What's new
  • Please do not post any links until you have 3 posts as they will automatically be rejected to prevent SPAM. Many words are also blocked due to being used in SPAM Messages. Thanks!

AData Premier Pro SP920 512GB SSD Review

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
In light of recent releases from the likes of Intel, OCZ, Corsair and Kingston, AData was starting to look a bit flat footed without a significant push to refresh their lineup. That’s about to change with the Premier Pro SP920, a unique drive which actually targets a large number of price points.

AData’s approach to SSD design has always taken the path less travelled. While some companies have taken the “one controller fits all” direction, AData’s portfolio is diversified but one aspect has been consistent: they’ve very much focused on offering excellent value. The Permier Pro SP920 is no different; it is available in capacities from 128GB all the way to a massive 1TB model but features dollar per GB ratios as small as fifty two cents for the cavernous 1TB model. Obviously with such reasonable asking prices the SP920 is not meant to compete against the high end Intel 730s, Corsair Neutron GTX, OCZ Vector 150 of the marketplace. Rather AData has their sites firmly set on the Intel 5 series, Crucial M500 series and other popular mainstream offerings.


Even with lower prices throughout the lineup, for most budgets the SP920 512GB model at $334.99 will be a perfect fit. This is rather serendipitous as the 512GB and 1TB models are not only the two largest capacities offered but also feature the highest performance quotient. Meanwhile, the lower end sub-512GB models can still deliver excellent results, though at a lower bandwidth threshold.

On paper at least AData has a number of things going for them. Their drives don’t use over-provisioning (more on that later) so can offer slightly more capacity than the competition and the use of ONFI 3 128 Gbit NAND modules allows for the 512GB drive we are reviewing here to reach read / write levels normally seen on much higher priced SSDs. While AData may not be backing up their drives with a 5-year warranty like Intel, but the 3 years of coverage is in line with their immediate competition.


Unlike the previous Premier Pro SP900 series, AData has decided against using the SandForce SF2281 controller, what many consider to be the SSD market’s elder statesman. Instead the brand new Marvell 88SS9189 is being used, making the SP920 one of the first to implement this next generation controller. Very little is known about it other than its promise to be faster and more powerful than Marvall’s popular 9187 'Monet'. It remains to be seen if these improvements are great enough to help change Marvell's reputation featuring somewhat lackluster performance, but the SP920’s IOPS specifications certainly point in that direction.


In direct contrast with its price vs. performance philosophy the 7mm all metal exterior of AData’s SP920 512GB is extremely robust. AData has also included both a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter and a 7mm to 9.5mm black plastic adapter covering. This combination allows the SP920 to be installed in everything from Ultrabooks to full tower PC systems.


The internal architecture also appears to use a classic Marvell design. There is a single Marvell controller, 16 NAND ICs and a single 512MB external ram cache IC. There are also onboard capacitors which allow for Flush In Flight abilities. Seeing a consumer grade drive with FiF is very rare since it mitigates data corruption from unexpected power loss, but is costly to implement and as such is a feature usually reserved for more expensive enthusiast and Enterprise models. It should give anyone with this SSD peace of mind above all else.

While FiF abilities are impressive to see, they are not exactly unique to the SP920 since other high end SSDs have them. However, the NAND’s configuration isn’t normally seen on mainstream offerings. On first blush a 512GB capacity instead of the typical 480GB would indicate reduced over-provisioning but this is not the case per say with the new 9189 controller. Instead of reducing over-provisioning - or the amount of NAND set aside for the controller to use - this increase in capacity comes from optimization of the controller’s parity stripe ratio.


At its most basic, and much like SandForce, Marvell uses a RAID-like configuration for the NAND ICs to ensure data integrity. In previous 9187-series controllers the RAIN's (Redundant Array of Independent NAND) parity ratio was rather aggressive and consumed an additional 32GB of capacity on the '512GB' models. This level of parity has proven to be unnecessary with ONFi 3 NAND since it’s actually more durable than first feared. Thus the SP920 only consumes Marvell's recommend amount of NAND for RAIN parity. At this time we know of only one other drive which has such a setting: the Crucial M550, which we will look at in a future review.


Taken as whole the AData Premier Pro SP920 is a rather interesting design and one that may just have what it takes to further cement AData's growing reputation as a provider of high quality storage devices.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Test System & Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a 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 & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our test-bed 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 Windows 7 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 an Intel DC S3700 800GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

For all testing a Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers.

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

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, OCZ 480GB RevoDrive3 x2
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
: 1.33
Intel 520: 400i
SanDisk Extreme 240GB: R211
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB: M206
Intel 335 180GB: 335
Crucial M500: MU02
SanDisk Extreme 2 240GB: R1311
Seagate Pro 600: B660
OCZ Vector 150 240GB: 1.2
Angelbird Adler 640GB: AA3.15
Vertex 460 240GB: 1.0
ADATA SP920 512GB: MU01


SandForce SF1200 Drives:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

SandForce SF2281 Drives:
Intel 520 - custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND

LAMD:
Corsair Neutron GTX - Toggle Mode NAND
Seagate 600 Pro - custom firmware w/ Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9187:
Crucial M500 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
SanDisk Extreme 2 - Custom firmware w/ 19nm eX2 ABL NAND

Marvell 9187:
ADATA SP920 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vector 150 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
OCZ Vertex 460 (M10) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Novachips NVS3600A controller:
Angelbird Adler - ONFi 2 NAND
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


<i>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 thus we no longer included it. The most 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.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/adata_sp920/read.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


Write Performance


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/adata_sp920/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

We put very little faith in sequential, large file performance - small file random performance is much more important - but the new SP920 does post some very decent numbers here. Both read and write performance are noticeably improved over the Crucial M500 480GB drive. This certainly bodes well for the SP920's price / performance ratio.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
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.





It may not be superior to enthusiast models, but these results are both the best we have seen any ONFi 3 128GBit equipped drive produce and the best results of any Marvell drive tested to date. Hopefully this high potential performance will translate to real world numbers.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

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 and size at 100MB.



PCMark 7


While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.



Once again we are very impressed by what this mega capacity drive can do. The SP920 is not only consistently better and faster than a previous generation Crucial M500 480GB, but it is actually holding its own against some of the best models available on the market today.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities Pro

AS-SSD


AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.




Anvil Storage Utilities Pro


Much like AS-SSD, Anvil Pro was created to quickly and easily – yet accurately – test your drives. While it is still in the Beta stages it is a versatile and powerful little program. Currently it can test numerous read / write scenarios but two in particular stand out for us: 4K queue depth of 4 and 4K queue depth of 16. A queue depth of four along with 4K sectors can be equated to what most users will experience in an OS scenario while 16 depth will be encountered only by power users and the like. We have also included the 4k queue depth 1 results to help put these two other numbers in their proper perspective. All settings were left in their default states and the test size was set to 1GB.




AData seems to have found a sweet spot with the Marvell controller. Not only is this drive acting more like an ONFi 2 model instead of a slower ONFi 3-equipped drive but the SP920 is actually giving modern enthusiast drives a real run for their money. It may not be their equal but considering this drive costs only 65 cents per gigabyte we doubt many would consider this a bad trade-off.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
IOMETER

IOMETER


IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per HDD (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.


When you combine slightly slower ONFi 3 128Gbit NAND ICs with a controller not intended for workstation environments the ensuing results aren't all that surprising. By the same token, the S920 is noticeably better than any previous Marvell-based drive we have tested. More importantly these results are still very good and more than adequate for home users who occasionally find their system being in atypical, deep queue depth scenarios.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Windows 7 Startup / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance


When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. Where Windows 7 has become nearly ubiquitous for solid state drive enthusiasts we have chosen Windows 7 64bit Ultimate as our Operating System. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line.



ADOBE CS5 LOAD TIME


Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit faired in the Adobe crucible!



The more we test this drive the more we come to respect what Marvell and AData have accomplished. The new Permier Pro may not be the absolute fastest SSD available on the market but it is certainly blurring the boundaries between what is expected from a mainstream drive and the enthusiast mindset.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Firefox Performance / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


<i>Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worse case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/adata_sp920/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Based on the decent if not awe inspiring IOMeter results the slightly disappointing Firefox results come as little surprise. This drive may have a much improved Marvell controller powering it, but it was not designed for 'enterprise' scenarios. This means deep queue depth performance takes a back seat to low queue depth bandwidth - as that is what the typical home consumer will encounter on a regular basis.


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it can not really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/adata_sp920/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/adata_sp920/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

This good mixed file size file performance is exactly what you want to see in a mainstream drive.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,274
Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


While it is important to know how a drive will perform under optimal conditions, more realistic scenarios are just as important. Knowing if a solid state drive will behave differently when partially or even nearly full than when it is empty is very important information to know. To quickly and accurately show this crucial information we have first filled the drive to 50% capacity and re-tested using both synthetic and real world tests. After the completion of this we then re-test at 75% and 90% of full capacity.

Synthetic Test Results

For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.




Real World Results

For a real world application we have opted for our standard Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance test.



While improved over the past controller generation, this is one area that remains a weakness for Marvell - and by extension the AData SP920 512GB drive. Luckily, with half a terabyte of space to work with, keeping it from becoming filled to capacity is as simple as can be: just make a smaller partition.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Latest posts

Twitter

Top