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Adata's Ultimate SU800 512GB SSD reviewed

Micron's 3D NAND finds a new home

Not so long ago, we took an in-depth look at Micron's first foray into the 3D NAND world. While Micron took much longer to bring its 3D floating-gate cells to market than Samsung did with its charge-trap based V-NAND, the MX300 proved to be worth the wait.

But there are more differences between Micron and Samsung than merely the nature of their cell-stacking technologies. Samsung doesn't sell its NAND flash to smaller, fab-less SSD brands to bin and repackage. Instead, Samsung goes it alone with vertically-integrated products marketed to OEMs, system integrators, and consumers alike. Micron, on the other hand, is more than happy to sell the little guys some of its bits and pieces. So while Samsung's V-NAND may have drawn first blood, Micron's 3D NAND debut heralds the coming of a whole ecosystem of products with 3D flash inside.

Adata is as frequent an integrator of Micron NAND as any fab-less manufacturer, and it quickly snagged some of Micron's 3D NAND to develop a brand-new SSD in these early days of the new 3D NAND market. To be clear, Adata's product description and marketing materials don't make any mention of Micron. But since the company specifically referenced floating-gate cells in earlier press releases about the drive, there was never much doubt about whose NAND was inside. After all, the competing products from Toshiba and Hynix are both based on charge-trap flash. Anyway, Adata's Ultimate SU800 looks to offer a similar package as Crucial's MX300—a compelling blend of 3D TLC performance and a price that won't break the bank. Take a look at the basic specs.

Adata SU800
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max random (IOps)
Read Write Read Write
128GB 560 300 50k 75k
256GB 560 520 80k 85k
512GB 560 520 85k 85k
1TB 560 520 80k 80k

We wasted little time in pulling apart the 512GB sample Adata sent us. As suspected, Micron's TLC 3D NAND is what's inside. Instead of the eight-package configuration we saw inside the MX300 750GB, though, this time around there are only six packages for a total of 576GB. Gotta have a little extra for overprovisioning, after all.

Two of the six packages share a side of the PCB with the drive's controller and DRAM cache. Silicon Motion's SM2258, the company's latest low-cost controller, runs the show. That chip is specifically designed for 3D TLC applications. The SM2258 seems to be a natural evolution of the company's preceding 2246 and 2256 controllers, featuring pseudo-SLC caching, Silicon Motion's proprietary "NANDXtend" ECC scheme, and the full caboodle of encryption features.

Unfortunately, the SU800 doesn't seem to make use of those encryption features, so look elsewhere if you like to keep your data secret and safe. On the bright side, Adata warrants the drive for three years. Additionally, the company touts the drive's endurance over planar TLC offerings. Indeed, the 512GB unit's 400 terabytes-written spec greatly eclipses the SP550 480GB's 180TB-written rating.

The SU800 is already widely available, and the 512GB version we're testing today can be had for $129.99 at Newegg. A quarter per gig isn't the lowest price we've ever seen for a 512GB SSD, but it's still reasonable provided the SU800's performance is up to snuff. Let's see whether that's the case now.