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AData XPG SX930 240GB SSD Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
The high end SSD market is in a state of turmoil right now. Not only has the SATA 6Gbps interface long since reached its capacity but SATA Express is effectively dead in the water and new standards like NVMe are pushing the boundaries alongside the M.2 and U.2 form factors. As a result, high end SSDs are rapidly becoming either too expensive for all but the most diehard of users, prices of mainstream offerings are in freefall and the market itself has seen a lot of contraction when compared to previous years.

This situation also means it is a great time to be looking for a more affordable SSD; the remaining manufactures are thinking outside their normal comfort zones since much of their lineups have begun to stagnate. Indeed, actually seeing a new SSD launch outside the worlds of Samsung and Intel is a bit of a rarity these days. Hence why the AData XPG SX930 caught our attention.

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The XPG SX930 is the latest addition to AData’s expanding SSD lineup and even though it is considered “mainstream” this drive has specifications that used to be reserved for substantially higher-end products. However, now we’re seeing awesome read / write numbers on a 240GB SSD that retails for under $120USD and goes head to head with the likes of OCZ's Vertex 460 or Crucial's MX200 series. With both of those drives receiving slight price cuts as of late, the competition is certainly stiff for the SX930 but AData has been busy thinking outside the box in an effort to differentiate their drive.

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As a first tier manufacturers AData has complete control over what NAND ICs out of a batch gets added to their respective drives - and the best of the best goes to into the XPG series. That’s a pretty important factor since binned NAND is one way new generation SSDs will likely stand apart from the competition.

For the NAND ICs, AData has used what they claim is "Enterprise Grade MLC+" NAND. Now don't let this name fool you; this is not e-MLC NAND like what Intel, Samsung, and others use in their enterprise models. Instead this 'MLC+' NAND is consumer grade MLC NAND that has been torture tested so that only the best of the best modules make the grade.

Every enthusiast knows that MLC NAND can last longer than its durability specifications, but how much more is left to chance. AData has removed that variability and guarantees their MLC NAND for five years, without any limitation on total bytes written. MLC’s speed paired up with guaranteed longevity makes for a very potent combination….even if it still can't hold a candle to true enterprise grade NAND.

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On the controller side of this equation, AData was equally aware that using a Marvell, Toshiba, or SandForce controller wouldn’t cut it since many of their competitors utilize those options and, as we’ve already stated, being an “also ran” wasn’t in the books. Instead they have gone in a radically different direction and opted for the JMicron JMF670H.

JMicron is still trying to overcome their earlier reputation of offering relatively poor initial performance, and struggling with output consistency as the drives attached to their controllers aged. This new controller is actually a massive step up and is supposedly priced much lower than competing solutions. This reduction in cost has been directly passed on to consumers and the 240GB version -which we will be testing today - has an online asking price of only $105 at the time of writing. This is a mere $9 more than a Crucial MX200 250GB, and only $21 more than a Crucial BX100 250GB.

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Cracking open the case and looking at the PCB we can see that AData has gone with a half-length PCB. This is controversial as it means a lot less room for components and this lack of room directly translates to fewer NAND ICs. Less NAND modules could lead to a lower interleaving factor but not with this drive….more on that below. Specifically there are only 8 of these Toshiba 16nm, 128Gbit NAND ICs available for the controller to use.

board2_sm.jpg

Of course since the JMF670H is a four channel controller and doesn’t use eight like the Marvel or Toshiba alternatives, all channels are populated and so interleaving should be near-perfect. Meanwhile, to insure this drive runs at optimum speeds at all times, AData has implemented what Toshiba has dubbed 'pSLC'. What pSLC retains a small portion of the NAND in SLC mode to boost write performance. To further help keep bottlenecks from occurring AData has given their XPG SX930 128MB RAM buffer in the form of one NANYA RAM IC.

Unfortunately, this smaller PCB also caused one other issue: there is simply no room for on-board capacitors. In other words there is no hardware-based power failure protection. Only you can decide if this is a deal breaker but we do consider it a big handicap considering other drives in this price range include it.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
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 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 manufactures '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
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB:DXM06B0Q
Plextor M6e 256GB: 1.03
AMD R7 240GB: 1.0
Crucial MX200: MU01
G.Skill Phoenix 480GB: 2.71
Intel 750: 8EV10135
Kingston HyperX Predator 480GB: 0C34L5TA
Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB: SAFM00.r
OCZ Trion 480GB & 960GB: SAFM11.1
AData XPG SX930 240GB : 5.9E
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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

SandForce SF2281 controller:
G.Skill Phoenix 480GB - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

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

Marvell 9189 controller:
Crucial MX200 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

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

Barefoot 3 controller:
AMD R7 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND w/ custom firmware
OCZ Arc 100 (M10) - 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

JMicron JMF670H Controller:
AData XPG SX930 240GB - ONFi 3 NAND

Silicon Motion SMI 2246EN Controller:
AData SP550 - TLC NAND

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

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
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/XPG_SX930/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/XPG_SX930/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


While the sequential write speed is a touch lower than we would like to see it, the fact of the matter is sequential file performance is a <i>terrible</i> way to choose a solid state drive. Plus, unless you have an ultra-fast external storage solution, or another SSD, it is doubtful that this 'bottleneck' will indeed be a problem in the real world.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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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/XPG_SX930/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/XPG_SX930/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Overall these results are pretty decent for the class of SSDs the XPG SX930 is competing against. By the same token it is obvious that this controller and ATTO do not exactly like each other, but considering we have seen SandForce-based drives that smoked the ATTO test and failed at real world scenarios we are once again going to reserve judgement.
 

SKYMTL

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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 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. </i>
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/XPG_SX930/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/XPG_SX930/cdm_w.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/XPG_SX930/pcm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


These results are more in-line with what we had hoped to see and point towards the XPG SX930 being a much, much more capable drive than ATTO or the sequential tests would lead you to believe.
 

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/XPG_SX930/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/XPG_SX930/asd_w.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/XPG_SX930/anvil_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/XPG_SX930/anvil_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Once again the only reason this drive is not sitting higher in the charts is because its deep queue depth performance is only mediocre. Considering most home consumers will rarely see queue depths in excess of <i>four</i> let alone 16 or 64, we don't have all that much concern here.
 

SKYMTL

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IOMeter

IOMETER


<i>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.</i>
<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/XPG_SX930/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

All the marketing hyperbole over 'enterprise' this and 'enterprise' that aside, this drive is not meant to be used in workstations. Instead the SX930 is a consumer grade drive that simply has gone through enterprise grade <i>testing</i> and that itself is noteworthy.
 

SKYMTL

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Windows 8.1 Startup / 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/XPG_SX930/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 newly updated Adobe crucible! </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/XPG_SX930/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Less than half a second in Adobe and just over two seconds in our Boot test. That is what separates this drive from the likes of the MX200 250GB. This minor difference is likely due to the fact that AData's SSD doesn't have its performance boosted via Drive Write Acceleration technology while the algorithms incorporated into pSLC can only go so far to improve things. This is a shame and one we hope JMicron works to negate. After all, Crucial's DWA is nothing more than a firmware-based solution and since other companies like Samsung, do similar firmware enhancements, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch.
 

SKYMTL

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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 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/XPG_SX930/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 20.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 800 subfolders with a total 24,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (20.00 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/XPG_SX930/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/XPG_SX930/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

We are once again seeing the same same results as in the past: the differences between this drive and the competition are next to zero or well within the margin of error. The SATA interface is what causes the vast majority of performance capping here.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
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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/XPG_SX930/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 over 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/XPG_SX930/data_boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Obviously when AData were binning IMFT's NAND they were binning for durability more than performance. We say that as this controller comes from a long line of JMicron controllers which have noticeable performance degradation once they are filled…and those NAND ICs are simply not able to cover it up like Toggle Mode NAND would have. The end result is the drive does get slower the more you fill it up (which happens with every SSD) but not at a quicker rate than most competitors.
 
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