The name ADATA might not ring any bells, but the Taiwanese-based company is a huge deal in its home country. As one of the largest manufacturers of flash-based memory products, ADATA’s flash storage solutions are found not just in consumer devices, but also is widely used in the commercial and industrial space, in digital signages, automated machinery, data centers and more.
A year ago, we reviewed ADATA’s Premier Pro SP920SS drive, which was a drive targeted at mainstream users and featured Marvell’s 88SS9189 controller and Micron’s new 128Gbit NAND. Though it was attractively priced and came with loads of accessories, its performance was not quite up to scratch. This time, ADATA is back again with their new XPG SX930 drive which features JMicron’s new JMF670H controller. Will it be a case of second time lucky for ADATA? Let’s find out.
The ADATA XPG SX930 is a new SSD that is targeted at gamers and enthusiasts. And if you are scratching your head wondering what “XPG” means, it stands for “Xtreme Performance Gear” and also represents ADATA’s flagship line of SSDs.
Inside, the highlight has to be the use of JMicron’s JMF670H controller. The JMF670H controller was announced last year at Computex 2014 and is JMicron’s current flagship controller. JMicron is no stranger to the SSD business and has been producing controllers for SSDs as early as 2008. The brand has maintained a relatively low profile in the past couple of years but they are back in the a big way with the JMF670H controller, and have plans for more controllers next year.
Though ADATA has positioned the XPG SX930 SSD as their high-end drive, the truth is that the specifications of the JMF670H controller suggest otherwise. While most high-end SSD controllers employ an eight-channel design, the JMF670H supports just four-channels, which is typical of mainstream controllers like Marvell’s SS88SS9175. Additionally, it uses a single-core ARM968 processor, which is the smallest and lowest power processor in the ARM9 family. From the looks out of it, the JMF670H looks more like a competitor to other mainstream controllers such as Silicon Motion's SM2256EN and Phison's S8.
What’s more interesting about this controller is that it supports a wide variety of different NAND types including 3D V-NAND - but not TLC NAND. This makes it an attractive choice for SSD manufacturers who do not develop their own controller nor have their own NAND as it gives them greater freedom to source their NAND from suppliers like Samsung, Micron and Toshiba.
As for NAND, ADATA has turned to Micron, specifically their 16nm 128Gbit NAND. However, for the XPG SX930 drive, they are using higher quality binned NAND which they call “Enterprise-grade MLC Plus NAND”. Since ADATA buys NAND memory in bulk, it sorts them and allocates them for their various flash storage devices. Higher quality NAND ends up in their enterprise products and the XPG SX930 drive. This is also the reason why ADATA is able to offer a 5-year long warranty on the XPG SX930 - something usually reserved only for premium high-end SSDs.
To boost performance, the XPG SX930 also has what ADATA calls “pSLC Cache Technology”. What really happens is that a portion of the NAND die is dedicated to operate in SLC mode to improve random write performance. It is really just a variation of other caching technologies seen in drives like the Samsung SSD 850 Evo and SanDisk Extreme Pro. While this form of caching technology has proved useful for SSDs using TLC NAND, we have seen little evidence to suggest that it is beneficial for SSDs using MLC NAND, but perhaps the XPG SX930 would prove to be the exception?
One thing sorely missing from the ADATA XPG SX930 SSD is support for hardware encryption. This is a feature that is being offered by many entry-level drives these days and its exclusion, though not an outright deal-breaker, is a real pity. On the flip side, the XPG SX930 comes with a 3.5-inch HDD adapter (useful for users with older computer chassis) and a code to download a copy of Acronis TrueImage HD for easy cloning and migration.
Finally, there’s the ADATA SSD Toolbox, a nifty utility that lets users easily update their drive’s firmware as well as run diagnostic tests to check on its health status. SSD Toolbox also lets users securely wipe their drive and even has a gauge that shows the estimated lifespan of the drive.
The ADATA XPG SX930 will be tested on our dedicated storage testbed:
Our revised benchmark ditches older benchmarks such as HD Tune and also includes an all new timing test to better evaluate the drive’s real world performance. The list of benchmarks used are as follows:
We are pitting the ADATA XPG SX930 against some of the most popular mainstream SSDs in the market today, including the Samsung SSD 850 Evo, Crucial MX100 and Plextor M6S. It will also be interesting to see how the XPG SX930 matches up against the older Premier Pro SP920SS and also the Corsair Force LX, which is powered by a Silicon Motion controller.
Here is the list of drives tested: