AData Premier Pro SP920 512GB SSD Review
In light of recent releases from the likes of Intel, OCZ, Corsair and Kingston, AData was starting to look a bit flat footed without a significant push to refresh their lineup. Thatís about to change with the Premier Pro SP920, a unique drive which actually targets a large number of price points.
ADataís approach to SSD design has always taken the path less travelled. While some companies have taken the ďone controller fits allĒ direction, ADataís portfolio is diversified but one aspect has been consistent: theyíve very much focused on offering excellent value. The Permier Pro SP920 is no different; it is available in capacities from 128GB all the way to a massive 1TB model but features dollar per GB ratios as small as fifty two cents for the cavernous 1TB model. Obviously with such reasonable asking prices the SP920 is not meant to compete against the high end Intel 730s, Corsair Neutron GTX, OCZ Vector 150 of the marketplace. Rather AData has their sites firmly set on the Intel 5 series, Crucial M500 series and other popular mainstream offerings.
Even with lower prices throughout the lineup, for most budgets the SP920 512GB model at $334.99 will be a perfect fit. This is rather serendipitous as the 512GB and 1TB models are not only the two largest capacities offered but also feature the highest performance quotient. Meanwhile, the lower end sub-512GB models can still deliver excellent results, though at a lower bandwidth threshold.
On paper at least AData has a number of things going for them. Their drives donít use over-provisioning (more on that later) so can offer slightly more capacity than the competition and the use of ONFI 3 128 Gbit NAND modules allows for the 512GB drive we are reviewing here to reach read / write levels normally seen on much higher priced SSDs. While AData may not be backing up their drives with a 5-year warranty like Intel, but the 3 years of coverage is in line with their immediate competition.
Unlike the previous Premier Pro SP900 series, AData has decided against using the SandForce SF2281 controller, what many consider to be the SSD marketís elder statesman. Instead the brand new Marvell 88SS9189 is being used, making the SP920 one of the first to implement this next generation controller. Very little is known about it other than its promise to be faster and more powerful than Marvallís popular 9187 'Monet'. It remains to be seen if these improvements are great enough to help change Marvell's reputation featuring somewhat lackluster performance, but the SP920ís IOPS specifications certainly point in that direction.
In direct contrast with its price vs. performance philosophy the 7mm all metal exterior of ADataís SP920 512GB is extremely robust. AData has also included both a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter and a 7mm to 9.5mm black plastic adapter covering. This combination allows the SP920 to be installed in everything from Ultrabooks to full tower PC systems.
The internal architecture also appears to use a classic Marvell design. There is a single Marvell controller, 16 NAND ICs and a single 512MB external ram cache IC. There are also onboard capacitors which allow for Flush In Flight abilities. Seeing a consumer grade drive with FiF is very rare since it mitigates data corruption from unexpected power loss, but is costly to implement and as such is a feature usually reserved for more expensive enthusiast and Enterprise models. It should give anyone with this SSD peace of mind above all else.
While FiF abilities are impressive to see, they are not exactly unique to the SP920 since other high end SSDs have them. However, the NANDís configuration isnít normally seen on mainstream offerings. On first blush a 512GB capacity instead of the typical 480GB would indicate reduced over-provisioning but this is not the case per say with the new 9189 controller. Instead of reducing over-provisioning - or the amount of NAND set aside for the controller to use - this increase in capacity comes from optimization of the controllerís parity stripe ratio.
At its most basic, and much like SandForce, Marvell uses a RAID-like configuration for the NAND ICs to ensure data integrity. In previous 9187-series controllers the RAIN's (Redundant Array of Independent NAND) parity ratio was rather aggressive and consumed an additional 32GB of capacity on the '512GB' models. This level of parity has proven to be unnecessary with ONFi 3 NAND since itís actually more durable than first feared. Thus the SP920 only consumes Marvell's recommend amount of NAND for RAIN parity. At this time we know of only one other drive which has such a setting: the Crucial M550, which we will look at in a future review.
Taken as whole the AData Premier Pro SP920 is a rather interesting design and one that may just have what it takes to further cement AData's growing reputation as a provider of high quality storage devices.
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