Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
ADATA tapped Silicon Motion's new SM2262EN controller to build a premium NVMe SSD that should live at the top of the performance charts for most of 2019. The new SX8200 Pro 1TB was already tested but faced worthy competition from the older HP EX920 with strong software optimizations. The optimizations didn't carry over to the 512GB EX920, and that leaves the 512GB SX8200 Pro as the clear flash-based SSD leader in early 2019.
The SX8200 Pro starts 2019 off with a bang, just the way it should be. The 512GB drive slays the competition with improved random read performance, faster sequential writes, and a price that will make you question your Black Friday trophy purchase.
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.
512GB Class Performance Testing
At this time, there are only two "next-generation" NVNe SSDs shipping, the SX8200 Pro we're testing today and the MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro, also in the charts.
We filled the charts with the other popular consumer 512GB-class NVMe SSDs shipping today with similar price points.
Sequential Read Performance
The 512GB ADATA SX8200 Pro raises the bar for queue depth (QD) 1 sequential read performance. The drive falls down the list at QD 2 but then moves quickly ahead of the other drives until QD 16, well outside of the normal consumer workload.
Sequential Write Performance
The drive matches the 480GB BPX Pro in QD 1 sequential write performance. The SX8200 Pro quickly reaches full performance by QD 2. The drive trails the Samsung 970 EVO in the burst test but only gives up around 250 MB/s.
Sustained Sequential Write Performance
All consumer SSDs utilizing 3-bit per cell flash also utilize advanced caching technology to increase burst performance. The SLC cache technology on modern SSDs is strong enough to absorb consumer-level random writes but as consumers, we often also transfer large sequential data. This can pose a problem when that data overruns the SLC buffer and the performance drops into native TLC write mode.
The ADATA SX8200 Pro writes all or nearly all data to the SLC area before moving it to the TLC flash. The SLC buffer writes at a very high speed but the size is dynamic, so it shrinks as you store more data on the flash.
Random Read Performance
We often talk about the importance of random read performance. We can link this often-overlooked area to the user experience. This is where Silicon Motion and partners focused tuning in the previous two product generations.
The ADATA SX8200 Pro random read performance chart shows the outcome of the intense focus on building a superior consumer SSD. The drive outpaces every other drive we've tested in this area other than those built using 3D XPoint memory (Intel's Optane).
Random Write Performance
The SX8200 Pro also provides users with superior random write performance at low queue depths. The two next-generation drives deliver just over 55,000 random write IOPS at QD1.
70% Read Sequential Performance
The single weak point we've found with the SX8200 Pro is the sequential mixed workload. The drive doesn't scale well as we ramp up the workload with reads and writes. The drive does deliver just over 1,100 MB/s. It would be difficult to push a consumer workload beyond this level, but workstation workloads can surpass this volume with multitasking and IO intensive applications.
70% Read Random Performance
The 512GB SX8200 Pro doesn't have a problem scaling with random mixed workload data. The drive leverages it's strong random performance to put forth equally strong mixed random performance.
512GB Class Real-World Performance Testing
Game Load Time
The original 480GB ADATA SX8200 outperformed the 512GB HP EX920 in many tests. It's not uncommon to have one drive series win the top performance spot in one capacity but lose in another. It's just something we haven't seen in the years when Samsung dominated the consumer market. The SX8200 in this capacity is faster than the EX920, but the new SX8200 Pro is even faster in our game load time test using Final Fantasy: Stromblood.
PCMark 8 Total Storage Bandwidth
The PCMark 8 Storage Test uses a wider range of consumer applications. The tests applications use random and sequential data to give and better representation of consumer performance. The MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro performs really well here thanks to strong sequential performance. The new 512GB ADATA SX8200 Pro is even better. We observed a 56 MB/s lead with the SX8200 Pro, but the results are so close that it would be difficult to spot the difference under real-world conditions.
PCMark 8 Extended Storage Test
The Samsung 970 EVO still enjoys a lead under heavy workloads thanks to it's 5-core controller and resilient V-NAND memory. The SX8200 Pro improves on the heavy workload performance over its predecessor, but the heavy reliance on caching technology leaves workstation users inconsistent performance. In the recovery phases of the test where most consumers work, the SX8200 Pro shows strong performance again with a fast recovery. This is a significant improvement over the SX8200, but ADATA is still off the mark for workstation use with this drive.
SYSmark 2014 SE System Responsiveness and Power Tests
The SYSmark 2014 SE test features a unique test that measures the user experience through system responsiveness. The test follows an office worker through a day including idle time for coffee breaks.
The ADATA SX8200 Pro outperforms the HP EX920 by two points in this test. An OEM version of the Samsung 850 EVO is the base for this weighted score and represents 1,000 points on the scale.
Notebook Battery Life
Our final test also comes from BAPCo, and it uses many of the same workloads as the SYSmark test. This test runs on a Lenovo Y700-17 gaming notebook. The 512GB SX8200 Pro scores 324 minutes on the system, nearly 5.5 hours running office applications. This is right around the category average for NVMe SSDs.
With the 1TB ADATA SX8200 Pro it wasn't as clear, but with the 512GB model, there isn't any question. This is the fastest consumer NVMe SSD shipping today (not counting Optane SSDs) for its capacity. The SX8200 Pro gives us a nice incremental performance increase from the previous generation and it only costs a few dollars more.
On the performance front, the SX8200 Pro 512GB dominates this capacity. The MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro doesn't lag too far behind and costs less, but for the best user experience, the SX8200 Pro is what you want to buy.
The original SX8200 480GB currently sells on Amazon for $194.70 while the 1TB model is only $5 more. The same drive with a red heat sink (S11 GAMMIX) costs $104.99, right around where the SX8200 was just a week ago. The new 512GB SX8200 Pro currently sells for $117.99, or around $15 more than where the base model once was. Given the performance advantage, we recommend the new Pro model over the older series even when its price goes back to $105.
There really isn't anything negative to say about the SX8200 Pro. For early 2019, this is the perfect NVMe SSD. ADATA's SSD Toolbox and other software complete the package and the 5-year warranty is a nice extra. We would like to see more endurance on the Pro series, but the included 320 TBW rating is a step up from 4-bit per cell and entry-level NVMe SSDs.
It will be interesting to see what other companies bring to market at CES. We don't know when Micron's 96L TLC will come to market, but we suspect others will release products with the new SM2262EN controller and existing 64L flash like ADATA to get a new product to market in 2019. ADATA was the first to strike, and as of now, this is the best new SSD of 2019.
The Bottom Line: The ADATA SX8200 Pro 512GB is one of the best available today. If you want snappy performance, excellent load times, and expect to keep some money in your pocket this is a great option.
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