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Adata's Premier SP550 480GB SSD reviewed

Taking aim at the budget segment
— 10:59 AM on September 9, 2016

TLC NAND has proliferated throughout the storage market, particularly at the lower end. "Budget" is now essentially a code word for TLC in the industry, as cheap MLC drives like Crucial's BX100 or Mushkin's Reactor have become a dying breed. These days, hardly a manufacturer can be found without a TLC-powered, entry-level SSD in its lineup.

Adata loosed an arrow aimed squarely at the budget market earlier this year with its Premier SP550 family of SSDs. This TLC drive is available in a range of capacities from 120GB to 960GB. Check out the specifications of each drive below.

Adata SP550
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max random (IOps)
Read Write Read Write
120GB 560 410 60k 70k
240GB 560 510 75k 75k
480GB 560 510 75k 75k
960GB 520 510 80k 35k

Adata sent us the 480GB version of the SP550 to test. Serendipitously, our dataset includes 480GB versions of OCZ's Trion 100 and Trion 150, as well as Crucial's BX100. These apt points of comparison will give us a good sense of the SP550's relative strengths and weaknesses.

Thus far, it may sound like this is shaping up to be another review of a run-of-the-mill TLC drive. While that may yet prove to be the case, crack the SP550 open and there's at least one thing we haven't seen before: 16-nm flash from SK Hynix. These 128Gb chips are distributed into eight quad-die packages, and Adata puts four of those packages on each side of the drive's PCB. We've seen all manner of TLC chips from Micron, Samsung, Toshiba, and Sandisk in the past, but these Hynix packages are a first in the TR storage labs.

Despite its relatively infrequent mentions around here, Hynix consistently stakes out about 10% of the world's NAND market share, according to Statista. Apart from powering Hynix's own SL300 series of SSDs, the company's 16-nm TLC has found its way into even Intel's debut TLC drive, the 540S series. In building that drive with Hynix NAND, Intel quietly skipped over longtime partner Micron's 16-nm TLC product. Micron's TLC did leave us feeling disappointed when we took it for a spin in the BX200, so we can understand Intel's decision.

Speaking of which, the SP550 shares a component with the BX200: Silicon Motion's SM2256 controller. Until now, we've only tested the SM2256 in the BX200, so it'll be nice to find out whether this SM2246EN successor is capable of greater things when divorced from Micron's TLC flash. The SM2256 employs a pseudo-SLC caching scheme, so we should see some higher-than-otherwise-expected burst speeds out of the SP550.

The Premier SP550 480GB currently goes for $112.99 at the Egg or a few bucks more at Amazon. The SP550 range starts at $40 for the 120GB model and ranges up to $240 for the 960GB drive. Adata backs the SP550 series with a three-year warranty, a pretty standard timeframe for a budget TLC product.

Now that we know what we're looking at, let's subject the SP550 to our gauntlet of tests and see what it can do.