some time to obtain it from our headquarters"

    Indeed a matching 525 FieldUpdater driver had been included in this email and I installed it.

    The result was something to see, erratic and downright wonky, come to mind. A malfunction in the installation I presumed and so I downloaded the ADATA software suite SSD Tool which wouldn't and couldn't Security Erase the disk. Parted Magic was then installed and did the job allowing me to clean reinstall the driver I'd been emailed and hopefully resolve the erratic performance issue. In part it resolved erratic reads and writes but now every ATTO write above the 128k mark had lost 40% of its performance capability from the benchmarks using the previous driver.

    Support were emailed including ATTO screen captures, and their response was to send it back for replacement.
    _Wait a minute just sent me the old driver I stated in my response
    Can't "After consulting with our headquarters, it’s confirmed that once the firmware is updated, it cannot be removed or fallback to the older version".

    Having no choice I hinted that as this debacle had originated with them that an upgrade from 64G would be an appropriate compensation for the enormous waste of time, and additional costs I was incurring.


    The disk was packaged and insured then sent to ADATA for a cost of 20$ and it should be noted that locally this additional $20 represented the retail difference between a 64G and a 128G capacity.
    Tracking informed me ADATA received the disk in 5 days and later confirmed by them. Once the 3 to 5 days turn over stated by them came and passed and on day seven a status inquiry was sent and 6 hrs later, confirmation a package to me had been put in the hands of mail services.

    That was March 21 and I received the disk 11 days later April 1st in my snail mail box no signature required (a less scrupulous person could easily exploit that).

    The round trip experience total is six weeks with a dollar output of over 20% of the sticker price the disk was purchased for. Total time wasted on their error, fiddling with downloads installing and removing ADATA brand software that didn't accomplish the required tasks (additionally the Acronis suite that was packaged with the drive never successfully completed the key transaction on their site) research, installations removal... ya'll get the picture.

    Does the SX 900 perform well/competitively... all the published reviews and accompanying benchmarks hold true, so yes it's a cracker even in the 64G capacity.

    Would I recommend it?
    Only to a tech masochist with tons of time to waste as well a a few bucks.
    Now you have a more complete picture.
    -1
  • cryan
    Anonymous said:

    Impressive ... power consumption is a bit high though, compared to the Samsung 120GB Evo (my current $80 fav)

    Are 'microseconds' considered 'milliseconds' ??


    Remember (at least for idle) that these are active numbers. That is, the drive and host aren't collaborating to put the drive in a lower power state. In a mobile application, most every SSD is going to drop to lower sleep-state levels, but at the cost of higher latency when returning to idle. For the sake of consistent testing we choose to use active idle.

    Did we mix up our units somewhere?


    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
    0
  • sammyboi
    "The M500 is up to MU03 now"you may want to update crucial fw from MU03 to MU05 as the latest fw
    0
  • sammyboi
    "The M500 is up to MU03 now"you may want to update crucial fw from MU03 to MU05 as the latest fw
    1
  • Evolution2001
    Anonymous said:
    I think there should be a restriction that prevents the article author from replying, unless there is a substantial mistake that was noted. I feel like tomshardware authors troll their own threads. This has become a problem lately. I'm at the point where I feel my business and time would be better spent on a real tech website. Tomshardware is like the Yahoo of tech sites lately.

    I disagree. I actually like seeing the authors chime in. I think it builds a better community as the authors seem more accessible and thus reliable and relatable.
    I also don't think Christopher Ryan is trolling in the strictest definition of the word; He's not trying to stir things up for the sake of starting a post war. He's simply continuing to give his opinion and replies in threads. Why should they not be able to make comments on articles they've written? It is expected that any knowledge they can impart to the community is considered of value, regardless if it's in the original article or in the comments section. I think there's also a potential consideration where maybe they have more to share, but due to time constraints or simply available space, they didn't say all they really wanted. So they chime in in the comments section. Kinda like the "extras" on a DVD or BR... "Oh, Director Commentary. Cool!"
    3
  • Damn_Rookie
    I agree with Evolution2001 above, I too like seeing the authors in the comment sections. It often leads to a greater insight into the topic, their take on things, and why they focused or didn't focus on specific things in the article. It's definitely a positive for me.
    0
  • cryan
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    I think there should be a restriction that prevents the article author from replying, unless there is a substantial mistake that was noted. I feel like tomshardware authors troll their own threads. This has become a problem lately. I'm at the point where I feel my business and time would be better spent on a real tech website. Tomshardware is like the Yahoo of tech sites lately.

    I disagree. I actually like seeing the authors chime in. I think it builds a better community as the authors seem more accessible and thus reliable and relatable.
    I also don't think Christopher Ryan is trolling in the strictest definition of the word; He's not trying to stir things up for the sake of starting a post war. He's simply continuing to give his opinion and replies in threads. Why should they not be able to make comments on articles they've written? It is expected that any knowledge they can impart to the community is considered of value, regardless if it's in the original article or in the comments section. I think there's also a potential consideration where maybe they have more to share, but due to time constraints or simply available space, they didn't say all they really wanted. So they chime in in the comments section. Kinda like the "extras" on a DVD or BR... "Oh, Director Commentary. Cool!"


    I'm making an effort to try and encourage more discussion, which means becoming more active in the comment section. Previously, I tended to let them be. Now, I think I can increase the utility of the comments section over time by more active participation.

    As someone who used to read and post comments on Tom's as a reader, I always thought it was awesome that I had a place where I could interact with the author. I want to see more of that with my reviews, so my participation is the best way to make that happen.

    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
    0
  • Drejeck
    i'd like to see more msata and m.2 offerings, sata3 just doesn't keep up anymore, it's getting obsolete even it's more than sufficient for 99% of the people
    0
  • CaedenV
    @rajangel You think that is trolling? You should see what Daniel Rubino does to readers over at WP Central. That is trolling at its finest and the community there is healthier for it. It helps keep ignorant morons who mistake aesthetics for reliability and performance in check so that the adults can hold more constructive conversation.
    0
  • cryan
    Anonymous said:
    i'd like to see more msata and m.2 offerings, sata3 just doesn't keep up anymore, it's getting obsolete even it's more than sufficient for 99% of the people


    mSATA SSDs are still using the SATA 3.1 host spec, as are most M.2s. There are a few M.2 PCIe SSDs, but there are currently next to no applications for them. We have more M.2 and mSATA reviews on the way, so you should be able to judge for yourself.

    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
    0