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Old 30-11-15   #1
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ADATA SP550 240GB SSD Review: Hitting the Price-performance Sweet Spot?


ADATA have been pretty actively contributing to the SSD market and recently launch 3 new drives – XPG SX930, which is their performance high-end drive as well as 2 value drives – SP550 and SP560. Both of them use TLC NAND instead MLC NAND. The difference between the SP550 and SP560 seems to be the controller, the SP 500 employs Silicon Motion’s SM2256 controller, where as the SP 560 uses Marvell’s 88SS1074 controller.

Today, we will be looking at the SP550, whose specifications are listed below:

In the review, we will be looking at the following benchmarks:

Synthetic Benchmark – CrystalDiskMark
Synthetic Benchmark – Atto Disk Benchmark
Synthetic Benchmark – HD Tune
Real World Benchmark – File Transfer
However, before we dive into benchmarks, lets try to understand what the drive is and how ADATA believes it is different from other drives in this market?

TLC, MLC, SLC essentially are different types of NAND memory. All have different characteristics in terms performance, price and endurance.

SLC – Single level cell – High performance and Durability, but most expensive cost per bit.
MLC – Multi level cell – High performance and Durability, much lower cost as compared to SLC.
TLC – Tri level cell – Highest Density, Lowest cost per bit, Lower Durability.

In SLC NAND, a cell can be only in one of 2 states. This enables SSDs to have higher speeds and more durability, but at a very high cost. Then came in MLC, which was enabled a cell to hold more than one bit of information. This is probably done by having multiple states in the cell, which results in slower writes and lesser durability, but much lower cost per bit, as compared to SLC drives. TLC extends this to even more states (again, probably) and allowing for even higher density, but at cost of performance and durability.

So the lower endurance does sound a little scary, specially in the context of SSDs which are generally though of being fragile(though not always true). Adata is not alone though, samsung’s 850EVO (they started off with the 840EVO, industry’s first IIRC) as well as Crucial’s BX200 use TLC NAND. I hope memory manufacturers have improved this issue and is something we don’t need to worry about. Endurance is something that takes time to test and won’t be covered in this review. We will mainly be focusing on its performance and price position as of now and whether it is worth have a TLC drive in the market.

If you guys want to know more, found some nice reads on different types of NANDs here:

Understanding TLC NAND
SLC, MLC or TLC NAND for Solid State Drives ? :: SG FAQ
The SSD Endurance Experiment: Casualties on the way to a petabyte - The Tech Report - Page 3
NAND Flash Data Storage Overview ? SLC, MLC and TLC - Embedded Computing Design

Unboxing and a Closer Look:
So let us have a look at the actual SSD. It comes in a much smaller package than its predecessor, which I had reviewed a couple of months ago. Overall, the package is simple with a window to show the actual drive in the front along with some features.

On the back we have some more info in various languages. We also have some info about the performance of the drive on the right hand corner.

The bundle itself is very slim. Apart from the SSD itself, we have a manual and a spacer.

The drive itself looks nice in black, with standard ADATA branding on the front.

This time around, I won’t be voiding the warranty and won’t be taking the drive apart. Sorry about that.

Crystal DiskMark:
One of the most straight-forward tests, which tests a drive’s sequential and random, Read/Write performance.

It does seem to be faster than ADATA’s older SP920 drive, however, random writes did take a big hit.

A little bit about what the benchmark means:

Seq – Sequential reads and writes. Easiest for the drive as the drive does not need to get a new write position after every chunk is written.

512K – Random reads and writes with 512KB blocks of data. This is obviously more difficult as after every block is written, a new (random) write point is chosen.

4K – Same as above, but with 4KB blocks, this is much more difficult as the drive has to do more ‘seeks’. This is an indicative of worst case performance for any drive.

4K QD32 – Same as the 4K test, but with a queue depth of 32. This should increase the performance as it would benefit from controller’s I/O algorithms.

In all cases, higher the numbers, the better.

Atto Disk Benchmark:

A pretty neat tool used by a lot of people to get an accurate read on hard drive performance. It gives you different options with respect to the type of load in the benchmark. For our tests, I chose overlapped I/O with a queue depth of 10. The block size ranged from 4KB to 2MB, which should give a fair representation of real life loads.

These numbers are exactly on what is claimed by ADATA.

HD Tune Pro Benchmark:

HD Tune Pro provides a bunch of functionalities such as hdd error checking, health checking, monitoring, etc. It also comes with some pretty nifty benchmarks which let you test your drive under various kinds of loads.

We see some nice speeds here, even the IOPS are very nice.

Real World Tests:

For our real world tests, I decided to check some file transfer speeds. We read(and wrote) from a 4GB RAM disk which was pretty much the limit as I had just 8GB. We use a RAM disk so that the other drive does not become a bottleneck. I used a 3.5GB compressed file for these tests and measured the time to transfer. These are not perfect tests as its too short a test, but the times should give you an idea of things.

So the real world performance seems to be on par with the SP 920, with only a marginal difference. I think with performance closing in so much, this test has somewhat lost its relevance and I will need to probably use something else.

The Verdict:

With SSDs becoming more and more accepted by consumers, price can definitely be a deciding factor for many consumers. With this kind of a market, reducing costs is essential. I think ADATA have made a move in the right direction with using TLC NAND on their budget SSD. With the ADATA SP550 240GB available at just Rs 5,699 on prime, I think it is really positioned well. In terms of absolute performance, it definitely does well. Its performance is probably not chart topping, but its not suppose to. It does provide a good value for money, specially if you compare to a slightly better performing Samsung 850 EVO at Rs 8,600 (250GB). What remains to be seen is how long these can keep performing, which is still an unknown. For a new buyer who can not afford to spend too much more, I think the ADATA SP550 provides a price/performance sweet spot and is a recommendation from my end. I will give it a 9/10, which is a well deserved score for this drive.

Original review at: ADATA SP550 240GB SSD Review | Tech Verdict
Core i5 2500k | ASRock Z77 E-ITX | 8GB DDR3 2133MHz CL9 Samsung 30nm Green RAM | Zotac GTX 780Ti Amp | VX550 | NZXT S340
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Old 01-12-15   #2
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izzner is Notable
Re: ADATA SP550 240GB SSD Review: Hitting the Price-performance Sweet Spot?

Appreciate the review, but i have seen four ADATA RAM failures in a span of 1 month in 4 completely different locations. so anything manufactured by ADATA is ????
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Old 13-12-15   #3
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Join Date: Aug 2009
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Re: ADATA SP550 240GB SSD Review: Hitting the Price-performance Sweet Spot?

Originally Posted by izzner View Post
Appreciate the review, but i have seen four ADATA RAM failures in a span of 1 month in 4 completely different locations. so anything manufactured by ADATA is ????
To be honest, I don't think we should generalize. I agree you had a bad experience (that too with a different product) so you might dislike the brand, but until the product itself had flaws or some incorrect batches that were released, its hard to label someone bad.

Btw, if you want, I can connect you to their reps, where you could share your pain with them and see if you guys can find a solution.
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