When it comes to SSD controllers, JMicron doesn't have the best reputation. The first affordable, consumer focused SSDs were built using controllers from JMicron and set the industry back just as it was starting to take off. Those cacheless drives eventually evolved into drives with DRAM cache, but even those second generation drives would skip and stu, stuu, stutter as soon as the DRAM buffer was full. By the time JMicron was ready to release their next controller, manufacturers weren't too excited about co-branding their products with JMicron and some went as far as to hide what controller was used in their budget products.
To be fair, we have yet to see a truly perfect SSD controller. Intel, Indilinx, Marvell and SandForce all had little issues that when ran across would drive you a bit crazy. When buying a SSD you want to look for the drive that best suits your needs and data usage scenarios. For the most part JMicron drives have only fit one category, low price.
The latest update to the long line of relatively unpopular controllers from JMicron is the new JMF616. The 616 uses twice the cache capacity found on the JMF612 and allows the controller to be used with the latest available Intel NAND flash.
The ADATA S596 Turbo is the first SSD to use the new JMF616 controller and today we are going to give the drive a run through.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
The ADATA S596 Turbo is being offered in four popular capacity sizes; everything from 32GB to 256GB is being produced. Like nearly all SSDs, the capacity size does play a role in determining the write speed. ADATA is claiming the 32GB model is only capable of writing data at 60MB/s, the 64GB up to 120MB/s, but the 128GB and 256GB sizes blazing along at 210MB/s.
Today we are looking at ADATAs S596 Turbo in 128GB capacity size. Our retail unit shipped with a handy 2.5 to 3.5" desktop bracket and also has a USB 2.0 port that can be used for easy data transfer, or to use the S596 Turbo as a portable drive.
As we mentioned, most JMicron controlled drives are targeted for budget users and under normal conditions that would be the case. Newegg currently lists the 128GB model like the one we are looking at today for 269.00 USD. That is a really good price point for a new 128GB SSD with a desktop adapter bracket.
These are not normal times, though, and that 128MB DDR2 cache module is a necessity; one that adds to the cost of producing the drive. ADATA's flagship drive, the S599 uses a controller design that was purposely built without a cache module. Until recently you couldn't purchase a SandForce based 128GB SSD for anywhere near the current cost of the ADATA S596 Turbo...but things have changed.
Newegg is listing the S599 in 128GB capacity for 284.99 USD, a major price break from the 450 USD cost that was once associated with 128GB of SandForce goodness. With prices this close, the S596 Turbo has to compete with the S599 and that may end up being a really big problem.
ADATA has kept the now familiar humming bird logo on the front of the package and filled it with some facts about the drive.
The back of the package also lists some features and specifications about the S596 Turbo.
The inner packaging keeps the drive separated from the accessory package.
In the accessory package we found a Quick Install Guide, USB cable and desktop adapter bracket (not pictured).
The ADATA S596 Turbo
Here we get our first look at the ADATA S596 Turbo. The front of the drive lists the model number and serves to remind the user about the USB 2.0 port. At the bottom of the drive we can see the clear looking glass window that illuminates blue when the drive is powered. This comes in very handy when using the drive as a portable with USB 2.0.
The back of the drive has the four standard mounting locations that make installing the SSD in your notebook or desktop bracket easy.
The standard mounting points are also found on the side of the drive.
The most interesting area on the drive is the connector side. The power and data SATA points are both present and where they should be, but here we also see the USB port. We haven't seen this since the Indilinx Barefoot days.
Adding USB to an SSD may not seem all that exciting while your drive is being used as an internal boot drive, but once the magic runs out and you have moved on to a newer, faster SSD, being able to use the S596 Turbo as a portable drive extends the drives usefulness.
Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, Cooler Master, LSI and Noctua.
You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.
ATTO Baseline Performance
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34
ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.
In ATTO we see that the ADATA S596 Turbo was not able to achieve the claimed performance speeds of 260MB/s read or the 210MB/s write. ATTO is usually the program where these numbers are pulled from, but it is usually not something that is published in marketing material.
Let's move on and see if we can get anywhere near the claimed speeds being used by ADATA.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
- Benchmark: measures the performance
- Info: shows detailed information
- Health: checks the health status by using SMART
- Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
- Temperature display
HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
When it comes to read speeds across the drive, we see a nice steady line of performance. The S596 Turbo maxes out at 210.5 MB/s. It is rare to see the HD Tune read speed match the ATTO speed.
The write speeds were a little bumpy, but that is not uncommon with the drives we are seeing these days.
Benchmarks - Everest Random Access Time
Everest Random Access Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.60
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Everest Ultimate and Corporate Edition offer several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.
Drives with only one or two tests displayed in write the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cached fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron.
The good news is that the read access time for the ADATA S596 Turbo holds up really well and when reading data you shouldn't have an interruption in data flow.
The bad news is that JMicron still can't shake their poor write performance when their cache buffer runs out. Here we see that write intensive tasks are going to ruin your day; well, maybe your moment. You will have 128MB of space to fill before that happens, but once that happens be prepared to pull your hair out.
Here we see that actual graph from the test. The only other review I could find online of the S596 Turbo stated, "We're happy to report that JMicron has sorted out its performance issues", but obviously that wasn't the case. After further analysis of that article I learned that a write access test was never even performed. Maybe they never really knew what the performance issues surrounding JMicron controllers were.
All joking aside, the JMF616 still has issues even with a 128MB DDR2 buffer when it comes to writing data. It is my opinion that when using the drive as a boot drive it will stutter if asked to perform under heavy use. This doesn't apply to users surfing the web, but power users should look at the above graph and take note.
Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: CrystalDiskMark 3.0 is not available to the public yet, but the Technical Preview does allow us to test 4K performance at queue depths of 4 and 32 in addition to 1. The current release Crystal Disk Mark only shows us QD 1.
In Crystal Disk Mark we are looking at the 4K performance. The ADATA S596 Turbo is able to easily outperform the fastest consumer platter drive, but when it comes to direct competition against SSDs we see that the drive isn't able to run with the Corsair Nova, an Indilinx based drive.
The S586 Turbo is faster than the WD VelociRaptor and the Indilinx Barefoot based Nova at 4K writes, but the similarly priced SandForce drives dominate the S596 Turbo.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests
PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.
HDD1 - Windows Defender
HDD2 - Gaming
HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery
HDD4 - Vista Startup
HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker
HDD6 - Windows Media Center
HDD7 - Windows Media Player
HDD8 - Application Loading
The poor 4K performance really takes its toll on the Windows Photo Gallery test. The Vertex 2 is actually 210MB/s faster in this test. To add insult to injury, the VelociRaptor is over three times faster in this same test.
On a brighter note, the Windows Media Center test, where larger files are read and written sequentially, the S596 Turbo is actually pretty quick.
Benchmarks - AS SSD
AS SSD Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.3577.40358
Developer Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software
Product Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software
Download here: http://www.alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/downloads.php?cat_id=4&download_id=9
AS determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without the use of the operating system caches.
In all synthetic tests the test file size is 1GB. AS can also determine the access time of the SSD, the access of which the drive is determined to read through the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke). The write access test is only to be met with a 1 GB big test file. At the end of the tests three values for the read and write as well as the overall performance will be issued. In addition to the calculated values which are shown in MB/s, they are also represented in IO per seconds (IOPS).
Note: AS SSD is a great benchmark for many tests, but since Crystal Disk Mark covers a broader range of 4K tests and HD Tune Pro covering sequential speeds, we will only use the Copy Benchmark from AS SSD.
- Copy Benchmark
For the last several months we have given the SandForce drives a hard time since they are not outstanding performers when dealing with compressed data. With that in mind, what can I really say about a new SSD that isn't able to keep up with the SandForce drives?
Benchmarks - Passmark
Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests
Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.passmark.com
Test Homepage: http://www.passmark.com
Many users complain that I/O Meter is too complicated of a benchmark to replicate results so my quest to find an alternative was started. Passmark has added several multi-user tests that measure a hard drives ability to operate in a multi-user environment.
The tests use different settings to mimic basic multi-user operations as they would play out on your server. Variances is read / write percentage as well as random / sequential reads are common in certain applications, Web Servers read nearly 100% of the time while Database Servers write a small amount of data.
The Workstation test is the only single user environment and will be similar to how you use your system at home.
The JMF616 was never designed to be a server part, but here we can see that the S596 Turbo is faster than the VelociRaptor in all of the tests. I don't think anyone would really ever consider the JMF616 for a server role.
Off the record, I've stated on a few occasions that JMicron has the very best sales team in the SSD market. I guess that's on the record, though, and since I said it I will have to explain it.
JMicron is the only company that failed to deliver a quality SSD controller even though they've given it at least five tries (JMF601, 602, 602B, 612 and 616). How the hell can a company go 0 for 5 and still keep selling controllers? They have a really good sales team or someone over there has some really large implants. One of these days I will figure out this great mystery, but to be honest, with every trade show I go to JMicron hasn't been on my list of must see companies. Maybe if the implant thing was be valid....
Looking forward, ADATA should just kill the S596 Turbo if they can't manage to get the price significantly lower than the SandForce controlled S599. When I say significant, I mean half, half the cost of the S599. When it comes to the 128GB capacity size, I would honestly look to spend around 150 USD and that is only if I couldn't raise the other 150 USD to get a SandForce drive, ever.
As it sits now, the performance doesn't justify the price of the S596 Turbo and since the S599 uses the same flash it will be impossible to sell the Turbo at enough of a discount to justify a purchase at all.
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