ADATA XPG SX8000 - 3D MLC NAND NVMe SSD Aimed At Gamers

If you are looking for a new M.2 PCIe NVMe you are in for a treat today as we will be looking at the ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB M.2 form factor Solid-State Drive (SSD) that utilizes the super fast PCIe Gen3x4 interface with NVMe 1.2 support. Building a new system and using a SATA III (6Gbps) interface is sacrilege as who wants to be bottlenecked at ~560 MB/s speeds. The new ADATA XPG SX8000 SSD series blows that away with sequential read speeds of up to 2,500 MB/s (2.4GB/s) and up to 1,100 MB/s sequential write speeds. If you haven't upgraded your storage drive in years and are still running a traditional hard drive, building a new platform and embracing a M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD like this model will really give you a night and day performance difference. The ADATA XPG SX8000 series features Intel/Micron 3D MLC NAND Flash memory, so it has respectable endurance ratings of up to 640 TBW (1TB model) and all are backed by a 5-year warranty. Some enthusiasts are concerned with TLC NAND based Flash drives and that isn't a concern with the SX8000 series. The Random Read/Write IOPS is also respectable with up to 160,000 IOPS Random Read and up to 140,000 IOPS. ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD The ADATA XPG SX8000 is offered in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and a soon to be released 1TB capacity. We do find it slightly odd that this drive bares the Xtreme Performance Gear (XPG) product series branding by ADATA, but is available in such low capacities. XPG products are said to consist of high-performance PC hardware that it targeted at gamers and overclockers and we don't know too many gamers getting a 128GB drive here in 2017 as that would be good for basically just a boot drive. Many tier 1 games titles these days are over 40GB each, so you could only install two games along with Windows 10 on the 128GB model. We also don't recommend the SX8000 128GB drive as the performance ratings are half that of what we talked about earlier due to less NAND chips being used and therefore there are less lanes connecting the NAND to the 8-channel controller. ADATA XPG SX8000 SSD Series Street Pricing: That said, ADATA offers the SX8000 SSD in two ways. You can either get the bare drive (original version) or a more recently added version that features a custom heatsink bearing the XPG logo. Some new motherboards come with a M.2 heat spreaders, so you might want to look into the motherboard you might be buying to see if you really need one. Is a M.2 heat spreader needed on the ADATA XPG SX8000 series? Absolutely not, but they do look neat if you can see the M.2 drive in your built. ADATA XPG SX8000 M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD Specifications:   ADATA went with the Silicon Motion SM2260 8-channel controller on this that has four 8Gbps lanes for data flow and has eight NAND channels. This controller has been around for some time and is generally one that we'd classify as being a mainstream client controller for PCIe NVMe drives. So, ADATA's high-end SX8000 series should perform as a mid-range M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD in our performance charts. ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB PCIe SSD The drive that we'll be reviewing today today is the original ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe Gen3x4 NVMe SSD that is 512GB in capacity and sold under part number ASX8000NP-512GM-C. This model doesn't have a fancy heat spreader, but the SM2260 controller does have s thin copper layer over it for better heat distribution. The black PCB doesn't look bad and on most boards the M.2 slot is located under a video card and can't easily be seen through a case window. ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD Flipping the drive over you'll find two more 13D MLC NAND Flash chips and a spot for more memory, but it is actually populated and being used! ADATA SX8000 Intel 3D NAND The 3D MLC NAND Flash chips are labeled ADATA, but they are actually Intel / Micron L06B parts.  ADATA SX8000 SM2260 Controller The SX8000 does not require special NVMe drivers to work properly on a PC, but the bad news it that the ADATA SSD ToolBox doesn't fully support this NVMe drive. ADATA says that the SSD Toolbox utility will be updated in early April 2017 to include a secure erase function for Windows 10 & 8.1 users. Right now thesecure erase command only works with the utility on Windows 7 platforms. Let's take a look at the test system and then jump into the benchmarks.

The SSD Benchmark Test System & TRIM Support

Before we look at the numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (Anniversary Update build 14393) and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. This means windows defender, windows update, disk fragmentation and everything else that would interfere with testing was disabled. Windows 10 also had the power option set to high performance. We also disabled Turbo mode on the Intel Core i7-5960X to ensure our numbers are spot on and repeatable. ASUS X99 Sabertooth Motherboard The Intel X99 platform that we used to test the storage drives was based around the ASUS X99 Sabertooth motherboard with BIOS 3402 that came out on 09/23/2016. We used Intel RST storage drivers, the exact version was 14.5.0.1081. The Crucial Ballistix DDR4 32GB 2400MHz memory kit was run at 2666MHz with 15-15-15-28 1T memory timings. The Corsair Neutron XT 240GB SSD was used as the primary drive.

Intel X99 Test Bench

Intel LGA 2011v3 Test Platform
Component Brand/Model Live Pricing

Processor

Core i7 5960X

Motherboard

ASUS X99 Sabertooth

Memory

Crucial Ballistix 2400MHz 32GB

OS Drive

Corsair Neutron XT 240GB

Power Supply

Corsair AX860i

Operating System

Windows 10 64-Bit

CrystalDiskInfo 7.0.5 Readout:

The readout on CrystalDiskInfo 7.0.5 shows that the ADATA XGP SX8000 series supports S.M.A.R.T. and nothing else, but we know that TRIM is supposed to be supported. The drive we received had firmware version C2.2.1 installed and that is the version that we used for general testing and benchmarking. ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe CrystalDiskInfo The overall capacity shows up as 476 GB on the ADATA XGP SX8000 M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD in Windows 10 Anniversary Edition. ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD Free Space Does The ADATA XGP SX8000 M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD Series Support Trim?  Most SSDs today support the TRIM command, but we still run a quick test to ensure that the command is being properly passed through to the SSD and being done. A great free utility called TRIMCheck can be run to ensure that TRIM is functioning properly. ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD TRIM Command According to TRIMCheck v0.7 ,the ADATA XGP SX8000 M.2 PCIe NVMe series does execute the TRIM command correctly! Let's have a look at the performance!

Sustained Write Performance & Temperatures

ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB PCIe SSD Triple-Level Cell  TLC NAND based SSDs perform usually quite well, but when you copy a large amount of data to the drive without and idle time you'll often find a large drop in write speed. TLC NAND is great in applications where write operations are limited , but is usually not recommended for critical systems that have heavy write operations as they have lower endurance ratings than SLC or MLC NAND and of course sustained write performance isn't stellar. In recent years drive manufactures have been figured out that by using  SLC or TLC treated as SLC as a cache they can keep the drives overall write performance high as long as the amount of data being written to the drive fits in the cache. If you overflow the cache, you are then writing directly to the TLC NAND and the write performance will drop down to that level. It should be noted that the SLC cache will clear once the drive idles, so this only impacts long writes that are many GB in size. This might not be a typical workload scenario for this ultra-value or mainstream drives, but still something worth pointing out! Let's take a look at the ADATA XPG SX8000 M.2 PCIe NVMe 512GB drive to see how it handles sustained write scenarios with the 3D MLC NAND. ADATA XPG SX8000 Sustained Write We secure erased the drive before running this test and found that the performance started out at around 1200 MB/s and remained around that point for the remainder of this 45 second long test. Here are some 45 second average sustained write speeds on recently tested drives: Not bad sequential write performance as the ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB drive finished just behind the Samsung SSD 960 EVO 1TB! ADATA XPG SX8000 Sustained Write When you take a look at extended sustained write performance you can see that the drives cache fills up just before the 2 minute mark or after 136,163 MB of data written to the drive. This is very impressive! After that point everything is written directly to the NAND Flash and the sequential write performance drops down to around 400 MB/s on average. You'll like never hit speeds this low though in real life as you have to pound on the drive non-stop for nearly two minutes at top speed to mimic a situation like this and most people aren't writing 136GB of data at a time to their drive.

ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe 512GB SSD Temperatures

A quick look at the drives temperatures showed that we were hitting just 45C and that was with a 120mm case fan sitting directly over the ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe 512GB M.2 NVMe drive blowing cool air over it. Before we started the sustained write test we were bouncing around 22-24C on the drive at idle. We set the polling rate to 30 seconds for this test and you can see how the drive heats up in this test below. ADATA XPG SX8000 Temperatures As you can no big concerns, but Let's take a look at some common benchmarks!

Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities 1.1.0

Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 1, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.

Anvil SSD Benchmark with 100% Compression (incompressible data):

ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD Anvil Benchmark Results: The Anvil SSD Benchmark showed that with 100% compression (incompressible data) the ADATA SX8000 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD scored 8,921.46 points with stock Windows NVMe Driver and Windows write-cache buffer flushing disabled on the drive. 

Anvil SSD Applications Benchmark at 46% Compression:

ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD Anvil Benchmark Results: With the compression at 46% to help mimic real world applications better we found the overall score remained basically the same at 8,910.95 points. Benchmark Results: We used Anvil to check the 4K Random Read performance and found we we topped out at 188,900 IOPS, which is actually over the drives rated maximum 4K Random Read IOPS of up to 160K.  The QD1 and QD4 4K Random Read performance wasn't anything special, but both were better than the level of performance seen from the  Intel SSD 600P PCIe NVMe 512GB drive.  Benchmark Results: When it came to 4K Random Write performance, the ADATA XPS SX8000 512GB drive topped out at 187,400 IOPS at QD16 and that is well over the drives rated 140k IOPS for maximum 4K Random Write performance. Not bad 4K Random Read IOPS and this drive falls in the middle of the pack. 

ATTO & CrystalDiskMark

ATTO v3.05

ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 64MB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.

ATTO - ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB:

ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD ATTO Disk Benchmark Benchmark Results: ATTO showed the WD Black PCIe 512GB SSD topping out at 2,204 MB/s read and 1,167 MB/s write in the standard overlapped I/O benchmark. This drive is rated at 2,500 MB/s max sequential read and 1,100 MB/s max sequential write, so we came up short on the read score.  Benchmark Results: When comparing the the other SSD models you can quickly see that it performs right in the middle of the pack of 12 drives that it is being compared against. 

CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 x64

CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) and shows the highest score of five runs.

CystalDiskmark -ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB:

ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD CrystalDiskMark Benchmark Results: The ADATA SX8000 PCIe NVMe 512GB SSD reached 1,414MB/s read and 1,080 MB/s write in the standard sequential write test and Random 4K performance was 44 MB/s read and 190 MB/s write. The Q32T1 performance was at 2565 MB/s read and 1159MB/s write, which is close to the drives rated sequential values of 2,500 MB/s read and 1,100 MB/s write. When we ran the test again set to 0Fill mode the sequential scores didn't change much.  Let's look at some other benchmarks!

AS SSD Benchmark

AS-SSD (1.9.5986.35387) Benchmark:

We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from all three of them.

AS SSD - ADATA SX8000 512GB:

ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD ASSSD Benchmark Results: AS SSD showed the ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB drive had an overall score of 2,178 points with sequential read speeds of 1,754 MB/s and 1,105 MB/s write. 

AS SSD  Copy - ADATA SX8000 512GB:

ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD ASSSD Copy Benchmark Results: The copy benchmark test results are pretty impressive with speeds ranging from 1,024 MB/s in the game test to 1,217 MB/s in the ISO benchmark.

AS SSD  Compression - ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB:

ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD ASSSD Compression Benchmark Results: For this benchmark chart you would ideally want to see a straight line as you don’t want any compression performance loss as the test goes from 0% compressible to 100% compressible data during the benchmark test period. The ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB SSD did okay, but had a handful of dips when we don't like to see any.

PCMark 8 Storage Test

pcmark8 logo PCMark 8 might have come out in 2013, but it is still Futuremark's most recent version of their industry standard PC benchmarking tool. PCMark 8 allows you to test the performance of all types of PC, from tablets to desktops. With five separate benchmark tests plus battery life testing, PCMark 8 helps you find the devices that offer the perfect combination of efficiency and performance. PCMark 8 is recognized by many as being the complete PC benchmark for home and business. We ran the Storage 2.0 benchmark test suite on PCMark 8 v2.7.613 that came out in April 2016. This is a major update accommodates a change in the latest version of Adobe After Effects and provides better support for NVMe SSDs. The changes affect the workloads in the Adobe Applications benchmark and the Storage 2.0 benchmark. Scores from the new versions of these tests should not be compared with older versions, so just a heads up if you wanted to compare scores. Version 2.0 of the Storage benchmark includes two changes to the storage playback engine:
  1. Write I/Os sent to the storage device no longer have the Force Unit Access flag enabled. This flag did not usually matter to older storage devices but could lead to reduced performance on some modern NVMe drives.
  2. The playback engine now aligns all I/Os on 4096 byte boundaries. This change improves test compatibility across modern devices.
The primary result of each storage test is the total time elapsed while playing back the trace. The primary result is used to calculate Storage score. The secondary result of the test is bandwidth, which is the total amount of bytes read and written during the test divided by busy time (in other words, the time when the depth of the queue of pending I/O operations was at least 1). The bandwidth result is used to calculate Storage bandwidth, which is reported along with Storage score and we are most interested in this score.

ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD:

ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD PCMark 8 Storage Test Benchmark Results: When it comes to PCMark 8 performance you are looking at an overall score of 5,044 points with the ADATA XPG SX8000 M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD. Benchmark Results: The overall score of 5,044 places the the ADATA XPG SX8000 in the middle of the pack slightly above the entry-level PCIe SSDs like the Intel 600P 512GB and the WD Black PCIe 512GB. While the overall score on PCMark 8 shows all the drives are very close to one another when it comes to performance, when you look closer at the results you'll see some bigger differences. PCMark 8 Bandwidth Score ADATA XPG SX8000 For example the Storage 2.0 bandwidth test results shows the total amount of bytes read and written during the test divided by the time the test took. Here you can see that the ADATA XPG SX8000 M.2 PCIe NVMe 512GB drive came in with a score of 420.48 MB/s. Keep in mind that Futuremark told us it is normal for 3DMark and PCMark scores to vary by up to 3% between runs since there are factors in modern, multitasking operating systems that cannot be completely controlled.

IOMeter Sequential and 4K Random Performance

IOMeter Sequential Performance

Legit Reviews is once again adding IOMeter v1.1.0 testing to our Solid-State Drive reviews as we feel that the canned benchmarks no longer show enough of the performance picture nor do they expose many of the heat issues that we are starting to encounter on M.2 PCIe SSDs and sustained write issues on TLC NAND based drives. We start out testing each drive with IOMeter, but first we prepare the drive. This is done by using Parted Magic to complete a full Secure Erase each and every drive. Next we use IOMeter to prefill the drive by performing the industry standard 128KB, aligned, sequential write workload across the entire drive for a period of 30 minutes. Once the drive is conditioned we run our saved sequential test profile that runs our 128KB test for one minute with a five second ramp time before each test. The queue depth is set to 32 as we feel with NVMe drives starting to come out that we need to increase our IO depth. The 128KB Sequential Read/Write test is done primarily to make sure the drives we are testing meet or surpass the manufacturer specifications for sequential Read/Write performance. The ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD 512GB drive is rated at 2,500 MB/s read and 1,100 MB/s write and we were able to get 2622 MB/s read and 1176 MB/s write when performing each test for a period of 1 minute.

IOMeter 4K Random Performance

When it comes to 4K Random Read/Write IOPS, the ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe 512GB SSD is rated at 140,000 IOPS for Random Write and 160,000 IOPS for Random Read. We got 160,806 IOPS for the 4K Random Reads, only got 103,326 IOPS for the Random Write IOPS. The Intel 600p and the ADATA XGP SX8000 both use the SM2260 controller and it is strange that the 80/20 workload performed the best on both of those drives! Let's wrap this review up

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

ADATA XPG SX8000 PCIe SSD The XGP SX8000 SSD series is ADATA's flagship SSD model that was designed for gamers and overclockers looking for a high-end drive that will load quickly load games and launch applications. This drive does carry some impressive specifications from the 3D MLC NAND Flash, SLC Caching, large DRAM cache buffer and NVMe 1.2 certification. Those features and the 2,500 MB/s sequential read and 1,100 MB/s sequential write place this drive solidly in the middle of the high-end M.2 PCIe NVMe market. Our performance numbers showed that as well as it never was at the top of our performance charts, but was also never at the bottom. This drive was constantly in the middle or lower half of the 12 drives it was compared against. Not bad considering it was compared to big name brands like Samsung, Western Digital, Intel and others. The bad news is being in the middle of the pack doesn't get you much attention. The ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB retail drive that we looked at came in an empty box, so there was no accessory bundle of any sort is included. The ADATA SSD Toolbox does not fully support the drive on Windows 10, but ADATA hopes to change that with a new build that is released in April 2017. ADATA XPG SX8000 SSD Series Street Pricing: When it comes to pricing, the ADATA XPG SX8000 M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD is relatively affordable for being an NVMe storage drives on the market today. The 512GB model that we reviewed today is priced at $199.99 shipped or just $0.39 per GB. That price is comparable to many of the other M.2 PCIe NVMe drives on the market today and the 5-year warranty is also comparable. If you are looking for an M.2 PCIe NVMe drive be sure to keep the XPG SX8000 on the list of drives to look at.   Legit Bottom Line: The ADATA XPG SX8000 series is fast and the price is competitive, but the middle of the pack performance keeps it from standing out from the pack.