This spring has turned out to be the time for nearly all SSD OEMs to update their lineups. A little over a month ago Intel introduced the SSD 730 and a bit over a week ago Crucial/Micron added the M550 to its portfolio. Today it's ADATA's time to join the game with their Premier Pro SP920...and FYI, there will be no April Fools jokes here.

While we are still a quarter or two away from wider availability of PCIe drives and the next big wave of SSDs, the recent product releases in the NAND department have made it economically reasonable for OEMs to update their drives. Both IMFT's 128Gbit 20nm MLC and Toshiba/SanDisk's second generation 64Gbit 19nm NAND are now available in volume, and given the higher density and thus lower price, it makes sense for tier two OEMs (i.e. the ones without NAND fabs) to adopt the new NAND into their products.

The SP920 is actually the first non-Crucial/Micron SSD to use Micron's 128Gbit 20nm MLC NAND. As a matter of fact, the SP920 adopts far more than just the 128Gbit 20nm NAND from Micron—the SP920 is more or less a rebranded M550. Everything from the PCB and chassis designs to the component choices are a match with the M550. In fact, even the firmware in the SP920 is listed as "MU1", which is the same as in the M550 and Crucial/Micron in general is known to use MUx firmware names. Thus, we're basically looking at a rebranded M550.

Crucial M550 vs ADATA SP920
  Crucial M550 ADATA SP920
Controller Marvell 88SS9189 Marvell 88SS9189
NAND Micron 64/128Gbit 20nm MLC Micron 128Gbit 20nm MLC
Capacity 128GB 256GB 512GB 1TB 128GB 256GB 512GB 1TB
Sequential Read 550MB/s 560MB/s
Sequential Write 350MB/s 500MB/s 180MB/s 360MB/s 500MB/s
4KB Random Read 90K IOPS 95K IOPS 80K IOPS 96K IOPS 98K IOPS
4KB Random Write 75K IOPS 80K IOPS 85K IOPS 45K IOPS 80K IOPS 88K IOPS
Endurance 72TB (~66GB/day) 72TB (~66GB/day)
Warranty Three years Three years

The only difference between the SP920 and M550 is that the SP920 uses 128Gbit NAND in all models, whereas the M550 only uses that in the 512GB and 1TB models and the smaller capacities use 64Gbit NAND. That gives ADATA a slight price advantage (128Gbit die has higher density and is thus cheaper) but in turn the performance of 128GB and 256GB models is worse due to fewer dies. At the bigger capacities ADATA is a bit more optimistic with the performance figures, which is something that's fairly common for the tier two OEMs. The likes of Intel, Crucial/Micron and Samsung like to be conservative and round the numbers down, whereas smaller OEMs will advertise every single IOPS and MBps they can get out of the drive.

ADATA obviously can't comment on the similarity for contract reasons but they are not denying that the SP920 is rebrand. They did disclose that the firmware is from a third party, which further confirms that we are looking at an M550 with different branding.

I'm generally not a big fan of rebrands because they don't really bring anything new to the market but I do see the business reasons behind it. In order for companies to be profitable, they must focus on their core competence and the actual product doesn't have to be that. If your sales channels or marketing for instance are more efficient that your competitors', you may be able to sell the exact same product and make more profit than the others. I have no doubts that ADATA has better sales channels in Asia and other markets close to its home ground and hence it can be viable to sell a rebranded drive. In the end, more competition is always welcome.

Advertised Capacity 128GB 256GB 512GB 1TB
Raw NAND Capacity 128GiB 256GiB 512GiB 1024GiB
# of NAND Packages 8 16 16 16
# of Die per Package 1x16GiB 1x16GiB 2x16GiB 4x16GiB
DRAM 256MB 256MB 512MB 1GB

Similar to the M550, the SP920 features full support for Microsoft eDrive thanks to TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 standards. Power loss protection is also included. Since the SP920 is almost an exact copy of the M550, please read our M550 review for more in-depth coverage of the included features and their purposes. As for the ADATA SP920, the main difference we'll see here is in performance of the 128GB and 256GB models, so let's get to the benchmark.

EDIT: The SP920 doesn't actually support TCG Opal 2.0 or IEEE-1667. This seems to be a feature Micron is keeping to themselves. 

Performance Consistency & TRIM Validation
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  • Samus - Tuesday, April 01, 2014 - link

    I'm just going to throw out there my experience with ADATA SSD's:

    S510: bricked in a year, but was near capacity which could have caused it to lock. however, no other SSD (sandforce or otherwise) has done that to me and this was used in an office PC with very little write activity.

    SP900: Windows 7 BSOD after 5 months. had to secure erase and reinstall, did same thing 2 weeks later.

    ADATA RMA takes forever (3 weeks each time.) The RMA form is erroneous and just getting the RMA number is a lot of back and forth. Proof of purchase, full system specs, lots of questions...the works. They try very hard to make it inconvenient, opposed to Crucial or Intel where the RMA process is "just send the drive to this address." They do mail back a new drive as a replacement, but don't offer to simply unlock a "frozen" drive, and obviously don't offer any sort of data recovery.

    Considering I've never had a Crucial completely fail, or any issues whatsoever with an Intel drive, it's hard to ignore their reliability at the expense of 5-10% performance penalty.
    Reply
  • Gigaplex - Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - link

    Why would a parts warranty cover data recovery? That's what backups are for. Reply
  • Flunk - Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - link

    I have a 256GB SX300 which is a Sandforce-based mSATA drive. I've had no problems and performance matches the review samples that were sent out.

    So my experience has been fine.
    Reply
  • mikato - Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - link

    No storage device manufacturers include data recovery service along with their devices. Data recovery usually costs more than the devices do. Some can refer you to a company that does it, and I know one has their own sub-company that does it, but it's completely separate from the device purchase. I'm curious what you mean by "simply unlock a "frozen" drive".

    By the way, SSD data recovery is usually quite a bit more difficult and more expensive than hard disk data recovery. And it's sometimes not even possible with more SSDs using encryption all the time, whether or not user specifies, and with the keys stored and decoding being done possibly in the part of the SSD that has failed (adios data).

    If you're storing your data on an SSD (not just the OS, programs), you should be aware of the reduced avenues of disaster recovery and be even more careful with backups.
    Reply
  • Samus - Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - link

    ssd data recovery is quite simple actually, you just can't use traditional means to do it. Most if not all sad data recovery is accomplished by simply unlocking the drive or repairing the indirection table. Drives lock when they run out of spare area, good writable blocks, or can't trim/operate normally often occurring when they are low on capacity. Indirection table repair is more complex but on a file-by-file basic (lets say you just needed a few documents) it isn't very time consuming if the tech known what they are looking for.

    I've toured ontrack's Chicago lab and seen this all in action, they have a higher success rate with ssd's than HDD's (both over 99%)

    I don't expect OEM's or manufactures to offer data recovery, but when data recover is a matter of plugging a drive in and unlocking it because their firmware is bricking drives, they SHOULD do it for their customers.

    All those "refurbished" SSD's? What do you think those are? They're drives that have simply been unlocked and secure erased. It takes manufactures 30 seconds to do.

    Go research sandforce "frozen" or "locked" and you'll see these controllers are notorious for locking drives (to the point they don't even detect in the BIOS) for various reasons.
    Reply
  • hojnikb - Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - link

    I've got s510 and so far so good (except bsods, i'm getting those on all my sandforce drives). As far as RMA is concernd, i've never had any issues. Last time i had to replace my usb drive, because it died on me (probobly bricked controller), they replaced it within days. Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Friday, April 04, 2014 - link

    Despite your negative experiences, I wouldn't use them to determine that ADATA SSDs should be avoided. That being said, if I can get a 5-year warranty instead of a 3-year for very little more money I'll do that (yeah I know they are largely there to lower the worry factor for those that think SSDs might be less reliable, but still, if you need it, it's good to have). I just bought 2 480GB Sandisk Extreme IIs for $300 each - if you keep your eye out such discounts aren't hard to come by. Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Friday, April 04, 2014 - link

    Looking at Newegg reviews, I see that ADATA drives get 3 or 4 stars. Sandisk gets 4 or 5 stars, no 3 stars. Not an absolute sign of quality of course, but over hundreds or thousands of comments from people that have bought these things, it is a factor to consider. Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, April 01, 2014 - link

    Do Marvell now offer much better default firmware? It was used to be the case Marvell controller were cheaper, not because of its inferior hardware but it provides very simply firmware that wasn't very highly performing. But it seems now the "default" performance behavior are pretty much all the same.

    Which makes me interested in the next round of SSD Controller. Do anyone have update on those from Sandforce, Marvell, etc?
    Reply
  • JDG1980 - Wednesday, April 02, 2014 - link

    My understanding was that Marvell didn't provide firmware at all - it's up to the vendor.

    Personally, I'd like to see a Marvell-based SSD with an open source firmware, even if the performance isn't quite as good as the best proprietary solutions.
    Reply

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