ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD Series - 3D MLC NAND For 2.5" Drive Users

It's been a long time since we've looked at a 2.5-inch SATA III SSD aimed at the consumer market, so we thought we'd mix up our storage content a little bit and do a review on one. Yes, SATA III SSDs feel like yesterday's news since we've been saturating the SATA III 6Gbps interface for years, but the form factor will still be around for many more years. The high-end storage drive market is squarely focused on M.2 PCIe NVMe drives, but those with older desktops that don't have an M.2 slot or are working with laptop that only takes 2.5" SATA drives you couldn't care less about those articles. If you have been looking for the ultimate 2.5-inch SATA III SSD you are in for a treat today as we will be looking at the ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD that uses 3D MLC NAND Flash and the SMI 2258 4-channel controller.ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD Retail Packaging 512GB Model What makes the ADATA SU900 Ulimate series so special since most all of the new SATA III interface drives are bottlenecked at ~560 MB/s speeds? ADATA claims it is the fact they are using the latest 3D NAND Flash memory that provides higher storage density, efficiency, and reliability than traditional 2D NAND.  The ADATA SU900 Ultimate series has respectable endurance ratings of up to 800 TBW (2TB model) and all are backed by a 5-year warranty. When it comes to sequential Read/Write performance you are looking at up to 560 MB/s Read and 525 MB/s Write when using ATTO. The Random 4K Read/Write IOPS are respectable with up to 85,000 IOPS Random Read and up to 90,000 IOPS Random Write when ADATA used IOMeter to come up with the ratings. ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB SATA SSD The ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD series is currently available in capacities of 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB with plans for a 2TB model at a later date. Performance and endurance does vary depending on the capacity of the drive that you are looking at, so be sure you are aware of that before you make your purchase. ADATA Ultimate SU900 Bundle The ADATA SU900 is one of the few series of drives on the market that comes with an accessory bundle comprised of a 2.5mm spacer and a 3.5-inch bracket to ensure that you can easily fit the 7mm drive into a desktop or laptop. You even get an access code for a popular data migration utility called Acronis True Image HD 2015. We've used Acronis True Image for cloning drives for years and have found that it works great and is simple to use. You can find out more details about how to get that software key on this page. Very few SSDs come with data migration software these days, so this really is a nice accessory bundle! Data migration utilities are make the move from HDD to SSD quick and simple. [gallery ids="194590,194584,194585,194586,194587"] You can also download and use the free ADATA SSD ToolBox utility with this drive to obtain disk information and change settings easily. Additionally, it can speed up your SSD and improve its lifespan. The only downside to this utility is not everything works on it. For example you can't run a secure erase on this model in Windows 8, 8.1 or 10. Hopefully the folks at ADATA update this utility to allow all the features to work on Windows 10 so you don't have to rely on a 3rd party application to run something as simple as a security wipe. Despite this minor issue, it is still a great utility that shows drive status, wear level, and lifespan information. ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD We usually open up 2.5" SSDs to take a look inside to show you the controller and NAND being used, but we aren't going to be doing that today. Our drive uses the SMI 2258 controller with Micron 3D MLC NAND Flash, but that may change down the road. Our ADATA USA marketing contact told us that the drive will always use 3D MLC NAND, but down the road pricing and availability might come into play and they reserve the right to change the brand as long as it meets or exceeds the drives specifications. A growing number of companies are doing this on mainstream and entry-level storage products. Enthusiasts don't like it, but most consumers could care less what brand NAND Flash is being uses or what manufacturing process it uses as long as it does what it is advertised to do. ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD Series Street Pricing on 5/11/2017: ADATA SU900 Ultimate SATA SSD Specifications:   The ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD series also supports features like intelligent SLC caching and a DRAM cache buffer to boost read/write performance even further. This driver series has increased data protection with Comprehensive Backup and Management Low density parity check error correcting code, leading to a massive reduction in data errors and an equal increase in data integrity. It therefore protects your valuable content against corruption to a much greater extent than non-ECC SSDs or even SSDs that use basic BCH error correction. 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 3505 that came out in March 2017. 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 SU900 Ultimate series supports S.M.A.R.T., NCQ, TRIM and DevSleep. The drive we received had firmware version Q0125A installed and that is the version that we used for general testing and benchmarking. The drive we got from ADATA was pre-tested before it was sent to us with over 530 GB of host writes and over 3,060 GB of total NAND writes, so someone at ADATA pushed this drive pretty hard in the one hour that it was turned on. The overall capacity shows up as 476 GB on the ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB SATA III SSD in Windows 10 Anniversary Edition. Does The ADATA SU900 Ultimate SATA III 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. According to TRIMCheck v0.7 ,the ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD series does execute the TRIM command correctly! Let's have a look at the performance!

Sustained Write Performance & Temperatures

ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB SATA 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 SU900 Ultimate 512GB drive to see how it handles sustained write scenarios with the 3D MLC NAND. We secure erased the drive before running this test and found that the performance started out at around 513 MB/s and remained around that point for the remainder of this 45 second long test despite one performance drop that dropped the drives write performance down to 384 MB/s. 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! When you take a look at extended sustained write performance you can see that the drives cache did not fill up in our six minute test that wrote 182 GB of data to the drive and that is very impressive and most people won't be writing that must data to the drive without any breaks. We've had some people as for ADATA linear write tests to be done, so we fired that utility up and found that with the standard 8MB block size that the write speeds topped out at 489 MB/s and once the drive was over half full we finally pounded on the drive hard enough to fill the cache and force the controller to write the data directly to the 3D MLC NAND Flash. Once you saturate the cache you'll see the the sequential write performance drops down to around 125 MB/s on average, but the low spikes are under 60 MB/s. You'll like never hit speeds this low though in real life as you have to pound on the drive non-stop for nearly twenty minutes at top speed to mimic a situation like this. If you constantly dump over 260GB of data at a time to your SSD this might matter, but for most it won't and sustained write performance on this drive is solid.

ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB SATA SSD Temperatures

A quick look at the drives temperatures showed that we were idling around 36-38C and then hitting just 41C at load, but when we stopped our load testing we noticed that the temperature spiked up to 57C. It appears when you load up this drive there might be a firmware glitch as the temperature doesn't look like it was reading properly. You can see the results below with a 1 minute poling rate. As you can no huge concerns, but pushing 60C on a SATA III SSD is getting a little toasty. 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):

Benchmark Results: The Anvil SSD Benchmark showed that with 100% compression (incompressible data) the ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB SATA SSD scored 4,192 points with 516 MB/s read and 471 MB/s read speeds when it comes to the measured sequential performance with 4MB file sizes. 

Anvil SSD Applications Benchmark at 46% Compression:

Benchmark Results: With the compression at 46% to help mimic real world applications better we found the overall score remained basically the same at 4,182 points. Benchmark Results: We used Anvil to check the 4K Random Read performance and found we we topped out at 81,000 IOPS, which is actually just shy drives rated maximum 4K Random Read IOPS of up to 85K.   Benchmark Results: When it came to 4K Random Write performance, the ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB drive topped out at 79,000 IOPS at QD16 and that is again below the drives rated 90k IOPS for maximum 4K Random Write performance. 

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 SU900 Ultimate 512GB:

atto su900 Benchmark Results: ATTO showed the ADATA US900 SSD topping out at 564 MB/s read and 523 MB/s write in the standard overlapped I/O benchmark. This drive is rated at up to 560 MB/s max sequential read and 520 MB/s max sequential write, so we exceeded both of those scores on our test platform.  Benchmark Results: When comparing the ADATA SU900 SSD to some other SSDs that we selected to compare it against you can see that it pretty much mirrors the performance of the WD Blue SATA SSD with regards to sequential write performance. 

CrystalDiskMark 5.2.1 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 SU900 Ultimate 512GB:

Benchmark Results: The ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB SSD reached 532MB/s read and 490 MB/s write in the standard sequential write test and Random 4K performance was 30 MB/s read and 114 MB/s write. The Sequential Q32T1 performance was at 564 MB/s read and 519 MB/s write, which is close to the drives rated sequential values of 550 MB/s read and 505 MB/s write on CrystalDiskMark. When we ran the test again set to 0Fill mode the sequential read scores mostly improved while all the write scores dropped just slightly.  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 SU900 Ultimate 512GB:

Benchmark Results: AS SSD showed the ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB drive had an overall score of 1,038 points with sequential read speeds of 526 MB/s and 482 MB/s write. 

AS SSD  Copy - ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB:

Benchmark Results: The copy benchmark test results were on par with what one expects from a SATA III SSD with speeds ranging from 321 MB/s in the program and game tests to 410 MB/s in the ISO benchmark.

AS SSD  Compression - ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB:

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 SU900 Ultimate 512GB SSD did okay in the read test, but had a few dips here and there in the write test.

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 SU900 512GB Ultimate SATA SSD:

Benchmark Results: When it comes to PCMark 8 performance you are looking at an overall score of 4,965 points with the ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB SATA SSD. Benchmark Results: The overall score of 4,965 puts the ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB drive at the back of the pack as only two of the drives we've tested in recent months have been SATA based. Most drives being sent out today are M.2 PCIe NVMe models, so our chart is M.2 PCIe NVMe heavy! The ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB drive did score better than the WD Blue SATA Drive though and that model retails for $280. 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 SU900 Ultimate 512GB SATA drive came in with a score of 258.99 MB/s. This is no bad for a SATA SSD, but much lower than entry-level SSDs.  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.

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD Retail Packaging 512GB Model The ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD series is ADATA's flagship SATA II SSD model that was designed for someone needing a 2.5" storage drive to replace an aging hard drive (HDD). This drive features the latest 3D MLC NAND Flash, SLC Caching, and large DRAM cache buffer to ensure it is reliable and fast. Those features and the 560 MB/s sequential read and 525 MB/s sequential write speeds make this a solid choice for a SATA III solution. The accessory bundle that includes access to migration software is the icing on the cake. When it comes to performance this drive performed at the level we expected to see on the SATA III interface. ADATA SU900 Pricing What is the negative? Price. The ADATA SU900 Ultimate 512GB SSD that we looked at today has ranged in price from $169.99 all the way up to $229.99 over the past 60 days. ADATA says the NAND Flash shortage is to blame, but consumers just care about the retail cost. At $169.99 this drive is a good value and something we'd recommend, but at $229.99 this model is something we'd tell you not to get as you can get an M.2 PCIe NVMe drive like the ADATA XPG SX8000 512GB for $211 shipped ($0.39 per GB). When we wrote this review on May 11th the ADATA SU900 Ultimate SU900 was $171.99 at Newegg and then on May 12th when the review was published the price was back up to $229.99 shipped. Amazon has it right now for $210.54 shipped, so we'd suggest not buying this drive at those prices and waiting for sales. So, if you can find this drive priced in the $165-$175 price range we recommend it, but if it's in priced over $200 we suggest waiting. If your platform has an M.2 slot on it we highly suggest looking to the newer M.2 PCIe NVMe solution if you can. LR Recommended Award Legit Bottom Line: The ADATA SU900 Ultimate SSD performs well for a SATA III and should be on the short list for those looking for a 2.5-inch that uses 3D MLC NAND Flash memory.