ADATA Legend 960 Gen4 M.2 NVMe 1TB SSD Review


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For over 20 years, ADATA has provided the computer industry with the highest-quality memory and storage devices. The Legend 960 is a PCIe Gen4 x4 M.2 NVMe SSD that continues this legacy. The sample ADATA has provided for this review is the 1 TB version, but a 2 TB is also available. Designed for the consummate professional, the Legend is marketed toward content creators, virtual designers, animators, and of course, gamers. Marketing aside, the Legend 960 is a performance-based solution with speed and data integrity at its core.

ADATA Legend 960 1TB
ADATA Legend 960 1TB

Specifications and Features

As always, we start by previewing the specifications and features of the Legend 960. Listed below are the major features of the Legend 960. These were taken directly from the ADATA website.

  • PCIe Gen4 x4
  • Max. read/write speed: 7,400/6,800MB/s
  • Capacity: 1TB / 2TB
  • Heatsink provides effective cooling
  • Supports the latest Intel and AMD platforms
  • Works with PS5 as expanded storage
  • 5-years warranty

We also referenced the ADATA website for the following specifications chart.

ADATA Legend 960 PCIe Gen4 x4 M.2 NVMe 1 TB SSD Specifications
Part NumberALEG-960-1TCS
Capacity1 TB or 2 TB
Form FactorM.2 2280
FlashTLC 3D NAND
ControllerSilicon Motion SM2264
Dimensions (L x W x H)80 x 22 x 3.13mm / 3.15 x 0.87 x 0.13inch (with heat sink)
80 x 22 x 2.15mm / 3.15 x 0.87 x 0.09inch (without heat sink)
Weight11g / 0.39oz (with heat sink)
8g / 0.28oz (without heat sink)
InterfacePCIe Gen4x4 with NVMe 1.4
Sequential Read (Max*)Up to 7,400MB/s (PC/Laptop)*,
Up to 6,400MB/s (PS5)
Sequential Write (Max*)Up to 6,800MB/s*
4KB Random IOPS Read (Max*)Up to 750K*
4KB Random IOPS Write (Max*)Up to 630K*
Operating Temperature0°C – 70°C
Storage temperature-40°C-85°C
Shock Resistance1560TB**
MTBF1500G/0.5ms
Endurance (TBW)2,000,000 hours
Warranty5 Year Limited ***
Price1 TB $129.99 (Amazon)

2 TB $249.99 (Amazon)

Notes* This product is compatible with the latest Intel and AMD platforms and must be used with a motherboard that supports PCIe 4.0 to achieve optimal performance. Actual performance may vary depending on the hardware and software configurations.
* This product is backward compatible with PCIe 3.0. If a third-generation PCIe motherboard is used, this product will be able to achieve sequential read/write speeds of 3400/3000MB per second.
* Test system configuration : M/B : MSI X570 Gaming Plus Max , CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-Core Processor 3.6GHz, RAM: ADATA 8G DDR4-266MHz
** The value is the minimum amount of terabyte written that could be reached.
*** The SSD is based on the TBW or Warranty period.

Packaging

Packaged in black holographic cardboard, the box sports a rainbow reflection that produces a stunning look. The front of the box displays an image of the drive and its basic specifications. The sides restate this information as well as show the various certifications. Once inside, a clear plastic tray securely retains the heatsink and drive. This type of packaging is typical for solid state drives and is quite effective at protecting the contents during shipping.

ADATA Legend 960 Packaging
ADATA Legend 960 Packaging

ADATA Legend 960 Packaging
ADATA Legend 960 Packaging

ADATA Legend 960 Packaging
ADATA Legend 960 Packaging

ADATA Legend 960 Packaging
ADATA Legend 960 Packaging

The Legend 960

The Legend 960 is built on a black double-sided PCB measuring 80 mm long following the M.2 2280 form factor. As with all NVMe drives it utilizes the M-key interface. Mounted at the top of the drive are the Silicon Motion controller, a DRAM module, and a pair of 3D NAND. The back of the drive features a warranty sticker that conceals another DRAM module and two more 3D NAND.

The aluminum heatsink is incredibly attractive with its satin black paint and gold accented trim. It measures one millimeter thick and sits approximately two and a half millimeters above the PCB when installed. The thermal tape provided is quite sticky and should be considered a permanent solution once attached as it is difficult to remove without damaging the drive’s components.

Bare Drive Front
Bare Drive Front

Bare Drive Back
Bare Drive Back

Heat Spreader
Heat Spreader

Thermal Tape
Thermal Tape

Looking closer at the internal components, ADATA decided on Silicon Motion’s SM2264 controller representing Silicon Motion’s latest PCIe Gen 4 NVMe controller. The SM2264 is equipped with the proprietary NANDXtend error-correcting code (ECC) technology and, according to Silicon Motion, “enhances the endurance and data retention of 3D NAND, and provides comprehensive protection of data integrity through SRAM ECC and End-to-End data path protection.”. Additionally, the Legend 960 utilizes SLC caching via TLC NAND modules for faster data transfers.

Located adjacent to the SM2264  controller is the first of two DRAM modules and two of the four 3D NAND modules. These are likely ADATA’s proprietary components as we could not obtain any information pertaining to these model numbers, which is typical for all the ADATA drives we have reviewed thus far.

Flipping the drive to see its backside, we partially peel the sticker back to reveal a second DRAM and two additional 3D NAND modules. With a total of four NAND, we can easily deduce that each of these are 256 GB modules, totaling 1 TB capacity.

Controller Close Up
Controller Close Up

Front DRAM Close Up
Front DRAM Close Up

Front 3D NAND Close Up
Front 3D NAND Close Up

Rear 3D NAND Close Up
Rear 3D NAND Close Up
Rear DRAM Close Up
Rear DRAM Close Up

Testing Method and Test System

ADATA listed the maximum sequential read and write specifications for this drive, but there are so many other scenarios that a storage device encounters. To test each of these we use a series of benchmark programs to evaluate the drive’s actual performance and verify that the advertised speeds are also met. To ensure the best results, before each test, the drive is sanitized using the motherboard bios and formatted to NTFS with default settings under Windows 10. Peak temperatures are also recorded throughout the testing as well as any thermal throttling experienced.

Below are the tests we run with a brief description.

  • Crystal Disk Mark v 8.0.4 x64 – Run at Default Settings (5 Passes)
  • AS SSD v 2.0.7316 – Run at Default Settings
  • ATTO v 4.01 – Run at Default Settings except for the QD Set to 10
  • Anvil Storage Utility Benchmark v 1.1.0 – Default Settings
  • DiskBench v2.8.1.0 – Use a predefined 120 GB transfer file
  • Thermal Testing – Monitored throughout the testing suite
Testing System
MotherboardASRock X570 Phantom Gaming X
CPUAMD Ryzen 7 3700X
CPU Coolerbe quiet! Dark Rock 4
MemoryG.SKILL Trident Z RGB 16GB (2×8) 3200MHz CL16-18-18-38
OS SSDMSI Spatium M470 1 TB NVMe
Power SupplyEVGA GQ850 850 Watts
Graphics CardGigabyte RTX 2070 Gaming OC 8GB

 

Heat Spreader Installed
Heat Spreader Installed

The Legend 960 is installed in the top M.2 slot (closest to the CPU) to utilize the direct CPU interface. The included heatsink is left off the drive unless it throttles for thermal reasons. Once the testing is complete, any tests that experienced throttling are re-run with the heatsink installed to allow for a best-case scenario. This provides for a level playing field for drives that do not have heatsinks included or for users who wish to utilize the motherboard M.2 heatsink.

Benchmark Results

CrystalDiskMark

CDM-SEQ1M-Q8T1
CDM-SEQ1M-Q8T1

CDM-SEQ1M-Q1T1
CDM-SEQ1M-Q1T1

CDM-RND4K-Q32T16
CDM-RND4K-Q32T16

CDM-RND4K-Q1T1
CDM-RND4K-Q1T1

CrystalDiskMark represents the gold standard for SSD speed tests. In this benchmark, the drive is placed under four heavy loads of sequential and random data for both read and write tests and provides a total of eight data points that we use for comparison. The ADATA Legend 960 did thermal throttle during this test, so the results we see are with the heatsink installed. As you can see, the drive performed very well despite being at the thermal limits with results ranging at or near the top in each of the eight tests. The maximum recorded sequential read and write speeds are 7464 MB/s and 6653 MB/s respectively.

AS SSD

AS SSD-READ
AS SSD-READ
AS SSD-WRITE
AS SSD-WRITE

Similar to CrystalDiskMark, AS SSD tests the drive’s abilities in sequential and 4K read and write tests. Six data sets are produced for comparison. What is notable here is the Legend 960 managed a sequential read speed of 6121 MB/s besting all others in this benchmark. The sequential write speed of 5563 MB/s is not as impressive but still a top-four result. The 4K and 4K-64 thread read and write results are also quite good placing the Legend near the top in each category. AS SSD also created a thermal throttle condition without the heatsink, so the results above are with the heatsink installed.

ATTO

ATTO-READ
ATTO-READ
ATTO-WRITE
ATTO-WRITE

Moving on to the ATTO benchmark utility we arrive at one of the most comprehensive benchmarks in our suite. It uses a file size spectrum to gauge speeds based on the file’s relative size. The 16 data points generated by ATTO provide a broad set of information to draw from. The difference between the tested drives is minimal for the smaller 1k and 4k files. At 16k and 64k we notice the premium drives pulling away from the more budget-friendly options. You’ll notice a distinguishable pattern at file sizes of 256k and larger with the fastest drives leaving the slower ones in the dust. The Legend 960 is capable of keeping up with the big boys, even competing for the top spot in a few of the tests.

Anvil Storage Utility

Anvil’s Storage Utility (ASU) is another benchmark that measures read and write speeds, similar to CrystalDiskMark, AS SSD, and ATTO. The main difference with Anvil is that it produces a performance score for comparison rather than an actual speed. This performance score is more of an all-encompassing overview of the drive’s capabilities with response time, IOPS, and MB/s factored in.

Anvil Storage Utility
Anvil Storage Utility

The above chart shows the Legend 960 dominating in the read category and taking second in the write producing an overall score of 25022. This is the highest score we have recorded to date and an impressive result. The heat was an issue with this benchmark too and the heatsink was required.

DiskBench

Our last benchmark in this suite is DiskBench. It is designed to provide us with a great, real-world test that determines the actual file transfer time. We use a 120 GB file composed of random data that is transferred from the primary (OS) drive to the test drive, recording the actual time to complete the transfer.

The Legend 960 turned in another great result with a transfer time of 51.21 seconds. The top four scores are within one second of each other and within a margin of error.

Diskbench
Diskbench

Thermal Testing

Using an AMPROBE TMD-52 digital thermometer we tape a K-Type thermal probe directly on top of the controller providing the most accurate temperature results possible. Naturally, without the heatsink installed, thermal throttling is a possibility. Any test that experiences throttling is re-run with the heatsink installed to generate the best results. This process provides accurate thermal testing while still allowing the drive to reach its full potential. The results are then normalized to an ambient temperature of 23° Celsius for comparable results with the other drives in the testing suite.

Thermal Testing
Thermal Testing
Thermal Testing
Thermal Testing

The Legend 960 thermally throttled during three of the five benchmarks in this review. We consider this to be an excessive amount, especially considering the maximum temperature recorded was 69.7° Celsius normalized with an actual temperature of 71°. Comparing the ATA data between the Legend and the MSI Spatium M470 OS drive we see the thermal limits set by ADATA are considerably lower than the MSI. What is unclear is if this is by design. Perhaps the Silicon Motion controller requires lower temperatures for maximum operation.

While the heatsink was installed, thermal throttling was not an issue, so maybe we’re making more out of this than necessary. What can be taken away from this is the Legend requires a heatsink to operate at its full potential. Installing this drive in a system that does not have adequate airflow, such as a laptop or Playstation 5, could also result in unwanted thermal throttling.

ADATA Legend 960 ATA Information
ADATA Legend 960 ATA Information

MSI Spatium M470 ATA Information
MSI Spatium M470 ATA Information

Conclusion

The ADATA Legend 960 is a PCIe Gen4 M.2 NVMe solid-state drive designed and marketed for business professionals and gamers alike. It features blazing fast read and write speeds employing Silicon Motion’s latest NVMe 1.4 controller and ADATA DRAM and NAND modules. The included heatsink is proven to be effective at keeping temperatures in check when installed. It is compatible with AMD, Intel, and even Playstation 5 consoles and comes with a five-year warranty.

We have pushed this drive to its limits and it has performed very well scoring in the top four of nearly every benchmark we use. Thermal throttling was an issue in this review but only when the heatsink wasn’t installed. This should only be a concern if you plan to install it in a low airflow application such as a laptop, Playstation 5, or mITX build that lacks cooling. Aesthetically, the drive is gorgeous. The black and gold look great and will pair seamlessly with many current motherboards following the same theme.

The ADATA Legend 960 1 TB retails for $129.99 at Amazon while the 2TB is $249.99. At these prices, the Legend is on the high side of the market, but not by a lot. Also, many of the competitor’s drives are on sale at the time of this writing, so we expect prices to balance out over time. While we have no issues with the drive and have no qualms recommending it, we do urge members to pay attention to sales prices.

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-John Nester (Blaylock)

 

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About John Nester 353 Articles
John started writing and reviewing PC components for Overclockers.com in 2015, but his passion for PCs dates all the way back to the early 1980s. His first personal computer was a Commodore 64 with a cassette drive. As a dedicated member of the news team, he focuses his articles on new product releases and software updates. He reviews a wide variety of PC components including chassis, storage drives, keyboards, and more. John works in technology as a C.A.D. designer for a major automotive manufacturer. His other passions in life include motorcycles, hunting, guns, and football.

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For over 20 years, ADATA has provided the computer industry with the highest-quality memory and storage devices. The Legend 960 is a PCIe Gen4 x4 M.2 NVMe SSD that continues this legacy. The sample ADATA has provided for this review is the 1 TB version, but a 2 TB is also available. Designed for the consummate professional, the Legend is marketed toward content creators, virtual designers, animators, and of course, gamers. Marketing aside, the Legend 960 is a performance-based solution with speed and data integrity at its core.

Click here to read more!

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