Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
I'm not a big fan of 256GB class SSDs. In many cases, prices are too close to the 512GB models and performance is often significantly less from the next step up.
The ADATA SX8200 Pro is a different kind of SSD. We've shown that the 1TB, and later 512GB, models are the fastest true consumer SSDs shipping today. The drives break new ground in random reads and exhibit spectacular application performance. The question today is if the 256GB SX8200 Pro shows the same traits as the two larger models.
The series ships in 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB capacities during the initial rollout. A large 2TB model will come to market in early 2019, but we don't have the full specifications for that model yet. You may have missed it since we breezed by so fast, but the SX8200 Pro doesn't use the same overprovisioning as the previous generation. When you buy the 256GB model you get it all and not just 240GB. Overprovisioning increases performance under heavy workloads but the SX8200 Pro is a consumer-focused SSD. ADATA optimized the drive for consumer tasks while still preserving as much space for your applications.
The specification performance comes in two tiers with the SX8200 Pro 256GB being the odd man out. It sports 3,500 MB/s sequential read and 1,200 MB/s sequential write speeds. Random performance tops 220,000 read IOPS and 290,000 write IOPS.
The larger drives in the series also reach 3,500 MB/s sequential read but increases the sequential writes to 3,000. The random performance also increases to 390,000 IOPS read, and 380,000 IOPS write.
This is the first SSD to utilize the new Silicon Motion SM2262EN controller. The SX8200 used the first iteration, SM2262. Silicon Motion used proprietary methods to increase performance, but the company doesn't give away too many details. Officially, the new EN version uses an improved data path through the controller.
The new SX8200 Pro doesn't utilize 96-layer Micron TLC, the flash we expected to see the new SM2262EN controller paired with. ADATA jumped the gun in a sense to bring the new SX8200 Pro to market instead of waiting for the new memory. At this time we're not sure when Micron will release 96L memory to the open market or what other companies using Silicon Motion controllers plan to do in the coming weeks.
Pricing, Warranty, and Endurance
The current selling prices are only a few dollars more than the SX8200 we fell in love with over the summer. Expect to spend $75 for the SX8200 256GB today. That increases to just $118 for the 512GB and $215 for the 1TB. We used Amazon for pricing with samples taken at the time of writing.
The SX8200 Pro series carries a five-year limited warranty with high endurance levels. The 256GB brings with it 160 terabytes written (TBW) coverage. That doubles to 320 TBW for the 512GB model and doubles again to 640 TBW for the 1TB model.
Accessories and Software
The ADATA SX8200 Pro ships with a thin metal plate with thermal passing tape attached. The plate can act as a heat sink of sorts but is more of a shield to reduce radiant heat from a video card mounted above your motherboard's PCIe slot above the M.2 slot.
ADATA has a nice graphic interface for the Toolbox software that users can use to manage the drive and find detailed information. The software is not included in the box; you have to download it from the ADATA website. On the site, you will also find a link to Acronis True HD, a disk-cloning tool.
A Closer Look
The drive itself is nearly identical to the SX8200 released last year. Like the original, this series ships with a metal strip you can install to act as a heat sink or heat shield to reduce the radiant heat coming from a video card or other PCIe device over the drive.
256GB Class Performance Testing
512GB Class Performance Testing
Most of the drives in the comparison chart have matured over the last year with most coming to market in early 2018. The MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro being the exception. It's the other next-generation SSD to join the SX8200 Pro. This capacity class carries a wide range of prices with the entry-level drive (MyDigitalSSD SBX) starting at just $49.99 and the high-end (Intel 760p) at $84 with all prices taken at the time of writing.
Sequential Read Performance
The 256GB ADATA SX8200 Pro takes over where the larger models we tested left off. In the sequential read test the drive shows total dominance at low queue depths (QD) and reaches peak performance of 3,500 MB/s at QD4.
Sequential Write Performance
With limited NAND die, the 256GB SX8200 Pro doesn't have the same bandwidth available through parallelization as the larger drives. That's why the specifications show it as the slowest of the three we've tested thus far. We managed to reach 1,150 MB/s in the sequential burst test.
Sustained Sequential Write Performance
The 256GB SX8200 Pro also has a smaller SLC buffer than the other drives in the series. The drive uses a dynamic buffer, so it also shrinks as you add data to the flash.
Random Read Performance
The SX8200 Pro's superior random read performance isn't as high as the larger models, but the 256GB drive still has a strong lead over other 256GB class drives shipping today.
Random Write Performance
The drive also sports a very quick random write speed at low queue depths.
70% Read Sequential Performance
The weak point for the entire SX8200 Pro series is the mixed sequential performance. The drives all deliver strong performance but they don't scale as well as many of the others. The 256GB SX8200 Pro has a sequential mixed workload ceiling of just over 1,000 MB/s.
70% Read Random Performance
The 256GB SX8200 Pro doesn't have the same issue with mixed random workloads. The drive outperforms the other top 256GB drives in this area at low queue depths.
256GB Class Real-World Performance Testing
Game Load Time
The high random performance allows the SX8200 Pro to outperform all other 256GB models with NAND flash shipping today. In our game load test with Final Fantasy: Stromblood the SX8200 Pro surpasses the HP EX920 but only by an incremental margin.
PCMark 8 Total Storage Bandwidth
The UL PCMark 8 Storage Test uses nine commonly used applications for ten tests. It's a broad range test with a wide net that covers most PC users. The 256GB SX8200 Pro managers to outperform the other next-generation drive in the chart slightly. The SX8200 Pro is significantly faster than the previous generation products like the original SX8200 and HP EX920.
PCMark 8 Extended Storage Test
The 256GB SX8200 Pro doesn't show us strong workstation-level performance. This is an issue for all of the SX8200 Pro drives we tested. ADATA focused on consumer workloads and optimized the series for those tasks.
SYSmark 2014 SE System Responsiveness and Power Tests
In the two years, we've ran the BAPCo SYSmark test of system responsiveness, we've never had a single drive take the lead in all three of the popular capacities. The SX8200 Pro 1TB, 512GB, and 256GB is the first to reach the top across the board. The 256GB drive only outperforms the previous generation by a single point, but a win is a win.
Notebook Battery Life
The 256GB SX8200 Pro scored 329 minutes in our notebook battery life test using the versatile Lenovo Y700-17 gaming system. This is slightly higher than the category average for this capacity.
With the SX8200 Pro, ADATA has a clean sweep of the consumer NVMe SSD market in performance. The series is blisteringly fast and well deserving of the "Pro" name. The 256GB model we tested today is only slightly faster than the previous generation in many ways, but it is an improvement that pushes this model to the top of performance ranking.
Priced at just $74.99, the 256GB SX8200 Pro carries a strong value. The 512GB model sells for $117.99, and we fell most of our readers would benefit from the increased performance and capacity, but users running a dual-drive configuration can save some money with the smaller capacity.
ADATA will not be the only company to launch a next-generation product based on the SM2262EN controller. In 2018 we saw flagship 8-channel controllers from Silicon Motion from HP, Intel, Mushkin as well as ADATA (with others outside of the US and European markets). Some may wait for Micron to release 96-layer TLC memory that could significantly reduce the overall sale price. At this point, we don't know when the new memory will come to market, but it's on our watch list for 2019.
At it sits now, the ADATA SX8200 Pro is the consumer NVMe SSD to beat when it comes to pure performance. There are some better overall values on the market, but this is the drive I would buy today for a long term upgrade.
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