ADATA Ultimate SU800 512GB SSD Review

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With 2016 coming to a close, we have seen the continual decline in price per gigabyte for solid state drives over the past several years. Speeds have reached their maximum through the SATA3 6Gbps ports so performance differences between most drives can only be seen in benchmarks. ADATA has had a few SSDs out in the past. Their latest, the ADATA Ultimate SU800, is their first foray into 3D NAND and promises to deliver a higher storage density, efficiency, and reliability. Let’s see what it is made of and how the tests shake out!

Specifications and Features

Below are the specifications as sourced from the ADATA website for the drive. We can see capacities range from 128GB to 1TB. In our hands is the 512GB model, what many people will likely purchase, as it is a good balance between price and capacity. The Silicon Motion SM2258 controller uses a standard SATA 3 6 GB/s interface and controls the 3D TLC NAND inside. Performance numbers on a 6 GB/s port peak at 560 MB/s reads and 520 MB/s writes. Of course those values will change depending on the size drive you have. Smaller drives usually are a bit slower in throughput and IOPS.

The 2.5″ drive carries a 3-Year warranty with 2 million hour Meant Time Before Failure (MTBF) rating. ADATA also rates the drive to a total of 400 Total Bytes Written (TBW). That number is much bigger than other drives. Consider one of its competitors, the OCZ Trion 150, has 1.5 million hour MTBF and 120 TBW. While most won’t come close to the lesser MTBF and TBW of other drives, it’s comforting to know there is even more in the tank here.

ADATA Ultimate SU800 SSD Specifications
Capacity 128GB – 1TB (512GB for review)
Interface SATA III 6 GB/s
Controller Silicon Motion SM2258
Flash 3D Triple-Level Cell (TLC)
Form Factor 2.5 inch
Dimensions 100.45 x 69.85 x 7mm
MTBF 2 million hours
Sequential Read/Write Speeds (6 GB/s) 560/520 MB/s (in ATTO – performance varies by capacity)
Max random 4K Read/Write/Sustain 90,000/54,000/3,200 IOPS
Endurance 400TB TBW (Total Bytes Written)
Service & Support 3-Year Warranty

Features wise, we checked out he ADATA page for the drive and picked out some of the items worthy of noting. As mentioned earlier, this is ADATA’s first drive using 3D NAND flash. Because of the architecture, drives that use this are able to achieve higher storage capacities, better efficiency, as well as reliability. Part of the better performance comes with their Intelligent SLC caching algorithm which allows the NAND flash to operate in SLC mode increasing read and write performance. Using the DRAM cache buffer, read and write performance can “double” over SSD drives who cannot use the system memory as a buffer.

Fast data is one thing, but it being in tact is another. ADATA uses an advanced Low Density Parity Check Error Correcting Code (LDPC ECC) to notably reduce data errors and help with data integrity. This is on another level than the more basic BCH error correction many SSDs use.

Like other competitors, ADATA also has their own proprietary software named SSD Toolbox and Migration Utility. These included utilities (download at the website, link below in that section) allow one to monitor and manage their ADATA SSDs, including a data migration application (Acronis True Image HD) to help one easily and quickly back up data and migrate their OS to the new SSD. I personally use Acronis for all my back up, cloning, and migration needs.

Last up is their RAID engine and data shaping to ensure the Ultimate SU800’s data integrity and extends SSD life for “better, longer-lasting stability and more value for your money.”

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3D NAND Flash of the new generation

With the modern 3D NAND Flash the Ultimate provides SU800 higher storage capacities, be more efficient and robust reliability with an unprecedented price-performance ratio. The Ultimate SU800 achieved read / write speeds of up to 560MB / s and 520MB / s to speed up PCs.

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Intelligent SLC caching and DRAM cache buffer

The intelligent SLC caching algorithm allows the NAND flash memory to operate in SLC mode and increase the SSD read / write performance. With the support of the DRAM cache buffer, the read / write performance can reach the double of SSD drives without DRAM cache, or in other words, those who can not the system memory as a buffer SSD use for tasks with high intensity.

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Advanced LDPC ECC Engine

The Low Density Parity Check Error Correcting Code (LDPC ECC) has been implemented in the Ultimate SU800, which leads to a significant reduction of data errors and a corresponding increase in data integrity. It protects your valuable content far better against damage as SSDs without ECC or even SSDs that use just a basic BCH error correction.

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Proprietary software – SSD Toolbox and Migration Utility

Buying a Ultimate SU800 entitled to free downloads of ADATA SSD Toolbox and Migration Utility. SSD Toolbox allows you to monitor and manage the Ultimate SU800 with information about drive status, efficiency and service life. Data migration programs are especially useful for users who switch from HDD to SSD, since they were designed for an easy and fast backup and migration of whole drives, including the operating system.

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RAID engine and data shaping for ultimate protection

By supporting RAID engine and data shaping ensures the Ultimate SU800 data integrity and offers an extended SSD life for better, longer-lasting stability and more value for your money.

Packaging/Product Tour

Pictured below is the retail packaging for the ADATA Ultimate SU800 512GB SSD. The packaging has an almost chrome/gunmetal color and look to it as you can see the rainbow reflection from the sun the day I took the pictures. It stands on out on store shelves. The packaging has the ADATA name in the upper left with its trademark rainbow colored bird along with the name and capacity on the bottom. The back of the package shows features and specifications.

Inside the box the SSD itself sits in form fitting plastic holding it securely in place. The drive comes with a quick start guide as well as a bracket for mounting it in your case.

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The Drive

The drive itself is of the 2.5″, 7 mm variety so it will easily fit in most laptops. You can see in the last picture the SATA 6 Gbps data connection and power.

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A Closer Look

After taking apart the drive (I have to mention, I really manhandled the thing to get it apart – warranty gone!) to expose the innards, we are greeted by a 3/4 length PCB inside the case. The top has Micron branded 3D NAND flash, while flipping it over exposes the SMI controller and additional NAND. Notice the PCB has space to add more?

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Software

ADATA’s SSD Toolbox software is a comprehensive monitoring and managing tool for your Ultimate SU800. I have to imagine it works on other ADATA drives as well (do not have any to test). But it covers everything from drive information, diagnostics for checking the status of the drive, utilities for secure erasing the drive, updating firmware or the SSD Toolbox software, and even exporting logs for more advanced troubleshooting.

I didn’t have any issues with the software as it was easy to use, and things felt like they were in logical places. A welcome addition.

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Test System and Methods

Below is a list of the current test system and related components. Also listed are the applications used in this review.

Test System Components
Motherboard ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Extreme
CPU Intel i7 6700K @ Stock (4.2 GHz)
Memory GSkill Trident Z DDR4 3200 MHz CL 15 @ 3000 MHz 15-15-15-35
SSD ADATA Ultimate SU800
Power Supply Seasonic 1000P
Video Card AMD R7 260

Each SSD is Secure Erased (SE) using the OCZ SSD Guru utility to make sure we get the best results possible. We do this before each and every test run to give the comparison samples the best environment possible for testing. Below are the tests we run with a brief description.

  • Crystal Disk Mark – Run at Default Settings (5 Pass)
  • AS SSD – Run at Default Settings
  • ATTO – Run at Default Settings except QD Set to 10
  • Anvil Storage Utility

Performance/Results

CrystalDiskMark

In our CrystalDiskMark testing, results were overall pretty good with reads and writes in the pack or leading it in reads. 4K reads are lower than some other drives, coming closer to the Trion 150 and Arc 100 than 850 Evo. Though most files are in the 4K size range, I can’t say I noticed a difference in use between any of the drives however.

CrystalDiskMark - Reads

CrystalDiskMark – Reads

 

CrystalDiskMark - Writes

CrystalDiskMark – Writes

AS SSD

In AS SSD, it is another solid overall performance here with sequential reads and the 4K 64Thrd, but the other 4K results were fourth out of five here. On the writes side of the house, sequential was a bit slower than most at 462 MB/s, however 4K writes and 4k 64Thrd showed solid performance here coming in third place and second place respectively. The overall score places it right between the Evo and the OCZ Arc 100.

AS SSD - Reads

AS SSD – Reads

 

AS SSD - Writes

AS SSD – Writes

 

AS SSD- Access times

AS SSD- Access times

 

AS SSD - Scores

AS SSD – Scores

ATTO

In our ATTO “best case” type of test, we see the the ADATA Ultimate SU800 leading the pack here maxing out at 563 MB/s in reads. At the critical 4K size, it managed 311 MB/s matching the 850 Evo’s results. Regarding ATTO writes, while the SU800 peaked a bit lower than the other drives at 519MB/s, the 4K writes beat everyone here hands down with 312 MB/s. Overall a very solid result in this benchmark for sure.

ATTO - Reads

ATTO – Reads

 

ATTO - Writes

ATTO – Writes

Anvil Storage Utility

Last but not least is Anvil Storage Utility. This benchmark gives one a detailed look at several different file sizes and also spits out a score at the end. I don’t typically compare these results against each other, but do know what you see below compares well with the other drives in this review.

Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Conclusion

The differences between SATA based SSD’s are not much these days due to the limitations of SATA3 (6Gb/s). Speeds are peaking at/over 550MB reads saturation the available bandwidth. About the only differences in such drives is at the 4K level. The ADATA shined here in one or two tests and then was middle of the pack for the rest. Certainly nothing to shake a stick at performance wise. Outside of benchmarks, you would be hard pressed to tell anyone which of the drives tested here where in my system.

ADATA brings to the table not only solid performance, but modern 3D NAND flash for higher storage capacities (ranging to 1TB) efficiency, and speed. It has an intelligent SLC caching system which allows the drive to increase the read and write performance. If you are concerned about errors and data integrity, ADATA has you covered here as well with its advanced LDPC ECC Engine we discussed earlier, which leads to a significant reduction of data errors and therefore increases data integrity. Reliability was another key point here and remember the TBW value of 400TB, its MTBF of 2M hours (both higher than average), and its 3 year warranty all paint the picture of a solid drive.

To that end, pricing does matter. The ADATA Ultimate SU800 512GB drive comes in at $139.99 at Newegg.com. This is priced very competitively among the major brands being one of the lowest priced out there for this capacity. The Trion 100 is 480GB and more expensive, while the older and more mature Samsung Evo 850 does come in a bit less for similar, if not a slightly better performance.

ADATA isn’t normally spoken in the same breath as the more well know SSD makers, but it really should be. With all of the features ADATA has on their Ultimate SU800 drive, its above average overall performance, and current pricing, you really need to make sure this drive is high on your list when choosing 2.5″ SATA based drives.

Click here to find out what this means.

Click here to find out what this means.

– Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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