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ADATA Premier Pro SP920 512GB SSD Review

ADATA Premier Pro SP920 512GB SSD Review

ADATA's SP920 may be a rebadged M550, but the company sweetened it with an excellent accessory package and low price. Let's see what Chris has to say.

@ChrisRamseyer
Published Tue, May 13 2014 9:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: ADATA

Introduction & Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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VIEW GALLERY - 32 IMAGES

We've already published two reviews from ADATA's new SP920 series. The largest 1TB model and the smallest 128GB are already online, but we wanted to put some distance between those reviews and the two middle capacity size reviews. This allowed us to update our thoughts on the product line, see real-world pricing, and overall market availability.

It's hardly a secret now that ADATA tapped Micron / Crucial for the SP920. The 512GB and 1TB models are the same as the Crucial M550 with 128Gb die flash. The M550 128GB and 256GB use 64Gb die, while the SP920 use 128Gb die, a lower cost but lower performance alternative when used in smaller capacity SSDs.

Since the initial release, the ADATA SP920 512GB model has gone missing from e-tail websites. I can't say for certain if the 512GB model ever made it to market, but I thought we saw all four capacity sizes listed at Amazon. At the time of writing this article, we couldn't find a single SP20 512GB for sale anywhere.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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ADATA released the SP920 in four capacity sizes: 128GB to 1TB. We've given the SP920 mixed results in our reviews since ADATA chose to use 128Gb die size flash for the entire line up. The 128Gb die works great in larger capacity sizes like 1TB and 512GB, but the capacity per die is too high for smaller capacity size drives. SSDs read and write the data to more than one NAND flash die at a time, so the more you can read and write to, the faster the task occurs. The 512GB model we're testing today uses two die per package and has sixteen packages. This allows the eight-channel Marvell 88SS9189-BLD2 controller to read and write to more die at the same time.

ADATA claims sequential read performance at 560 MB/s, sequential write performance at 500 MB/s, 4k random reads at 98,000, and 4k random writes at 88,000. The specification sheet doesn't list endurance, but the SP920 does have a three-year warranty.

When it comes to the accessory package, the SP920 does much better than the M550. In the retail package, we found a desktop adapter bracket, 7mm to 9.5mm z-height bracket, mounting screws, and product manual. Also included was a code for Acronis ATI HD 2013, a disk migration software that allows you to clone the data on your existing drive to your new SP920. ADATA now has an SSD Toolbox that allows you to perform various management and disk clean up tasks.

As we mentioned, we couldn't find the SP920 512GB for sale online, but ADATA tells us this capacity size has a MSRP of $334.99. Newegg does have the 128GB ($89.99) and 256GB ($149.99) models for sale at this time, and so does Amazon.

PRICING: You can find the ADATA SP920 (256GB) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The ADATA SP920 (256GB) retails for $159.99 at Amazon.

ADATA SP920 512GB SSD

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ADATA carried over the retail package from previous SSDs but updated the text to reflect the new SP920's specifications.

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Inside, we found a desktop adapter bracket, 7mm to 9.5mm adapter, mounting screws, a quick start manual, and a reminder to download the free software for data migration.

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Here we get our first look at the drive. The top cover is just a thin sliver of metal for keeping the drive secure.

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The bottom of the case is beefier and doubles as a heat sink for the Marvell controller and DRAM buffer.

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ADATA used the new Marvell 88SS9189-BLD2 controller that's 8 channels to the NAND flash.

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This controller has a higher clock speed than the 88SS9187 that Crucial used on the M500. It also incorporates a thermal protection mode, mainly for Ultrabook designs where the components are packed very close together. To aid in dissipating heat, the case acts as a heat sink.

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There are sixteen NAND packages in total with eight on each side.

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The SP920 also has host power fail protection, so if the drive detects a power fail event, it will flush the data in the controller to the flash even after the power falls away.

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The Micron DRAM buffer chip. This model only uses one DRAM package, but the 1TB model uses two.

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The NAND flash is Micron 20nm L85A.

Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

Desktop Test System

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Lenovo W530 - Mobile Workstation

We use two systems for SSD testing. The desktop runs a majority of the tests, and the Lenovo W530 runs the notebook power tests as well as the real-world file transfer benchmark.

ATTO - Baseline Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34

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Early testing revealed sequential read performance at 563 MB/s and sequential write performance at 511 MB/s.

Benchmarks - Sequential Performance

HD Tune Pro - Sequential Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.55

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HD Tune Pro using 64KB blocks delivered an average sequential read speed of 456 MB/s.

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The sequential write performance averaged 342 MB/s with a minimum speed of 313 MB/s.

HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0.4.0

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After a reasonable number of random writes, we test the sequential read and write performance with HD Tach using 128KB blocks. The write performance doesn't drop to extremely low levels like many SSDs do with 128Gb dies.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: RC6

So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test or just the read or the write test, or you can run a single test, i.e. 4k QD16.

Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet, but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums, has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.

The software can be used several different ways to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data, and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.

0-Fill Compressible Data

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Incompressible Data

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The SP920 writes compressible and incompressible data at the same rate.

Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale

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Here we're looking at the read IOPS performance from queue depth 1 to QD32. ADATA rates the SP920 512GB at 98,000 IOPS, and we hit that target and then some. Getting to high queue depths, though, is nearly impossible under a consumer load, so we're concerned with the low queue depth performance. At QD1, the Premier Pro SP920 512GB delivers just over 8,300 IOPS, and that nearly double at QD2 and then doubles again at QD4.

Scaling Write IOPS through Queue Scale

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The QD1 write IOPS ring the bell at nearly 37,000 IOPS, just behind the OCZ Vector. Again here, the QD2 IOPS nearly double the first test, but random write performance starts to fall off after QD4, but that's fine since we're already knocking on the door of the drive's limit of 88,000 IOPS.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage (Drives with Data Testing)

PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0

For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing, please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article; full instructions are included.

Brief Methodology

SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.

Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test

Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (128GB), 240 (256GB)

60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB

120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB

240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB

Empty but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.

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With the SP920 empty and after light use from other tests, it scored a solid 88k Marks in Vantage. With data on the 512GB model, performance dropped to a score of 47k Marks.

At that point, it didn't matter if we had the drive 25% full, 50% full or 75% full, the performance was the same until we deleted all of the data and let TRIM / garbage collection clean the flash.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended - Consistency Test

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.228

Heavy Usage Model:

FutureMark's PCMark 8 allows us to wear the test drive down to a reasonable consumer steady state and then watch the drive recover on its own through garbage collection. To do that, the drive gets pushed down to steady state with random writes and then idle time between a number of tests allows the drive to recover.

Precondition Phase:

1. Write to the drive sequentially through up to the reported capacity with random data.

2. Write the drive through a second time (to take care of overprovisioning).

Degradation Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 10 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 8 times, and on each pass increase the duration of random writes by 5 minutes.

Steady state Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 50 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.

Recovery Phase:

1. Idle for 5 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.

Storage Bandwidth

PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we use to judge a drive's performance.

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The Crucial M550 512GB really impressed us in this test, and the ADATA SP920's performance is within the margin of error. The red bar, the performance most of us should expect under a light load performance, is the highest of any drive we've tested. When you've worked the drive hard, though, the performance drops off by more than half. The middle ground performance shows the transition.

Storage Bandwidth All Tests

Here we see all of the tests plotted on the same chart. This shows the drive from worst case to steady state and finally recovery performance.

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It was the best of times it was the worst of times…well, not really. There are other drives that do much worse. The SP920 does go on a wild ride through but ends up at near the top of the chart. It still can't match the SanDisk Extreme II's consistent performance.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test - Continued

Total Access Time

The access time test measures the total latency across all 18 tests. This is one of the, if not the most, important tests we run at this time for consumer SSDs. When your latency is low, your computer feels fast; it's just that simple.

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Latency is what makes your system feel fast. The lower the result on the chart, the more responsive your computer is. When the SP920 is settled down, the latency is low, but in a dirty state, the latency increases, and that makes your system feel slower.

Disk Busy Time

Disk Busy Time shows us how long the drive has to work to do the given tasks. The best scenario is high throughput performance with low busy time. The less the drive works, the less power it consumes. For the most part, this is an efficiency test

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The disk busy time chart looks nearly identical to the latency chart, but there are a few small changes.

Benchmarks - DiskBench

DiskBench - Directory Copy

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.6.2.0

Note: In this test, we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation and a SuperSpeed S301 SLC 128GB SSD to move a 15GB block of data to and from the target drive. This is part of our real-world test regiment. Roughly 45GB of data resides on the target drive before the '15GB Block' is transferred. The 15GB Block is the same data we built for the Data on Disk Testing and is a mix of compressible and incompressible data.

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Until now, the SP920 performed great, but we did run into an issue on both this and the M550. In our notebook test where we transfer 15.2 GB to the drive from another SSD, and then back from the test SSD to the initial SSD, there was a problem.

This timing for this test is after a Crystal Disk Mark run in the notebook, so the drive is in a dirty state. This just goes to show how the dirty state write performance can ruin your day... or at least your transfer performance.

Benchmarks - Power Testing & Final Thoughts

Bapco MobileMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5

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The ADATA SP920 and Crucial M550 both deliver the same battery time, but that's not really a good thing here. Other than the Intel 730 and Mushkin Chronos DX, the identical hardware pair are at the back of the 512GB capacity class.

Final Thoughts

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Sadly, the ADATA Premier Pro SP920 isn't in any e-tail warehouse that we've been able to find, so we can't put our finger on the real-world price. The MSRP for the 512GB model we looked at today is $334.99, the same as the current selling price for the M550 512GB. ADATA gives you a nice accessory package with disk cloning software, desktop adapter bracket, and a handful of other goodies, including a new SSD Toolbox, all bits missing from the M550 package. That makes the buying decision easy when choosing between those two drives.

Moving beyond those two drives, we have to look at performance. If you don't write a lot of data to the drive, then the SP920 is very fast, but once you hit the drive hard, the performance decreases until the drive has time to clean up the mess. The best drive on the market at this time for consistent performance is the SanDisk Extreme II, so we need to use that as the starting point. The Extreme II 480GB just went through a price reduction and now costs $289.95.

It doesn't come with a SP920-like accessory package, so if you need the bits, you'll need to buy them too. This is partially why we wanted to see where the SP920 would end up on the price side of things. It's a solid SSD, but the Extreme II is better.

So, where does that leave the ADATA SP920? That's up to ADATA and their retailers. If the price becomes competitive with the Extreme II 480GB and you need the accessory package, go for it. Until then, go with the consistent performer and never worry about degraded SSD performance.

PRICING: You can find the ADATA SP920 (256GB) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The ADATA SP920 (256GB) retails for $159.99 at Amazon.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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