The prototype reference SSD we used for the SMI SM2258 technical preview provided better performance than the Adata Ultimate SU800. We went back to examine the difference between the two products and found one feature that stood out as a clear differentiator between the two. Both drives offer the same 288GB raw capacity, but the reference design came with more overprovisioning.
The reference SSD featured 240GB of capacity, while the Adata retail product gives users 256GB. Adata chose to use all of the additional space for the SLC buffer, and apparently did not dedicate a portion of the NAND to the SSD's background activities. SSDs should use any free space available for garbage collection, TRIM and wear leveling. The reference design performed quite a bit better with an extra 7-percent reserved for these performance-sapping background operations.
It's difficult to fault Adata with the performance of the Ultimate SU800. Every company is eager to produce a retail product with 3D flash. Adata was the first non-fab company to release such a product, but we suspect others have looked at the flash and backed away from bringing a similar SSD to market. SMI (the controller vendor) has several partners that span the globe. I think most vendors examined the performance and either scrubbed a similar product, or are still trying to optimize the firmware to reel in the latency. I've tested several products with Micron's new 3D TLC NAND flash, and have yet to be impressed.
The NAND die is very large, so it only makes sense in low-cost, high-capacity SSDs. The only drive with IMFT 3D NAND that I would recommend is the Crucial MX300 2TB, but only because of its mixture of high-capacity and low price. Even the MX300 2TB makes a poor boot drive, so it is better suited for secondary drive use (essentially a big SSD to store data).
We can fault Adata for the naming scheme of the Ultimate SU800. Marketing is a tricky game, but at some point, the company needs to question the naming strategy. The term "Ultimate" signifies a premium SSD, but the SU800 doesn't fit that bill.
If you plan to purchase a low cost or even a premium SSD, the Adata Ultimate SU800 is not a good choice. You can find our picks in the Best SSDs monthly editorial that recommends other products that will offer the best performance per dollar.
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