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ADATA Premier SP550 SSD Review

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Premier SP550 240GB SSD Conclusion

IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.

The Premier SP550 is ADATA’s first TLC-NAND drive. TLC NAND stores three bits per cell, which increases bit density by 50% over standard MLC NAND designs. TLC NAND is less expensive than the more common MLC NAND, but has less durability and performance than MLC NAND. However, as Samsung has demonstrated with its 850 EVO drives, both of these concerns can be effectively managed with good design and firmware.

ADATA still has a ways to go here, I’m afraid. The drive’s performance benchmarks are bracketed by excellent read speeds and the highest score I’ve ever seen on PCMark Vantage at one end, but terrible IOPS and AIDA64 sequential write scores on the other end.

adata_premier_sp550_ssd_rot1

The poor showings the drive made in the IOPS and sustained writes tests are probably due to the firmware in the Silicon Motion SM2256K controller. Squeezing the best performance and durability out of TLC NAND is still an art, rather than a science, and requires a perfect combination of controller, firmware, and DRAM cache. Hopefully ADATA can do some work in this regard and improve performance with a firmware update.

But here’s a little secret for you: SSD performance has reached the point where it’s far more than fast enough for consumer use. If your computer was using the very fastest SSD you could buy (this would likely be one of Intel’s new PCI-E NVME SSD drives), and I snuck in one night and replaced it with this drive, you’d probably never notice it. Sure there are applications where this drive’s poor IOPS and sustained write performance would hurt it, but they’re likely not on your desktop or gaming system. Go back and look at the linear write results in AIDA64. See how the very first part of the test has a transfer rate of over 440MB/s before dropping off? That’s because the first part of the data is filling up the 256MB cache RAM, and once that’s full, performance drops dramatically. You don’t see this drop off in some of the other benchmarks since they don’t write more than 256MB at once. So the question is “How often does your system do so?” , and the answer is probably “Virtually never”.

But competition is intense in the 240/256GB SSD market these days, and there’s no reason not to get the best performance you can for your dollar. Let’s take a quick look at the prices and some performance metrics for the ADATA drives I’ve tested lately:

AIDA Read AIDA Write IOMeter IOPS Vantage Overall NewEgg Price (9/1/15)
ADATA XGT SX930 511MB/s 306MB/s 43,396 73,734 $109.99
ADATA SP610 507MB/s 286MB/s 50,450 79,525 $84.99
ADATA SP550 506MB/s 89MB/s 10,444 82,239 $79.99

The vagaries of marketing, promotions, and thin margins on this class of drives, mean that as of this writing, the SP550– which is ADATA’s entry-level drive– actually costs more than the SP610, which is two levels higher in ADATA’s hierarchy of SSDs. The SP550 does turn in marginally better read and Vantage performance than does the SP610, but the latter has superior IOPS and way better write performance, and, although both drives are warranted for three years, the SP610’s MCL NAND will probably outlast the SP550’s TLC NAND.

Appearance doesn’t count for much in storage products: even if you have a windowed case, your drives probably are not visible. ADATA didn’t spend any time or money on the appearance of this drive, going with a flat black metal case and a simple sticker. It’s no better or worse looking than any other consumer SSD.

By their nature– no moving parts– SSDs are all but immune to physical shock. While early SSDs had relatively high failure rates, modern SSDs are proving to be very reliable, often far surpassing their specified write lifetimes. That said, the construction quality of the PCB and metal shell are excellent. ADATA backs this drive with a 3-year warranty, which is pretty standard in the consumer SSD market.

The 240GB ADATA Premier SP550 SSD is available for $79.99 (AmazonNewegg), which is about the midrange of current 240GB SSD prices. However, until ADATA addresses some of the performance issues of this drive, I’d recommend getting its ADATA Premier SP610 sibling instead for $84.99 (Newegg). Remember, though, that the prices of SSDs are very volatile, and you should do your research to check current pricing and availability before buying.

Pros:

Benchmark Reviews Recommended Product Award Logo (Small)

+ Chart-topping sequential read speeds
+ Supports TRIM, NCQ, S.M.A.R.T., and robust ECC
+ 3-Year product warranty support
+ Offered in 120/240/480GB storage capacities
+ Lightweight compact storage solution
+ Resistant to extreme shock impact
+ Free copy of Acronis True Image included

Cons:

– Very poor scores on AIDA64 sequential writes and IOMeter IOPS measurements
– Better performing ADATA drives available for the same price

Ratings:

  • Performance: 7.50
  • Appearance: 8.00
  • Construction: 9.50
  • Functionality: 9.00
  • Value: 8.00

Final Score: 8.40 out of 10.

Recommended: Benchmark Reviews Seal of Approval.

COMMENT QUESTION: Which brand of SSD do you trust most?

NewEgg.com

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4 comments

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  1. HERETIC

    RE.That’s the data being written to the drive’s 256MB of cache RAM.P8

    I think it’s about 3GB of flash the drive is using in SLC mode…….

    1. GraphsDontLie

      Graphs tell the tale. Look at the spike, well over 1% of the run is fast until it tails off. No way 256MB cache (abit more than 0.1% of the capacity of the drive) accelerated writes for over 1% of the time.

      And if that is an SLC cache, then ALL the writes go through that little bit of SLC…seems like an early failure waiting to happen once the SLC goes.

  2. Master Chen

    Actually, there’s also a 960GB model of SP550 available out there, but it’s quite rare and usually can be found only on Asian market. But still, just take a note.

    1. Olin Coles

      Good information. The 960GB model might not have existed two months ago, when this article (and the product) originally launched.

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