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ADATA Ultimate SU800 240GB SSD Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
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One the greatest advantages touted for 3D NAND was its ability to create downright massive capacity drives. For example, the new Crucial MX300 is tipping the scales at a whopping 2TB of capacity! However, for the average consumer the other main attribute of 3D NAND, and IMFT 3D NAND in particular, is its ability to create more mainstream-sized solid state drives at price points that were nearly impossible last year. This is because first generation 3D NAND is already cheaper to manufacture on a price per gigabyte basis than the more mature planar NAND.

The most recent beneficiary of this lesser publicized advantage is the ADATA Ultimate SU800. Much like the ground-breaking Crucial MX300, the SU800 series makes use of IMFT (Micron-branded to be specific) 3D TLC NAND. However, unlike the MX300, ADATA has opted for the Silicon Motion SM2258 controller instead of a Marvell or PHISON controller, both of which have been rather popular this past year. This is certainly not the first SSD to use this new entry-level Silicon Motion controller, and it is certainly not a controversial choice since even the Intel 540s uses the SM2258. This controller is actually the direct successor to the SM2256, which powered the ADATA SP550 and a whole host of other entry-level SSDs last year. In either case, it is this combination of a reasonably-priced controller with inexpensive 3D TLC NAND that <i>is</i> rather unique – for now.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/intro.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

One advantage to using the SMI 2258 controller is that instead of reducing listed (or accessible) capacity via over-provisioning (OP), this controller does not really need OP in order to keep things in tip-top shape. What this means is that instead of purchasing a 240GB or 250GB model, the SU800 that we will be putting under the microscope offers a full 256GB of space. In other words, it uses every bit of NAND capacity that has been fitted to its PCB. That is why, even with an already low asking price of only $80 (USD), this particular version of the SU800 offers a price per gigabyte ratio almost as good as that of OCZ's VX500, Crucial's MX300, or PNY's XLR8 CS221 models.
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/top_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Make no mistake, even though this is a TLC NAND-based drive that does not come with any factory over-provisioning, it is still a rather robust drive. While ADATA does not publish the Total Bytes Written (TBW) specifications for the 256GB model, the 512GB has a very decent TBW of 400TB. This gives the 256GB version an <i>estimated</i> TBW of 200TB. As with the MX300 series by Crucial, this is made possible because a small portion of the TLC NAND acts in pseudo-SLC mode, and this portion of the NAND is what the controller will use for the majority of write requests. As long as users are not pushing multiple gigabytes worth of data without pause, such a setup has proven to be more than capable of handling home user demands.
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/bot_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

One thing that does reveal the cost cutting required to hit this excellent price point is the 7mm 2.5" form-factor enclosure ADATA has opted for. Specifically, half of this enclosure is made from plastic and not metal, and the metal half is extremely thin and lightweight material. This is only one of a handful of drives in recent memory to use plastic and it is a step in the wrong direction in our opinion, mostly due to the sub-optimal thermal transfer properties of plastic.
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/open1_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
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Upon opening this drive and taking a closer look at its design, it came as no surprise to see that the ADATA used a half-length PCB for the 256GB model. This is because by using such dense NAND, and dual-layer 3D NAND at that, the PCB need only be long enough to support three NAND ICs, a single NANYA 128MB RAM chip, and the SMI 2258 controller itself. This does however mean that unlike the Crucial MX300, the ADATA SU800 relies upon a mostly firmware-based data loss protection setup, much like the OCZ VX500.
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/open2_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
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Basically, there are not enough onboard capacitors to ensure that data is properly written to the drive in the event of unexpected power loss, but thanks to the way the controller handles writes the chances of actual data corruption is slim. Nevertheless, if power loss data protection is important to you, the MX300 may be a more optimal fit. Conversely, investing in a uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is also a good – and arguably even better - solution if you are really safety minded. 
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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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 testbed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high-end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what 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 aspect, most people are not going to do this. For this reason, a standard OS setup is used. The exception to this is for the Windows 7 load test times, where 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 Sabretooth TUF X99 LGA 2011-v3 motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using either AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers, or NVMHCI using Intel NVMe 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 a manufacturers 'Toolbox', and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Processor: Core i7 5930K
Motherboard: Asus Sabretooth TUF X99
Memory: 32GB Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4-2666
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel P3700 800GB
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB: 1.33
Vertex 460 240GB: 1.0
Intel 7230 240GB: L2010400
AMD R7 240GB: 1.0
Crucial MX200: MU01
Intel 750: 8EV10135
Kingston HyperX Predator 480GB: 0C34L5TA
OCZ Trion 480GB & 960GB: SAFM11.1
AData XPG SX930 240GB : 5.9E
AData SP550 240GB: O0730A
PNY CS2211: CS221016
PNY CS1311: CS131122
ZOTAC Premium Edition: SAFM01.6
Apacer AS720: PLD1130
Apacer AS330: AP121PD0
Crucial MX300 series: M0CR011
AData SU800: P0801A


Toshiba TC58 controller:
OCZ Trion 480GB & 960GB - Custom firmware w/ 19nm Toggle Mode TLC NAND

Samsung MDX controller:
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

SandForce SF1200 controller:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

Marvell 9183 controller:
Plextor M6e 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 1074 controller:
Crucial MX300 - Custom firmware w/ IMFT 384Gbit TLC 3D NAND

Marvell 9293 controller:
Kingston HyperX Predator - Custom firmware w/ 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Intel X25 G3 controller:
Intel 730 - Custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND

Intel NVMe G1 Controller:
Intel 750 - Customer firmware w/ MLC 20nm NAND

Phison PS3110 Controller:
Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
PNY CS2211: 15nm Toggle Mode NAND
PNY CS1311: 19nm TLC NAND
ZOTAC Premium Edition: 19nm MLC
Apacer AS330 - TLC NAND

JMicron JMF670H Controller:
AData XPG SX930 240GB - 128Gbit MLC NAND
Apacer AS720 - 128Gbit MLC NAND

SMI SM2256 Controller:
AData SP550 240GB - TLC NAND

SMI SM2258 Controller:
AData SU800 240GB - 3D TLC NAND

Special Thanks to Crucial for providing the memory for this testbed.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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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 feel.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/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/SU800/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Considering its asking price, this level of performance from a small capacity TLC SSD is pretty decent, so much so that the average consumer would never know this drive was not MLC based. The reason for these solid performance results is because the pseudo-SLC mode 'cache' design does indeed work. Of course, once this <i>small</i> amount of cache is exhausted, write performance does drop off a proverbial cliff until the controller can flush the data to the TLC NAND and allow more write requests to be pushed to the pseudo-SLC mode NAND.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


<i>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. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

While this drive may indeed have been outperformed by almost every other drive in the charts, it is also one of the smallest drives we have tested in a long while...not to mention one of the most inexpensive. With these considerations taken into account, the SU800 is behaving pretty much exactly how we would want any entry-level drive to act – TLC or not.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows us to measure sequential and random read/write speeds, and also allows us to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and the size at 100MB. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/cdm_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


PCMark 7


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/pcm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

As you can see, the low queue depth / small file performance is pretty decent and fairly comparable to similarly priced models. Of course, once the queue depths get deeper the performance of the SU800 does quickly fall further and further behind the competition. Basically, the SM2258 may be an 'improved' SM2256 but it is obviously still an entry-level controller. Overall, given the price of this drive, this level of performance is more than acceptable.
 

SKYMTL

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AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities Pro

AS-SSD


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/asd_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Anvil Storage Utilities Pro


<i>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.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/anvil_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/anvil_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


There really is no need to compare this drive to any other specific model, as its performance is clearly lacking. In particular, if you pay close attention to the shallow queue depth numbers the performance is pretty poor. In these tests, this SSD's saving grace is that this level of performance is still in a different league than what hard disk drives have to offer.
 

SKYMTL

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Messages
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IOMeter Results

IOMETER


<i>IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server side 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/SSD (1, 4, 16, 64, 128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min with 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 report 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 them by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

IOMeter is not overly kind to TLC drives in general, nor SMI-based models in particular, and the SU800 is no exception. Plainly put, this drive is not meant for workstation type workloads, and anyone who tries will most likely kill the drive before its warranty is up – either by wearing down the NAND or simply by taking a hammer to it out of sheer frustration.
 

SKYMTL

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Windows 8 / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 8.1 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance


<i>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. We have chosen Windows 8.1 64bit Pro as our Operating System with all 'fast boot' options disabled in the BIOS. 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. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Adobe CS5 LOAD TIME


<i>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 fared in the Adobe crucible! </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

With our attention turned to more realistic scenarios, the ADATA SU800 does perform a lot better than the synthetic test results would lead one to believe. By the same token, competing models like the Toshiba OCZ VX500, Crucial MX300 and pretty much any other drive in the same cost per GB range beats this drive like it owes them money.
 

SKYMTL

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Firefox / 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 worst 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/SU800/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot 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/SU800/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Looking specifically at the conventional SATA-based SSDs in our charts, there isn't a huge amount of performance difference between the various models. We honestly doubt your average novice SSD user would actually notice any differences between the ADATA SU800 and say the Crucial MX300 or OCZ VX500.
 

SKYMTL

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Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


<i>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. </i>

Synthetic Test Results

<i>For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/data_pcm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Real World Results

<i>For a real world application we have opted for a modified version of our standard Windows 7 Start Up test. Unlike our standard Windows 7 image this image is based on a working system that has been upgraded numerous times of the past few years and represents an even more realistic real world test.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/SU800/data_boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

These results are precisely why the Silicon Motion SM2258 controller is widely regarded as being worthy of its low asking price. Essentially, this controller cannot handle the demands of full drive scenarios even remotely as well as its competition from Toshiba, Marvell, or even PHISON. This controller, and not the NAND, is the Achilles' Heel of the SU800.
 
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