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Adata XPG SX930 SSD Review

Adata hits back with a new flagship SSD that incorporates high-endurance eMLC flash and a familiar JMicron controller.

Conclusion

Even though the SX family hosted Adata's fastest SSDs for several years, the SX930 can be taken seriously only as a value or entry-level drive. The previous-generation SX920, a Crucial M550 clone that was identical in every way, is faster. The SX920 even scaled to 1TB, a capacity the SX930 fails to reach.

With that in mind, we need to look at other products that sell for the same or less to really understand what drive you should purchase. Sticking with 512GB-class SSDs, the Samsung 850 EVO 500GB and Crucial BX100 500GB are gold standards at this price point. As of this writing, both cost $177 at the same reputable online outlet. In our Crucial BX100 500GB review, we stated that, dollar for dollar, Samsung's 850 EVO is a better option. That takes care of the BX100 500GB.

The Adata SX930 does include an old-school accessory package. Many users no longer require a desktop adapter bracket or even the new 7mm-to-9.5mm adapter. Adata includes these parts in the retail SX930 kit, and if you need them you save between $10 and $15, along with a week's worth of shipping time. Adata also includes an SSD Toolbox software package, which makes life easier when you need to take a serious look at your drive and examine its SMART data for issues. The Adata utility also includes a feature for cloning existing data to your new SX930 SSD. The 850 EVO is void of a desktop adapter bracket, but does include software for data migration and enhanced DRAM caching capabilities.

On the performance side, the Adata SX930 compares better to Crucial's BX100 than the 850 EVO. Samsung's 3D V-NAND, even in three-bit MLC mode (TLC), is superior in every way to existing flash from Toshiba and Micron. This all but ensures better performance from Samsung's products, with the only exception being SanDisk's cost-competitive Extreme Pro.

Micron and JMicron are trying desperately to close the gap on Samsung's performance advantage by enabling SLC modes. While MLC+ and JMicron's Write Booster are effective under moderate workloads, the 850 EVO's TurboWrite algorithms are more mature and effective all the way into heavier tasks. The difference is a better user experience through a wider range of applications.

Both the SX930 and 850 EVO feature five-year warranties. Samsung's drive has been available for more than a year now, and we've yet to hear about problems with it. The SX930 may or may not prove to offer the same level of reliability. Since it's new, we can't say one way or the other. This is another area where the 850 EVO's success makes it difficult to recommend a challenger.

Finally we have the price comparison. Adata's SX930 480GB has an MSRP of $200, though at the time of writing, we were unable to find any SX930s for sale. The 850 EVO 500GB sells daily at $177, and we've seen sales that push the drive down to $150. In order to be competitive and make the SX930 480GB a viable option, it'd need to be priced $20 to $30 less than the 850 EVO at 480GB.

When it comes to SATA-based storage, the ceiling was achieved for 6Gb/s on day one. Since then, flash has only gotten worse for performance and endurance. Magic tricks used to make 15nm/16nm as good as 24nm/25nm look good on paper, but those tricks fail to keep pace with older products on the market in real-world use. 3D is on the horizon, but companies need to survive in a Samsung-dominated world until then.

Companies like Adata have to focus on the future and untapped markets. Low-cost NVMe is the only area left for exploration. Spending engineering resources on SATA 6Gb/s is a lost cause when the new flash fails to outperform the product it replaces. Samsung managed to time 3D just right, and the other companies are left to release value-oriented products as flagship offerings. This lack of forward thinking is dangerous for an industry that requires more than one source for competitive hardware to keep pricing in check. We are lucky to have low prices now, but it only comes from the generosity of one company that is far ahead of the others.

Products like the SX930 are only competitive against SSDs built three to five years ago. They do cost less, but when it comes to performance, SATA is going in the wrong direction. The price is good if you're coming from a hard drive, but these drives leave little reason for current SSD owners to purchase new products that offer equal or sub-par performance compared to what they already own.


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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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