Adata’s XPG SX930 240GB SSD reviewed

Solid-state storage coverage often tends to be driven by the latest and greatest from Samsung, Crucial, and OCZ. That’s because Samsung, Micron, and Toshiba own and operate the lion’s share of the world’s NAND fabrication capacity. It’s only natural that the latest innovations and freshest products trickle into those companies’ consumer brands before becoming more widely available.

Even so, there are plenty of smaller manufacturers binning other companies’ NAND and assembling SSDs to avoid weighty research and fabrication costs. We recently covered Transcend’s SSD370, the product of one of the “fabless” OEMs steadily churning out SSDs on good old planar flash. Today we turn our attention to Adata, which operates in a similar fashion. We’ve got our hands on the XPG SX930 240GB, that company’s highest-end SATA SSD.

XPG, or “Xtreme Performance Gear,” is Adata’s gamer-focused model line. It’s a little odd to try to sell storage products as “ultimate weapons for victory,” but Adata is certainly not alone in the attempt. Gamers spend a lot of money on hardware, so whether it’s a specific sub-brand like XPG or Kingston’s HyperX, a skull logo randomly slapped on a drive, or a rather amusing graph from OCZ promising everything but the kitchen sink, many OEMs go to great lengths to entice fraggers to buy their products.

In keeping with its gamer-friendly aesthetic, the XPG SX930 sports something resembling an iTunes visualizer or a flickering flame on its sticker. I’ve seen far more unsightly gamer-targeted styling. The XPG SX930 is almost understated as far as this market is concerned. The XPG SX930 comes in 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB capacities, with the usual minor variations in performance claims.

Adata XPG SX930
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max random (IOps)
Read Write Read Write
120GB 550 460 70k 45k
240GB 550 460 75k 70k
480GB 540 420 75k 72k

Once we crack open the XPG SX930, we are treated to a relatively rare sight: a JMicron controller. The JMF670H supports the usual mix of features you’d expect out of a modern SSD controller: TRIM, NCQ, and a gamut of BCH error-correcting codes. The controller also lets the drive utilize a pseudo-SLC caching mechanism to increase burst performance, which is a feature we often find in TLC drives but is rather uncommon in an MLC drive.

Turning to the NAND itself, which Adata calls “Synchronous MLC plus NAND Flash,” one might be puzzled to see that the packages bear Adata’s name. The inside scoop is that they’re actually Micron 16-nm MLC chips. After Adata gets the chips from Micron, it bins and packages the NAND in-house. That’s why Micron logos are conspicuously absent.

The XPG SX930 240GB retails for $79.99 on Amazon at the time of this writing. That’s lower than one might expect for an enthusiast-oriented drive. Then again, the XPG SX930 has been available for a while now. One of the drive’s stronger selling points is its warranty. Adata doesn’t rate its drive for a total-bytes-written endurance spec, but it does back its drive for five years. Update: Adata got back to us with a TBW rating. The XPG SX930 240GB is good for 280TB, which is far more than enough to cover the usable lifetime of a drive this size.

Now that we’ve examined the XPG SX930’s vitals, it’s time to dive right into testing. Let’s hope that fablessness doesn’t preclude fabulousness.

 

IOMeter — Sequential and random performance

IOMeter fuels much of our latest storage test suite, including our sequential and random I/O tests. These tests are run across the full capacity of the drive at two queue depths. The QD1 tests simulate a single thread, while the QD4 results emulate a more demanding desktop workload. For perspective, 87% of the requests in our old DriveBench 2.0 trace of real-world desktop activity have a queue depth of four or less. Clicking the buttons below the graphs switches between results charted at the different queue depths.

Our sequential tests use a relatively large 128KB block size.



The XPG SX930 comes out of the gate with reasonable performance numbers. Its sequential read speeds are solid but unremarkable, roughly in line with OCZ’s Arc 100 240GB and Transcend’s SSD370 256GB. The Adata drive’s write numbers are relatively weaker than its reads, but they still fall within the realm of respectability. The 850 EVO 250GB is only a touch faster, and that’s fine company to be in. But let’s not forget that 250GB-class MLC drives can be much, much faster: OCZ’s Vector 180 250GB posts write speeds almost double those of the XPG SX930’s.

Next, we’ll turn our attention to performance with 4KB random I/O. The tests below are based on the median of three consecutive three-minute runs. SSDs typically deliver consistent sequential and random read performance over that period, but random write speeds worsen as the drive’s overprovisioned area is consumed by incoming writes. We’ve reported average response times rather than raw throughput, which we think makes sense in the context of system responsiveness.



Random read and write performance doesn’t look much different from the sequential results. The SX930’s reads are roughly in the middle of the pack. Its write numbers are a bit less compelling, but plenty fast enough in real-world terms. The Adata drive halves the write reponse times of the SSD370, and we found that drive’s peformance plenty acceptable.

 

Sustained and scaling I/O rates

Our sustained IOMeter test hammers drives with 4KB random writes for 30 minutes straight. It uses a queue depth of 32, a setting which should result in higher speeds that saturate each drive’s overprovisioned area more quickly. This lengthy—and heavy—workload isn’t indicative of typical PC use, but it provides a sense of how the drives react when they’re pushed to the brink.

We’re reporting IOps rather than response times for these tests. Click the buttons below the graph to switch between SSDs.


To show the data in a slightly different light, we’ve graphed the peak random-write rate and the average, steady-state speed over the last minute of the test.

Again, nothing particularly noteworthy here. The XPG SX930 holds on to its peak about as long as any of the other 250GB-class drives in the dataset. The peak speed over our testing period is roughly on par with those drives, too. The steady-state speed is no different, falling in between the higher speed of the 850 EVO 250GB and the less-inspired performance of the SSD370 256GB. OCZ’s 240GB drives still blow all other contenders out of the water in this test.

Our final IOMeter test examines performance scaling across a broad range of queue depths. We ramp all the way up to a queue depth of 128. Don’t expect AHCI-based drives to scale past 32, though—that’s the maximum depth of their native command queues.

For this test, we use a database access pattern comprising 66% reads and 33% writes, all of which are random. The test runs after 30 minutes of continuous random writes that put the drives in a simulated used state. Click the buttons below the graph to switch between the different drives. And note that the P3700 plot uses a much larger scale.


The XPG SX930 exhibits no signs of scaling, which is par for the course with the average consumer SATA drive. We won’t hold those results against it. As a mostly academic exercise, we’ll plot the SX930’s results against similar drives to see how the scaling behavior differs.


Not a terribly fascinating result. The XPG SX930’s flatlining resembles that of the SSD370, just at a somewhat higher IOps. The 850 EVO 250GB scales at least a little bit, and the Arc 100 (special flower that it is) scales very well.

Read on for the next part of our benchmark suite, which does away with synthetics in favor of real-world performance tests.

 

TR RoboBench — Real-world transfers

RoboBench trades synthetic tests with random data for real-world transfers with a range of file types. Developed by our in-house coder, Bruno “morphine” Ferreira, this benchmark relies on the multi-threaded robocopy command build into Windows. We copy files to and from a wicked-fast RAM disk to measure read and write performance. We also cut the RAM disk out of the loop for a copy test that transfers the files to a different location on the SSD.

Robocopy uses eight threads by default, and we’ve also run it with a single thread. Our results are split between two file sets, whose vital statistics are detailed below. The compressibility percentage is based on the size of the file set after it’s been crunched by 7-Zip.

  Number of files Average file size Total size Compressibility
Media 459 21.4MB 9.58GB 0.8%
Work 84,652 48.0KB 3.87GB 59%

The media set is made up of large movie files, high-bitrate MP3s, and 18-megapixel RAW and JPG images. There are only a few hundred files in total, and the data set isn’t amenable to compression. The work set comprises loads of TR files, including documents, spreadsheets, and web-optimized images. It also includes a stack of programming-related files associated with our old Mozilla compiling test and the Visual Studio test on the next page. The average file size is measured in kilobytes rather than megabytes, and the files are mostly compressible.

RoboBench’s write and copy tests run after the drives have been put into a simulated used state with 30 minutes of 4KB random writes. The pre-conditioning process is scripted, as is the rest of the test, ensuring that drives have the same amount of time to recover.

Let’s take a look at the media set first. The buttons switch between read, write, and copy results.



The SX930 delivers strong read numbers in the single-threaded test, but performance takes a nosedive when we bump it up to eight threads. We were able to replicate this result across multiple redundant test runs, so something about the XPG SX930 just doesn’t like eight-threaded robocopy with our media set. The write numbers are quite good, consistently beating both the 850 EVO 250GB and the SSD370 256GB.

Next up, let’s see how the drive does with our work set.



The XPG SX930’s read performance suffers again when we move from one thread to eight, but at least this time the raw number increases as expected. On the write side, the drive falls smack-dab in the center of the rankings. Mirroring the media set results, the copy results are a bit weak, but they’re not much worse than the drive’s 250GB-class competition.

That’s it for RoboBench. Hit the next page for boot and load testing.

 

Boot times

Until now, all of our tests have been conducted with the SSDs connected as secondary storage. This next batch uses them as system drives.

We’ll start with boot times measured two ways. The bare test depicts the time between hitting the power button and reaching the Windows desktop, while the loaded test adds the time needed to load four applications—Avidemux, LibreOffice, GIMP, and Visual Studio Express—automatically from the startup folder. Our old boot tests focused on the time required to load the OS, but these new ones cover the entire process, including drive initialization.

In a shocking turn of events, the the XPG SX930 falls in the middle of the boot time rankings. No SSD has managed to surprise us yet with boot times. Only the Intel 750 Series tuns in a remarkable performance here, and unfortunately, it’s remarkable in the wrong way.

Load times

Next, we’ll tackle load times with two sets of tests. The first group focuses on the time required to load larger files in a collection of desktop applications. We open a 790MB 4K video in Avidemux, a 30MB spreadsheet in LibreOffice, and a 523MB image file in the GIMP. In the Visual Studio Express test, we open a 159MB project containing source code for the LLVM toolchain. Thanks to Rui Figueira for providing the project code.

As usual, the productivity applications load about as fast on the XPG SX930 as any drive. Up next is gaming, and since the XPG SX930 bills itself as a gamer’s drive, it’s gotta set itself apart here, right?

The XPG SX930 loads our games gratifyingly quickly. But then again, so does every other SSD we’ve tested. “Xtreme Performance Gear” or not, any SSD will work just fine for gamers.

That’s it for performance testing. Read on for a breakdown of our hardware and test methods.

 

Test notes and methods

Here are the essential details for all the drives we tested:

  Interface Flash controller NAND
Crucial BX100 500GB SATA 6Gbps Silicon Motion SM2246EN 16-nm Micron MLC
Crucial BX200 480GB SATA 6Gbps Silicon Motion SM2256 16-nm Micron TLC
Crucial MX200 500GB SATA 6Gbps Marvell 88SS9189 16-nm Micron MLC
Intel X25-M G2 160GB SATA 3Gbps Intel PC29AS21BA0 34-nm Intel MLC
Intel 335 Series 240GB SATA 6Gbps SandForce SF-2281 20-nm Intel MLC
Intel 730 Series 480GB SATA 6Gbps Intel PC29AS21CA0 20-nm Intel MLC
Intel 750 Series 1.2TB PCIe Gen3 x4 Intel CH29AE41AB0 20-nm Intel MLC
Intel DC P3700 800GB PCIe Gen3 x4 Intel CH29AE41AB0 20-nm Intel MLC
OCZ Arc 100 240GB SATA 6Gbps Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10 A19-nm Toshiba MLC
OCZ Trion 100 480GB SATA 6Gbps Toshiba TC58 A19-nm Toshiba TLC
OCZ Trion 150 480GB SATA 6Gbps Toshiba TC58 15-nm Toshiba TLC
OCZ Vector 180 240GB SATA 6Gbps Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10 A19-nm Toshiba MLC
OCZ Vector 180 960GB SATA 6Gbps Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10 A19-nm Toshiba MLC
Plextor M6e 256GB PCIe Gen2 x2 Marvell 88SS9183 19-nm Toshiba MLC
Samsung 850 EV0 250GB SATA 6Gbps Samsung MGX 32-layer Samsung TLC
Samsung 850 EV0 1TB SATA 6Gbps Samsung MEX 32-layer Samsung TLC
Samsung 850 Pro 500GB SATA 6Gbps Samsung MEX 32-layer Samsung MLC
Samsung 950 Pro 512GB PCIe Gen3 x4 Samsung UBX 32-layer Samsung MLC
Samsung SM951 512GB PCIe Gen3 x4 Samsung S4LN058A01X01 16-nm Samsung MLC
Samsung XP941 256GB PCIe Gen2 x4 Samsung S4LN053X01 19-nm Samsung MLC
Transcend SSD370 256GB SATA 6Gpbs Transcend TS6500 Micron or SanDisk MLC
Transcend SSD370 1TB SATA 6Gpbs Transcend TS6500 Micron or SanDisk MLC

All the SATA SSDs were connected to the motherboard’s Z97 chipset. The M6e was connected to the Z97 via the motherboard’s M.2 slot, which is how we’d expect most folks to run that drive. Since the XP941 and 950 Pro requires more lanes, they were connected to the CPU via a PCIe adapter card. The 750 Series and DC P3700 were hooked up to the CPU via the same full-sized PCIe slot.

We used the following system for testing:

Processor Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz
Motherboard Asus Z97-Pro
Firmware 2601
Platform hub Intel Z97
Platform drivers Chipset: 10.0.0.13

RST: 13.2.4.1000

Memory size 16GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Adata XPG V3 DDR3 at 1600 MT/s
Memory timings 11-11-11-28-1T
Audio Realtek ALC1150 with 6.0.1.7344 drivers
System drive Corsair Force LS 240GB with S8FM07.9 firmware
Storage Crucial BX100 500GB with MU01 firmware

Crucial BX200 480GB with MU01.4 firmware

Crucial MX200 500GB with MU01 firmware

Intel 335 Series 240GB with 335u firmware

Intel 730 Series 480GB with L2010400 firmware

Intel 750 Series 1.2GB with 8EV10171 firmware

Intel DC P3700 800GB with 8DV10043 firmware

Intel X25-M G2 160GB with 8820 firmware

Plextor M6e 256GB with 1.04 firmware

OCZ Trion 100 480GB with 11.2 firmware

OCZ Trion 150 480GB with 12.2 firmware

OCZ Vector 180 240GB with 1.0 firmware

OCZ Vector 180 960GB with 1.0 firmware

Samsung 850 EVO 250GB with EMT01B6Q firmware

Samsung 850 EVO 1TB with EMT01B6Q firmware

Samsung 850 Pro 500GB with EMXM01B6Q firmware

Samsung 950 Pro 512GB with 1B0QBXX7 firmware

Samsung XP941 256GB with UXM6501Q firmware

Transcend SSD370 256GB with O0918B firmware

Transcend SSD370 1TB with O0919A firmware

Power supply Corsair AX650 650W
Case Fractal Design Define R5
Operating system Windows 8.1 Pro x64

Thanks to Asus for providing the systems’ motherboards, to Intel for the CPUs, to Adata for the memory, to Fractal Design for the cases, and to Corsair for the system drives and PSUs. And thanks to the drive makers for supplying the rest of the SSDs.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

Some further notes on our test methods:

  • To ensure consistent and repeatable results, the SSDs were secure-erased before every component of our test suite. For the IOMeter database, RoboBench write, and RoboBench copy tests, the drives were put in a simulated used state that better exposes long-term performance characteristics. Those tests are all scripted, ensuring an even playing field that gives the drives the same amount of time to recover from the initial used state.

  • We run virtually all our tests three times and report the median of the results. Our sustained IOMeter test is run a second time to verify the results of the first test and additional times only if necessary. The sustained test runs for 30 minutes continuously, so it already samples performance over a long period.

  • Steps have been taken to ensure the CPU’s power-saving features don’t taint any of our results. All of the CPU’s low-power states have been disabled, effectively pegging the frequency at 3.5GHz. Transitioning between power states can affect the performance of storage benchmarks, especially when dealing with short burst transfers.

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1920×1080 at 60Hz. Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

 

Conclusions

As usual, let’s consider the XPG SX930’s overall performance compared to other drives in our labs before we begin drawing conclusions. We distill the overall performance rating using an older SATA SSD as a baseline. To compare each drive, we then take the geometric mean of a basket of results from our test suite. Only drives which have been through the entire current test suite on our current rig are represented.

Adata’s XPG SX930 comes out just barely ahead of Transcend’s SSD370 256GB. As we said when we reviewed the SSD370, this isn’t a bad performance showing. The SX930 falls only a little behind the market’s perennial favorite: Samsung’s 850 EVO 250GB. Still, the price-to-performance proposition becomes an important factor when even planar TLC drives like OCZ’s Trion 150 are offering similar or better performance these days.

Let’s quantify the XPG SX930’s value proposition by considering its performance against its price per gigabyte. In the scatter plot below, the most compelling position is toward the upper left corner, where the price per gigabyte is low and performance is high.

Hmm. Frankly, I’m not persuaded by the SX930’s value proposition. Adata’s drive falls short of the Arc 100 250GB, Trion 150 480GB, and MX200 500GB in the price-to-performance wars. All of those drives cost less per gigabyte and offer appreciably better performance. To be fair, two of those drives have double the capacity of the XPG SX930 240GB, and larger SSDs typically enjoy a substantial performance advantage. Still, if I was spending $80 at Amazon to get the XPG SX930, I’d likely cough up about $30 more to grab a Trion 150 480GB. Even If we restrict ourselves to apples-to-apples comparisons, Samsung’s 850 EVO offers better performance for roughly $8 more on Newegg right now.

When all is said and done, Adata’s XPG SX930 240GB is a perfectly serviceable SSD. Unfortunately, its gamer-focused “XPG” branding might command a higher price than its performance truly justifies. Combine that potential hurdle with the widespread availability of cheap, peppy TLC drives, and it becomes tough to recommend snagging one of these SSDs over the competition. If the ever-shifting winds of SSD discounts should favor the SX930 at some point, though, we’d have few qualms about picking one up.

Comments closed
    • influenza
    • 4 years ago

    Your price/performance plots are great, but a bit not accurate if you compare 500GB value to 250GB. You should make separate plots for each size range.

    • slaimus
    • 4 years ago

    I’m glad JMicron is no longer a four letter word when it comes to SSDs.

    • ermo
    • 4 years ago

    At this point, assuming that one can afford it, is there any valid reason to NOT just spring for a Samsung 850 EVO v2 1TB drive made on 40nm 3D TLC NAND?

    As far as I can tell, it’s as fast as anything out there, should have excellent durability due to its relative large 40nm process node, is pretty cheap for an SSD in terms of GB/€ and lastly it has plenty of room.

    That was the pros. What are the contras if any?

      • Firestarter
      • 4 years ago

      I can’t offer any contras, but I did decide on a Crucial BX100 1TB instead of a Samsung 850 EVO. I know I shouldn’t judge the 850 EVO by the failings of its predecessor due to the completely different technology, but it left a sour taste anyway. Since the planar MLC-based BX100 was competitive on price and not too far off on performance, I went for that one, with the thought of giving Samsung another generation to sort their TLC magic out before I try it again.

      I never owned an 840 EVO, instead it was much worse: I recommended them to family/friends. Try discussing the finer points of flash cell voltage drift to a public like that and then argue that you need to touch their computers in a most intimate and dangerous way to relieve the symptoms, that definitely makes you think twice before using those products again.

      • jensend
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah, they’re nice, but Samsung drives are not “pretty cheap for a SSD” right now. The 850 EVOs at each capacity command a ~40% price premium over a number of reasonably-comparable drives from competitors. Some people find that premium worth paying for performance or reputation reasons, but many won’t. Wear endurance is not really an issue for normal users on just about any SSD made in the last 5 years.

      And $/GB matters little if you aren’t going to use the GB. No reason for many of us to plop down $300 on a 1TB Samsung if we can get a $60 240GB drive that will serve just as well.

      (My most space-consuming stuff is on spinning rust and will stay that way for a while; the IOPS advantage of an SSD, which is so vital for an OS drive, matters not a whit for my archived FLACs or JPEGs.)

    • brucethemoose
    • 4 years ago

    Man, SSD competition is stiff these days. I don’t see how the small players even turn a profit.

    • ronch
    • 4 years ago

    Well, can’t say this is a bad product. It’s not the best, it’s not the worst, nor is it the best value for money. In the end, it’s just another fish in the sea.

    • albundy
    • 4 years ago

    I’m sticking with my sandisk extreme pro for a while. it’s performance is really top notch. to tell you the truth, i might jump ship on ssd’s on my next build and go with an m.2 instead.

    • Takeshi7
    • 4 years ago

    Can you please test SATA SSDs in UDMA mode for the cases when AHCI isn’t available?

      • Noinoi
      • 4 years ago

      This seems to be a case that, while worth exploring in, is probably moot, since most systems in use today that’d see an SSD installed do support AHCI. Although it might have an effect on performance, both long-term and short-term, I suspect that given that SSDs tend to act like normal storage devices for the most part, it probably just depends on the SSD being smart enough when left on its own to manage its flash.

      Though, if I’m wrong, I’m all ears 🙂

        • derFunkenstein
        • 4 years ago

        The only worthwhile thing I can think of is if for some reason you wanted to run them in a RAID array. Even then, most of the AHCI protocol can be supported. You don’t have to lose features like NCQ in a RAID array. According to [url=http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/Z170%20Extreme6/?cat=Specifications<]ASRock[/url<], the Z170 will do it, and I'm sure at least some of the other recent Intel chips do, too. The only reason to skip AHCI entirely is if you have a system that doesn't support it. And most likely, you're limited by SATA 1.5Gbps or 3.0Gbps speeds anyway.

          • faramir
          • 4 years ago

          It’s not just slower SATA interface (which affects transfer speeds for sequential data) – the loss of AHCI affects random 4K IOPS rate at queue depth above 1 significantly.

          Same driver can perform 5-10x (ye, five to ten times) faster with very long queue when controller is in AHCI mode and this is why running non-AHCI mode tests on modern drives is moot.

      • Waco
      • 4 years ago

      What platforms that aren’t a decade old don’t support AHCI?

    • BIF
    • 4 years ago

    By now, most all of us have bought all the 256 GB boot drives we’re going to need for the next few years.

    Does this drive come in 1TB or 2TB sizes? Because really, that’s where the market is going to have to go, what with most laptops being limited to only 1, 2, or 3 internal SATA ports, and most desktop computers being limited to 4-6 SATA ports, unless an I/O card has been installed.

      • Srsly_Bro
      • 4 years ago

      Still rocking a Samsung 830 256GB drive for my OS.

        • BIF
        • 4 years ago

        That’s great for you. But in your attempt to play devil’s advocate, you’ve missed my point. Would you buy another one in that size? No, if you buy another one, you’ll likely buy a bigger one.

          • DarkMikaru
          • 4 years ago

          BIF, I think he is agreeing with you. I know I am. Though I want a 480 – 512GB SSD I just don’t need one. Hell, at work I’m still rocking my original 64GB Samsung 830 SSD!! 120GB drives are what I recommend for pretty much everyone looking to upgrade PC performance. Starting at 34.99 you just can’t go wrong these days.

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