AData XPG SX930 240GB SSD Review
The high end SSD market is in a state of turmoil right now. Not only has the SATA 6Gbps interface long since reached its capacity but SATA Express is effectively dead in the water and new standards like NVMe are pushing the boundaries alongside the M.2 and U.2 form factors. As a result, high end SSDs are rapidly becoming either too expensive for all but the most diehard of users, prices of mainstream offerings are in freefall and the market itself has seen a lot of contraction when compared to previous years.
This situation also means it is a great time to be looking for a more affordable SSD; the remaining manufactures are thinking outside their normal comfort zones since much of their lineups have begun to stagnate. Indeed, actually seeing a new SSD launch outside the worlds of Samsung and Intel is a bit of a rarity these days. Hence why the AData XPG SX930 caught our attention.
The XPG SX930 is the latest addition to AData’s expanding SSD lineup and even though it is considered “mainstream” this drive has specifications that used to be reserved for substantially higher-end products. However, now we’re seeing awesome read / write numbers on a 240GB SSD that retails for under $120USD and goes head to head with the likes of OCZ's Vertex 460 or Crucial's MX200 series. With both of those drives receiving slight price cuts as of late, the competition is certainly stiff for the SX930 but AData has been busy thinking outside the box in an effort to differentiate their drive.
As a first tier manufacturers AData has complete control over what NAND ICs out of a batch gets added to their respective drives - and the best of the best goes to into the XPG series. That’s a pretty important factor since binned NAND is one way new generation SSDs will likely stand apart from the competition.
For the NAND ICs, AData has used what they claim is "Enterprise Grade MLC+" NAND. Now don't let this name fool you; this is not e-MLC NAND like what Intel, Samsung, and others use in their enterprise models. Instead this 'MLC+' NAND is consumer grade MLC NAND that has been torture tested so that only the best of the best modules make the grade.
Every enthusiast knows that MLC NAND can last longer than its durability specifications, but how much more is left to chance. AData has removed that variability and guarantees their MLC NAND for five years, without any limitation on total bytes written. MLC’s speed paired up with guaranteed longevity makes for a very potent combination….even if it still can't hold a candle to true enterprise grade NAND.
On the controller side of this equation, AData was equally aware that using a Marvell, Toshiba, or SandForce controller wouldn’t cut it since many of their competitors utilize those options and, as we’ve already stated, being an “also ran” wasn’t in the books. Instead they have gone in a radically different direction and opted for the JMicron JMF670H.
JMicron is still trying to overcome their earlier reputation of offering relatively poor initial performance, and struggling with output consistency as the drives attached to their controllers aged. This new controller is actually a massive step up and is supposedly priced much lower than competing solutions. This reduction in cost has been directly passed on to consumers and the 240GB version -which we will be testing today - has an online asking price of only $105 at the time of writing. This is a mere $9 more than a Crucial MX200 250GB, and only $21 more than a Crucial BX100 250GB.
Cracking open the case and looking at the PCB we can see that AData has gone with a half-length PCB. This is controversial as it means a lot less room for components and this lack of room directly translates to fewer NAND ICs. Less NAND modules could lead to a lower interleaving factor but not with this drive….more on that below. Specifically there are only 8 of these Toshiba 16nm, 128Gbit NAND ICs available for the controller to use.
Of course since the JMF670H is a four channel controller and doesn’t use eight like the Marvel or Toshiba alternatives, all channels are populated and so interleaving should be near-perfect. Meanwhile, to insure this drive runs at optimum speeds at all times, AData has implemented what Toshiba has dubbed 'pSLC'. What pSLC retains a small portion of the NAND in SLC mode to boost write performance. To further help keep bottlenecks from occurring AData has given their XPG SX930 128MB RAM buffer in the form of one NANYA RAM IC.
Unfortunately, this smaller PCB also caused one other issue: there is simply no room for on-board capacitors. In other words there is no hardware-based power failure protection. Only you can decide if this is a deal breaker but we do consider it a big handicap considering other drives in this price range include it.
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