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

Results: TRIM Testing With ULINK's DriveMaster 2012

We've been utilizing ULINK's DriveMaster 2012 software and hardware suite to introduce a new test for client drives. Using JEDEC's standardized 218A Master Trace, DriveMaster can turn a sequence of I/O (similar to our Tom's Hardware Storage Bench) into a TRIM test. JEDEC's trace is months and months of drive activity, day-to-day activities, and background operating system tasks.

ULINK strips out the read commands for this benchmark, leaving us with the write, flush, and TRIM commands to work with. Execute the same workload with TRIM support and without, and you end up with a killer metric for further characterizing drive behavior.

DriveMaster is used by most SSD manufacturers to create and perform specific measurements. It's currently the only commercial product that can create the scenarios needed to validate TCG Opal 2.0 security, though it's almost unlimited in potential applications. Much of the benefit tied to a solution like DriveMaster is its ability to diagnose bugs, ensure compatibility, and issue low-level commands. In short, it's very handy for the companies actually building SSDs. And if off-the-shelf scripts don't do it for you, make your own. There's a steep learning curve, but the C-like environment and command documentation gives you a fighting chance.

This product also gives us some new ways to explore performance. Testing the TRIM command is just the first example of how we'll be using ULINK's contribution to the Tom's Hardware benchmark suite.

On a 256 GB drive, each iteration writes close to 800 GB of data, so running the JEDEC TRIM test suite once on a 256 GB SSD generates almost 3.2 TB of mostly random writes (it's 75% random and 25% sequential). By the end of each run, over 37 million write commands are issued.

The first two tests employ DMA to access the storage, while the last two use Native Command Queuing. Since most folks don't use DMA with SSDs (aside from some legacy or industrial applications) we don't concern ourselves with those. It can take up to 96 hours to run one drive through all four runs, though faster drives can roughly cut the time in half. Because so much information is being written to an already-full SSD (the drive is filled before each test, and then close to 800 GB are written per iteration), SSDs that perform better under heavy load fare best. Without TRIM, on-the-fly garbage collection becomes a big contributor to high IOPS. With TRIM, 13% of space gets TRIM'ed, leaving more room for the controller to use for maintenance operations.

TRIM Testing

Rolling Average

Here's the chart derived from our DriveMaster JEDEC TRIM test data. We have the new Adata SSDs, Crucial's M550s, Samsung's venerable 840 Pro at 256 GB, Crucial's more mainstream M500 (240 GB), Plextor's M5P, and the 250 GB 840 EVO. Each device's NCQ-based test is plotted. The solid line represents average IOPS every 100,000 commands, but without TRIM. The hashed line represents performance every 100,000 commands with TRIM. In each case, the workload is mixed in with tons of small, random writes.

Since performance is measured over each 100,000-command segment, time is factored out of the above chart. This rolling average also hides the trace's peaky nature.

There's a lot going on in the chart above, but pay particular attention to the 512 GB Crucial M550 in green and SP920 in teal. The M550 again outpaces Adata in a small but quantifiable way through the test with TRIM enabled and without the command. We keep getting the sense that these drives are not as identical as the hardware suggests. 

Instantaneous

But I also want to know the instantaneous average of our TRIM testing. How does the drive fare servicing writes with and without TRIM during each 100,000-command window? The purple line represents IOPS across the entire trace, without TRIM. The teal line is with TRIM. Each data point represents write IOPS per 100,000-command test reporting period.

As we get more experience with this test, it's easier to identify the drives intended for enterprise-oriented environments and the ones destined to do desktop duty. The SP920 is readily identifiable as the latter. During periods of high I/O demand, the teal line shows the extra space created by TRIM allowing much higher performance. That is to say, when the system needs more write I/O, the SP920 delivers through its support for TRIM.

Throughput

We collect and report the total throughput of each drive in the NCQ with TRIM test. It's one number that helps capture overall performance in the test.

Going back to our rolling average chart, where the 512 GB M550 beat the SP920 by a slim margin, these are the results in MB/s. And now we can see that the difference is just 2 MB/s across the test. Samsung's 840 Pro 256 GB, the Crucial M550, and the theoretically-identical Adata SP920 are all very similar.

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21 comments
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  • Would buy one in a heartbeat. Regardless of who makes them, nice move Adata.
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  • I prefer Sandisk, if you don't mind.
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  • blackmagnum 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
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  • 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
  • rajangel 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
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  • 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
  • rajangel 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
  • 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
  • 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."
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  • Impressive ... power consumption is a bit high though, compared to the Samsung 120GB Evo (my current $80 fav)

    Are 'microseconds' considered 'milliseconds' ??
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  • 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
  • Wisecracker 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
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  • "The M500 is up to MU03 now"you may want to update crucial fw from MU03 to MU05 as the latest fw
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  • "The M500 is up to MU03 now"you may want to update crucial fw from MU03 to MU05 as the latest fw
    1
  • rajangel 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
  • 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
  • Evolution2001 said:
    rajangel 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
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  • 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
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  • @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.
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  • Drejeck 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
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