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A-DATA S592 128GB SSD Review

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AkG

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A-DATA S592 128GB SSD Review




Manufacturer Page: A-DATA Technology
Part Number: AS592S-128GM-C
TechWiki Info: A-Data S592 128GB-TechWiki
Price: about $440
Warranty: 2 year



In the recent past we have seen the SSD landscape change so quickly and so often that it must truly be a confusing sight for the average computer enthusiast and more so for everyday consumers looking to build their first computer. Not too long ago the Indilinx Barefoot controller was the sole domain of the OCZ Vertex SSD line. Then G. Skill took notice and proceeded to undermine the OCZ Indilinx dominance with their release of the Falcon line of SSDs. More recently, Patriot got into the act as well and actually trounced the competition on the warranty front. Now A-DATA is getting in on the Indilinx action with their release of the S592 line of SSDs.

Surprisingly enough, considering their size A-Data is not that well known of a company here in North America. The reality is they are well known in Asia and actually act as an OEM for quite a few other companies out there and while they are relatively new to the SSD arena. However, since they are ranked as on of the they are one of the global leaders in DRAM and flash memory, they are well positioned to make a foray into the SSD marketplace.

Right now if you want to be a serious contender in the SSD arena an Indilinx controller backed up by a good warranty, availability and customer support is as safe a bet as any. In the time we have had this product, the S592 has gone from nearly impossible to find to sporting widespread availability. The only issue is that the 128GB capacity drive we are reviewing here today is still playing hide and go seek with very few retailers carrying it. If you can find it, expect to pay around $420.

Now that A-Data is entering the fray, the biggest question is: how is A-Data going to differentiate themselves from the competition? We highly doubt that as long as the firmware is up to date (and the NAND used is the same as the rest) that the performance will be lacking. What sub niche are they going to go after? Right now OCZ dominates in the customer support and firmware update area, G. Skill is the usually the most budget friendly and Patriot owns the warranty crown. So what are is A-Data going to go after? We’re not quite sure yet but it is always good to see another competitor come onto the market.

SSD-500-s592.jpg

 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/S592/specs.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
 
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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


AData_S592_box_front_sm.jpg


Upon our first glance of the A-Data S592’s box we thought we had been sent a G. Skill Titan. As with the Titan the box the S592 comes in is done in a copper red and black motif with white lettering. All things considered, it is a good looking package that should appeal to buyers perusing store shelves.

AData_S592_box_bac_sm.jpg

The front of the box also boldly proclaims a 2 year warranty…which with the exception of the G.Skill Falcon is nothing to be overly proud of. Two years is more than adequate for most users but this can’t even begin to compare to Patriot’s industry-leading 10 year warranty.

The back of the box is a study in international languages as it hosts not one or two, but eleven languages, all of which give the absolute minimum information needed to make an informed decision. While we applaud A-Data’s multiculturalism we really wish they had provided more than a minimum amount of data.

AData_S592_box_open_sm.jpg

When you open up the box this theme of bare minimum requirements seems to continue. We have absolutely no issues with manufactures using plastic clam shell holders as it does provide a good secure base of protection for such durable goods like SSDs. However, we do draw the line when the manufacture doesn’t even include a top layer of plastic. In a nutshell A-Data has gone for a plastic holder which only protects the SSD with a modicum of protection on the back and sides; not the top. The only thing stopping a pointed object from striking the top of the S592 is the thin cardboard exterior box.

If this SSD was like others we have reviewed in the past we wouldn’t harp on this so much as the metal casing of the SSD makes for a great last line of defense. Unfortunately, this SSD is made of a cheap plastic and a good hard strike can crack it.

AData_S592_access_sm.jpg

As with darn near every SSD we have reviewed -with the exception of the Patriot Torqx- the list of accessories is on the short side. Basically you get a small “quick install” instruction pamphlet and that’s it. While other Indilinx SSDs have come with jumpers we are not going to harp on this missing item as we will get into that particular issue later.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the A-Data S592 128GB SSD

A Closer Look at the A-Data S592 128GB SSD


AData_S592_top_ang_sm.jpg
AData_S592_bottom_ang_sm.jpg

As you can see from the above pictures, the S592 is finished in a solid black motif with the only colour besides that on the label being the large “warranty void” sticker and the brass inserts. The purpose of the brass inserts is to allow you to mount this SSD in a case with screws. As with all SSDs we have reviewed in the past, you can mount this lightweight kit with either the more typical side screws or the alternate bottom screws.

AData_S592_top2_sm.jpg

The label which provides the main splash of colour to this drive is not done in the same colour scheme as the exterior box. Unlike the box it comes in which uses a red and black background with a white lettering scheme, the label of 592 is done in a light red fading to white background colour with white and black lettering. While we do like this label it is lacking some of the finer points which we really would have liked to see like how much power it uses. We usually don’t make a big a deal over this omission but A-Data does make the claim in the S592s accompanying pamphlet that this drive has an “80% power consumption reduction over conventional HDD”. While SSDs are power efficient that is one big and bold claim to make.

A typical 2.5” high performance 7200rpm drive uses about 3 watts of power; this translates to 0.6A on the 5v line. To meet A-Data’s claim this drive would need to use at most 0.12A even though most SSDs of this size run in the .35A to .6A range. The only way this claim is possible is if A-Data are comparing this 2.5” form factor SSD to 3.5” form factor hard drives .

AData_S592_bottom_sm.jpg

Once we got over the lack of details on the label the next thing which became abundantly clear is this is one light weight drive! While the other SSDs we have reviewed were not exactly “Jaba the Hut” in the weight department, this product is downright svelte in comparison. How they got it to be so light weight is simple: they swapped out all the metal in the case for lightweight and cheap plastic. It is obvious that this drive has been designed for ultra light weight laptops.

Honestly, we are not against plastic SSDs because they can’t protect the internal properly as this is a moot point to us. The real reason we dislike plastic cases is because of heat dissipation. Even this is a minor issue, as most NAND chips are rated to about 80°C, but a metal case does do a yeoman’s job at acting as a large heatsink for the chips, controller and other components.

AData_S592_ports_sm.jpg

Moving unto the ports of this unit, we come to another surprise. For all you readers who are familiar with Indilinx drives you all know what is missing from the above photo: jumper pins. No jumper pins means that this drive is either the very first Barefoot controller based SSD to never need jumpers to update the firmware, or this unit is not going to be end user upgradeable like literally every other Indilinx-bsed drive.

What makes this such a big deal is that Indilinx SSDs are not Native OS TRIM operational (ATA T13 “TRIM” capable) before firmware 1.4 and since our S592 came with firmware 1279 (PRE 1.1) this means when you move over to Windows 7, your shiny new S592 is going to be left in the past and obsolete. Heck, with such ancient firmware on it...it is already obsolete! To be fair, OCZ has shown that they can do firmware updates without the use of setting the jumper pins so its not entirely out of the realm of possibility that A-Data’s S592 will be upgradeable….but this is not an OCZ drive and no other company has been able to accomplish this feat.

Overall, this drive is certainly taking a totally different approach than any of the other Indilinx drives we have tested so far. It has no jumper pins and no metal casing but differences in design philosophies are a good thing as certain segments of the market may prefer this setup to the more typical and honestly, the more choices you the customer have the better things are.
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions


Before we continue: Please remember that opening any SSD will effectively void your warranty.

AData_S592_top_off_sm.jpg
AData_S592_warranty_sm.jpg

Unlike the metal clad brethren we have opened up in the past this cases top lid has little notches on it which engage slots in the rest of the case. For a second there we were afraid something was going to break before the lid popped free.

AData_S592_board_sm.jpg
AData_S592_board2_sm.jpg

Wow. If the outside of this drive should have taught us anything it should have been that A-Data are taking a totally different approach than the rest of Indilinx users. Unlike all the other Indilinx SSDs we have reviewed which basically had identical PCB that only varied in their colour, this one is not only smaller but it weighs less as well. It really looks like A-Data took every opportunity to trim the fat off and get the weight down as much as possible. However, even though the PCB is different, the actual parts on the board are the same as those the competition uses. In grand total we have 16 flash chips, one RAM chip and one Indilinx Barefoot controller chip.

AData_S592_controller_sm.jpg

The I/O chip is of course none other than the Indilinx “Barefoot” IDX110 controller. As expected, this SSD comes with the Indilinx IDX110M00-LC unit as the older –FC models are long gone now. The Indilinx IDX110 is an ARM based controller with native SATA 3.0Gb/s, supports capacities of up to 512GB, is rated for speeds of 230MB/Sec read and 190MB/s writes.

AData_S592_ram_sm.jpg

The RAM that graces this board is made by Elpida. To be specific this single 64MB SDRAM chip is labeled as S51321CBH-6DTT-F, though the actual Elpida part number is the EDS51321CBH-M-F and is rated to run at 166MHZ at CL3 with an operating temperature range of 20°C to 85°C. Or as is becoming a regular theme: it’s the exact same Ram chip as we found in all the other Indilinx drives we have taken apart.

AData_S592_flash_sm.jpg

The MLC NAND chips used in the S592 are Samsung K9HCG08U1M-PCB0. Once again we, using the online Samsung model decoder we can see these chips are 48 pin 3bit MLC Quad Die Package, 1st gen lead free (ROHS compliant), 2.7V ~ 3.6V, 25 nanosecond NAND chips which operate with Dual nCE (Dual Chip Enable control) & Dual R/nB (Dual Ready/Busy Output). This model is rated at a density of 64Gbits or 8GB per chip and an operating temperature range of 0° to 70°C. Above the model number we can see these were made in the 16th week of 2009 and below it we can see the batch number “YCC887X1” (or at least what we assume is the batch number but is describe by Samsung vaguely as “Customer List Reference” only). It also seems that all 16 NAND chips are from the same batch which is a nice change from most of the SSDs we have reviewed in the past.

With the exception of the smaller and lighter weight PCB used, the S592 uses the exact same parts as all the other Indilinx drives we have reviewed and as far as we are concerned, this is a good thing.
 
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AkG

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TRIM, Firmware & NAND Launderer

TRIM, Firmware & NAND Launderer


flash_sm.jpg
cdI_sm.jpg

For anyone wondering if the wiper.exe program works on the S592 or if it reports the life expectancy data like other Indilinx SSDs we have reviewed or if it ships with NAND Launder the answer is: no, no and no. At least not with the firmware that we received on our sample drive.

As we have said in the past, an Indilinx Barefoot controller-based SSD is an Indilinx Barefoot controller based SSD irregardless of the firmware tweaks overlaid onto the base firmware. However, you need the base firmware which supports these tools in order for them to work.

As wiper.exe support was added to version 1.1 it won’t work on the drive we received since it sported ancient, pre-version 1.1 firmware. However even 1.1 (the update to this drive’s firmware) did not have average cell usage reporting (added in 1.3) nor true TRIM support (recently added in 1.4). To put it bluntly this drive shipped with horribly outdated firmware and we were not amused. To make matters worse, as you will see below there is literally no way to update the firmware short of sending the drive in to A-Data.

trim_sm.jpg

Since the S592 does not come with the exposed Jumper pins, the normal way of updating the firmware is not an option. Will A-Data find a way with Indilinx to overcome this built-in limitation? It is possible, as OCZ proved it is possible with recent firmwares.

Before out right condemning the S592 as an soon to be obsolete version of the Barefoot drive, we are going say that things do not look good. Many months ago we asked our A-Data rep for an official word on this issue and they stated that there was no plan to make the firmware on these drives user-upgradeable. Sure, some of the drives may come with updated firmware pre-installed but you are taking a serious risk of being saddled with an outdated drive before you even stick it into your system.

Update Oct. 28th: A-Data has contacted us expressing some additional facts which were unfortunately not apparent before this review went live. First of all, even though the firmware of the S592 is not user-upgradeable we were told that as new firmwares are released by Indilinx, A-Data is implementing them directly onto their production lines.

IN ADDITION, A-Data has announced that as of the upcoming 1819 firmware (sometime in November), they will have a method in place for users to upgrade the firmware on the S592 WITHOUT the need for jumper pins.
 
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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a hard drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for SSDs to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our testbed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the XP load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being a WD 320 single platter drive.

For these tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HDTune, Cystal Disk Benchmark, h2benchw, SIS Sandra Removable Storage benchmark, and IOMeter for synthetic benchmarks.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long XP startup took, Adobe CS3 (w/ enormous amounts of custom brushes installed) took, how long a single 4GB rar file took to copy to and then from the hard drives, then copy to itself. We also used 1gb of small files (from 1kb to 20MB) with a total 2108 files in 49 subfolders.

For the temperature testing, readings are taken directly from the hottest part of the drive case using a Digital Infrared Thermometer. The infrared thermometer used has a 9 to 1 ratio, meaning that at 9cm it takes it reading from a 1 square cm. To obtain the numbers used in this review the thermometer was held approximately 3cm away from the heatsink and only the hottest number obtained was used.


Please note to reduce variables the same XP OS image was used for all the hard drives.

For all testing a Gigabyte PA35-DS4 motherboard was used. The ICH9 controller on said motherboard was used.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

Processor: Q6600 @ 2.4 GHZ
Motherboard: Gigabyte p35 DS4
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: Asus 8800GT TOP
Hard Drive: 1x WD 320
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W Performance Testing

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):
G. Skill Titan: 0955
G.Skill Falcon: 1571 (AKA FW 1.3)
OCZ Apex: 955
OCZ Vertex: 1.3 (AKA FW 1571)
Patriot Torqx: 1571 (AKA FW 1.3)
Corsair P64: 18C1Q
OCZ Summit: 1801Q
A-Data S592: 1279 (AKA PRE 1.1 FW)

Please note: The "G.Skill 64GB" listed in some of the graphs (the one with incomplete data) is the very first SSD we here at HWC reviewed. It does not have a name but its model number is FS-25S2-64GB and here is a link to our review of it.
 
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Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture.

We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and this goes double for SSD based hard drives. The main reason we include it is to show what under perfect conditions a given drive is capable of; but the more important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average, the faster your entire system will seem.


AData_S592_read.jpg


Well this is certainly not the greatest way to start the performance section of the review. Of course, this difference is due to the ancient 1279 firmware on this drive versus the later 1.3 / 1571 we were able to use in previous reviews. It will certainly be interesting to see how this older firmware will stand up to the newer ones…as we fully expect this to be the only difference in performance.


Write Performance


For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.

AData_S592_write.jpg


Older firmware or not, this SSD seems to be leaning more towards the Vertex end of the performance spectrum rather than that of the Falcon. It seems that while OCZ has tweaked their firmware more than the other companies, this particular SSD has surprisingly good capabilities and we can only imagine what it would do with the latest and greatest firmware.
 
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Crystal DiskMark / Random Access

Crystal DiskMark


Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5. When all 5 tests for a given section were run Crystal DiskMark then averages out all 5 numbers to give a result for that section.

Read


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/S592/AData_S592_CDM_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

As expected these results are awfully darn good, but not as good as others we have seen in the past. A Barefoot controller based SSD is a Barefoot Controller SSD…and the only difference besides price is the firmware it comes with.


Write


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/S592/AData_S592_CDM_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />​

In this test, the old firmware really has hobbled the S592. If A-Data ever does get its act together and figures out how OCZ does jumperless updates we strongly recommend you update to the latest FW as firmware updates are EXTREMELY important on Indilinx drives and not doing so may keep you from enjoying your SSD to the fullest. That being said these numbers are not terrible and if you can find it in the bargain bin at bargain bin prices….it may be a good way to get an Indilinx with fast NAND on the cheap.


Random Access Time


To obtain the absolute, most accurate Random access time, h2benchw was used for this benchmark. This benchmark tests how quickly different areas of the drive’s memory can be accessed. A low number means that the drive space can be accessed quickly while a high number means that more time is taken trying to access different parts of the drive. To run this program, one must use a DOS prompt and tell it what sections of the test to run. While one could use “h2benchw 1 -english -s -tt "harddisk test" -w test” for example and just run the seek tests, we took the more complete approach and ran the full gamout of tests and then extracted the necessary information from the text file. This is the command line argument we used “h2benchw 1 -a -! -tt "harddisk drivetest" -w drivetest”. This tells the program to write all results in english, save them in drivetest txt file, do write and read tests and do it all on drive 1 (or the second drive found, with 0 being the OS drive).

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/S592/AData_S592_random.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

We may have some doubts over the various performance envelopes of a Vertex/Falcon/Torqx versus this SSD but it really does not come as any surprise that it has the exact same random access time as the others. Its also becoming almost redundant to say that and its all about the support as brand name means very little it seems.
 
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AkG

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.

Read


AData_S592_atto_r.jpg


The older firmware is directly responsible for this drive’s lowered performance curve. In this case the differences are significant and unless A-Data gets on the ball damn quick…the hard sell they have on their hands is going to be even that much harder.


Write


AData_S592_atto_w.jpg


Ouch. Cutting it slack for having an older firmware or not, these numbers are down right disappointing for an Indilinx Barefoot-equipped drive. We are not sure why A-Data didn’t at least update the firmware to 1.3 (as it has been out for darn near ever in SSD years) but its looking even grimmer for the S592 as time goes by.
 
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