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Seeing motherboards with M.2 ports is nothing new as manufacturers have been doing this for some time now. Up until recently, there haven’t been many M.2 SSDs available to actually use this new technology, but we’re beginning to see memory manufacturers roll out their new offerings. M.2 SSDs come in a couple different interface options – SATA 6 GB/s or PCI-E x2/4, with the latter obviously being the faster and more expensive option. Today’s ADATA M.2 SSD sample uses the SATA 6 GB/s interface, which should perform similar to a standard 2.5″ SSD most of us have plugged into our motherboards. Let’s get going and find out what this ADATA M.2 SSD is capable of.
Specifications and Features
Below are the specifications as provided by the ADATA product page. The SSD conforms to the M.2 2280 standard, which means it’s 22 mm wide and 80 mm in length. The length is an important factor when selecting a M.2 SSD because not all motherboards support every available length. The other thing to watch for is what interface M.2 SSDs your motherboard supports. Some only support SATA 6 GB/s, some only PCI-E x2/4, and some support both interfaces.
The Premier Pro SP900 is available in 128, 256, and 512 GB capacities, all of which use the LSI (SandForce) SF-2281 controller and Synchronous MLC NAND flash. The advertised read/write performance is consistent across all three capacity options, but the advertised IOPS performance varies a little.
|ADATA Premier Pro SP900 M.2 SSD Specifications
|Dimensions (L x W x H)
|22 x 80 x 3.5mm
|128GB Performance (ATTO)
Read : Up to 550MB/s
Write : Up to 530MB/s
Maximum 4K Random write IOPS up to 89K
256GB Performance (ATTO)
Read : Up to 550MB/s
Write : Up to 530MB/s
Maximum 4K Random write IOPS up to 90K
512GB Performance (ATTO)
Read : Up to 550MB/s
Write : Up to 530MB/s
Maximum 4K Random write IOPS up to 30K
|0~70 °C / -40~85°C
|5 ~ 95% RH (0 ~ 55°C)
|1500G / 0.5ms
The ADATA marketing team has a few features worth mentioning, so let’s give them a chance to have their say. ADATA touts a wide range of compatibility for desktop or portable devices with M.2 capability. Smaller size and power efficiency are other important factors, especially when portable devices are in play. All images and description courtesy ADATA.
Another great feature of M.2 SSDs is they can be used as a cache drive for mechanical hard drives through Intel’s Smart Response Technology.
As mentioned above, the Premier Pro SP900 offers excellent power consumption for lower power bills and longer battery life in portable devices.
Retail Packaging/Product Tour
The retail box has the ADATA hummingbird we’re used to seeing on most of their product packaging. The box front has a window that allows the potential customer to see the M.2 SSD. There is additional product branding on the front, as well as the sides. The back of the box has ADATA contact information and a multilingual list of basic features. Inside the box, the Premier Pro SP900 is held securely in a plastic retainer.
Withe the SSD out of the box, we can get a better look at what makes the drive tick. Looking at the pictures below, we can see a sticker with model and capacity information covering a couple of the NAND chips. The LSI SF-2281 controller has been around for quite awhile now, but is still regarded as a good performing option. Because the SF-2281 has had a firmware update or two over the years, the drives can offer 7% more storage capacity than from their initial release. Initially, the SF-2281 reserved 7% of the drive’s capacity for over-provisioning, but the new firmware offers as little as 0% over-provisioning if manufacturers wish to take advantage of it. It appears ADATA took advantage of the opportunity, which is why this drive is 256 GB in size compared to the 240 GB size initial SF-2281 based SSDs were limited to. A good example of this is the older Kingston 3KSSD that will be included in our comparison samples. It too uses the SF-2281 controller, but is 240 GB in size because of the 7% over-provisioning, Also viewable in the pictures below is the Synchronous MLC NAND found on the Premier Pro SP900, which is ADATA branded.
Testing and Benchmarks
Here is the breakdown of the components used in our test bed.
|Test System Components
|ASUS Z97-Pro Gamer
|Intel i7 4790K Devil’s Canyon
|G.SKill TridentX DD3-2400 MHz 2x8GB @ 1866 MHz 9-9-9-24
|Various (See Comparison List)
|Corsair HX1050 Professional Series
|EVGA GTX 780 Ti Classified
|EKWB Supremacy EVO Water Block – 360 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump
We have a variety of comparison samples, which include the Samsung 840 Pro (256 GB) and EVO (500 GB), a Samsung 850 EVO (250 GB), a Patriot Ignite (480 GB), and the Kingston 3KSSD (240 GB). All the comparison samples were tested on the ASUS Maximus VII Formula, except for today’s ADATA M.2 SSD. Unfortunately, the Maximus VII Formula only supports M.2 drives up to 60 mm in length, so we had to go with the Z97-Pro Gamer motherboard this time around. Being that all the other components are identical and both systems use the Z97 chipset, any differences would be miniscule at best.
Each SSD was Secure Erased (SE) before each and every benchmark run, which ensures we get the best results possible for each test run. Here are the benchmarks 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 Setting with QD Set to 10
- IoMeter 2010 – Ran Manually, aligned, and QD32 for the 4K Tests
It’s no secret SSDs using the SF-2281 controller have never fared well on benchmarks that use incompressible data, such as CrystalDiskMark (CDM) and AS SSD. Before SandForce was acquired by LSI, they readily admitted that incompressible data presented the worst case scenario for their controllers. As you can see by the CDM and AS SSD results below, that’s still the case today. Although the results below show the Premier Pro SP900 near the bottom of the test runs, the performance is what’s expected from a SSD using the SF-2281 controller.
ATTO is widely used by SSD manufacturers to verify speed claims, and the Premier Pro SP900 met the advertised speeds claimed by ADATA. So, as you can see, compressible data is very friendly to the SF-2281 controller. There is a lot of data in the ATTO charts below, so only the Premier Pro SP900 results are numbered. However, the table below the charts provides all the raw data used to compile the chart.
|ATTO Benchmark Raw Data – Read
|ATTO Benchmark Raw Data – Write
I/OMeter is a good benchmark for testing speeds over a sustained period of time. Here again, the Premier Pro SP900 is right at the advertised speeds in the 2 MB read/write tests. The 4K random write IOPS actually came in over the 90K ADATA advertises and settled in a little over 92K. The Premier Pro SP900 performed very well throughout the I/OMeter testing when compared to the other samples.
For confirmation of the benchmark results above, we like to use Anvil’s Storage Utility. We ran Anvil at its default settings (incompressible data) and using the 0-Fill option (compressible data). The results were as expected and are a pretty good match to what we see above.
The ADATA Premier Pro SP900 M.2 SSD performed just as expected and met ADATA’s advertised performance levels. If you own a motherboard or portable device that supports the M.2 SATA 6 GB/s interface, then there are some worthwhile advantages to installing one of these SSDs. Low power consumption, excellent performance, and saving space inside your case are a few advantages that come to mind.
Pricing on the ADATA Premier Pro SP900 M.2 SSD currently sits at $129 at places like Newegg. That’s around a $30 premium versus a standard 2.5″ SSD with similar specifications. Unfortunately, the limited amount of M.2 SSDs on the market means there isn’t much downward pressure on pricing like we see for 2.5″ SSDs. That’s likely to change in the near future as more M.2 SSD options hit the market. Time will tell.
If you’re tired of looking at that empty M.2 port on your motherboard, the ADATA Premier Pro SP900 would make a great option for putting it to use. It meets or exceeds advertised speed and IOPS claims and overall, is a very fast drive worthy of consideration.