ADATA Premier Pro SP900 256GB M.2 SSD Review

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
Capacity128GB/256GB/512GB
Form FactorM.2 2280
NAND FlashSynchronous MLC
ControllerLSI SF-2281
Dimensions (L x W x H)22 x 80 x 3.5mm
Weight8g (0.28oz)
InterfaceSATA 6Gb/sec
Performance (Max)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
Operating Temperature0~70 °C / -40~85°C
Storage Temperature5 ~ 95% RH (0 ~ 55°C)
Shock Resistance1500G / 0.5ms
MTBF1,200,000 Hours

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.

Slimmer But Stronger

The Premier Pro SP900 M.2 2242 and 2280 SATA 6Gb/s SSDs are built for PC development of the next generation – “faster and smaller”. The SP900 M.2 2242 and 2280 are even smaller than a 2.5” SSD and mSATA, but come with 128/256/512GB in capacity. Both of the two models are suitable for ultrabooks, and the 2280 can also be applied on motherboards. Thanks to the support of Intel® Smart Response Technology, the SP900 M.2 2242 and 2280 provide sequential read/write speeds up to 550/530 MB/s for excellent performance. Additionally, with the support of DVESLP (Device Sleep) technology, the SP900 M.2 2242 and 2280 consumes less power for longer battery life.

adata_sp900 (4)

Great Compatibility Meets Your Needs

The SP900 M.2 2242 and 2280 are the smallest SSD form factors in the market, with measurements of only 22 x 42 x 3.5mm (2242) and 22 x 80 x 3.5mm (2280). It is the best solution to upgrade ultrabooks or slim laptops, and the SP900 M.2 2280 also supports motherboards of the next generation.
*For more detailed information on compatible hardware, refer to the website of the relevant notebook and motherboard manufacturers.

adata_sp900 (1)

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.

Supports Intel Smart Response Technology

Intel Smart Response Technology (ISRT) is a caching mechanism, which allows a SATA Solid-State Drive (SSD) to function as cache for a mechanical hard disk drive. Setting up the Premier Pro SP900 M.2 2242 and 2280 with ISRT is convenient and quick.

adata_sp900 (2)

As mentioned above, the Premier Pro SP900 offers excellent power consumption for lower power bills and longer battery life in portable devices.

Lower Power Consumption, Longer Battery Life

The Premier Pro SP900 M.2 2242 and 2280 support DVESLP (Device Sleep) technology for energy efficiency – it not only reduces the electricity cost, also prolongs the battery life.

adata_sp900 (3)

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.

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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.

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Testing and Benchmarks

Test System

Here is the breakdown of the components used in our test bed.

Test System Components
MotherboardASUS Z97-Pro Gamer
CPUIntel i7 4790K Devil’s Canyon
MemoryG.SKill TridentX DD3-2400 MHz 2x8GB @ 1866 MHz 9-9-9-24
SSDVarious (See Comparison List)
Power SupplyCorsair HX1050 Professional Series
Video CardEVGA GTX 780 Ti Classified
CoolingEKWB 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.

Premier Pro SP900 M.2 SSD Installed
Premier Pro SP900 M.2 SSD Installed

Test Method

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

Performance

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.

CDM
CDM – Random Read

CDM
CDM – Random Write

AS SSD
AS SSD – Read

AS SSD
AS SSD – Write

AS SSD
AS SSD – Access Time

AS SSD
AS SSD – Scoring

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 - Read
ATTO – Read

ATTO - Write
ATTO – Write
ATTO Benchmark Raw Data – Read
850 EVO Ignite840 Evo840 Pro3KSSDSP900 M.2
1K182961810651129321412887364760
4K31193127117529915535717929685675
16K39500942313340778651633232283219710
64K54240655710454642455325475730148011
256K548890560378555213556495543934552666
1024K550323561841554109555383551579555663
4096K550323563151554109555383551579555663
8192K550323563151554109555383551579555663
ATTO Benchmark Raw Data – Write
850 EVOIgnite 840 EVO840 Pro3KSSDSP900 M.2
1K154441601601024361293169146840
4K285845277980245768313491377599876
16K4547034715004513874026531255470374
64K522241537140529091484933261629340027
256K527387543934533963499112524802529998
1024K527637544125534199511305522502531555
4096K526344544125534495490293525057528647
8192K526344544125534495506481524060526344

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.

I/OMeter
I/OMeter – 2MB/4K Read/Write

adata_sp900 (19)
I/OMeter 4K IOPS

I/OMeter
I/OMeter – 2MB IOPS

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.

Anvil - Incompressible Data
Anvil – Incompressible Data

Anvil - Compressible Data
Anvil – Compressible Data

Conclusion

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.

Overclockers_clear_approved Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)

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