ADATA Ultimate SU800 240GB SSD Review
Date: November 2, 2016
Product Name: Ultimate SU800
Part Number: ASU800SS-256GT-C
Warranty: 3 Years
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 is rather unique – for now.
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.
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 estimated 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.
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.
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.
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.