Adata’s SD700 portable SSD reviewed

The portable external SSD market has expanded prodigiously over the last few years. These days, a plethora of brands are gobbling up NAND to slap into diminutive enclosures and charge exorbitant prices for them. In a bittersweet turn, however, that premium has shrunk in recent months. The global NAND shortage has driven SSD prices up across the board, but such fluctuations affect already-marked-up product segments like external storage less than the average SATA daily driver.

Given the way the NAND winds are blowing, it’s a better time than usual to shell out for an external SSD. Today we’ve got a relatively new contender for your consideration:  Adata’s SD700.

The SD700’s shtick is all about blending SSD speeds with rugged portability. The SD700 meets IP68 specs, meaning it’s claimed to be dust-proof and can survive 1.5-meter submersion in water for at least an hour. Furthermore, it meets the MIL-STD-810G 516.6 standard, which translates to “military-grade” shock resistance. The rubber rim must be left intact and the USB flap closed for those promises to apply, so make sure to go for the black option if highlighter yellow isn’t your style.

So what does one do with such a weather-resistant, indestructable drive? Adata seems to think the SD700 will be the storage choice of surfers, beach volleyball players, and dune buggiers, if this marketing video is to believed:

Our apologies—we didn’t put any of those use cases to the test. We did, however, immediately void all guarantees of proofing and fastness by taking the thing apart.

Inside, it becomes clear that the SD700 is an SU800 in disguise. Micron’s TLC 3D NAND and Silicon Motion’s SM2258 are back in action, but this time with a JMicron JMS578 SATA-to-USB bridge controller playing frontman. The performance characteristics of the SU800 are well-understood from our previous in-depth testing, so we expect few surprises from the SD700.

The JMicron bridge means the SU800 communicates with the outside world using USB 3.0 (or USB 3.1 Gen 1, if you prefer). That means the drive should be plenty fast in real-world use, but USB 3.1 Gen 2’s 10 Gbps speeds are becoming a more and more common pairing for external SSDs. We’d be surprised if the SD700 eclipses the recently-released Samsung Portable SSD T5 and its Gen 2 connection in real-world usage.

The SD700 comes in 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB varieties, each of which is available in either black or yellow trim and backed by a three-year warranty. Amazon is currently selling the yellow 512GB unit we’re testing for $195, but you can save five dollars by opting for black.

 

Software

As a simple USB mass storage device, the SD700 is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux, but it also boasts a more exotic compatibility for mobile devices thanks to Adata’s Android app. Unfortunately, testing that app would require a rather esoteric USB Micro-B to USB Type-C cable that we didn’t have on hand.

Instead, we focused our attention on the software features that accompany the SD700’s Windows experience. To take advantage of those, users must install Adata’s archaically-named “HDDtoGO” software, which provides a unified interface for administration of any kind of external storage.

HDDtoGO comprises a hodgepodge of tools with varying degrees of usefulness. The Internet Options tab provides mechanisms to sync favorites, to store passwords, and amusingly, to browse the internet privately by hijacking temporary files that would otherwise be stored on a computer’s internal storage. Other tabs allow users to sync files, backup and restore emails, and even turn an external into an authentication mechanism—Windows will lock and unlock as you insert and remove the device (as long HDDtoGO is still running, at least).

The only interface of particular interest to us is the Security Settings tab, which acts as a gateway to the SD700’s AES encryption capabilities. Setting a password quickly and easily allowed us to secure selected files on the drive, which were then rendered inaccessible without the password.

Now that we’re assured of the drive’s security chops, let’s get to testing. We may not have any sandblasting, waterboarding, or drop-testing benchmarks as part of our test suite, but we can still check how good the SD700 is at pushing files around. It’s time for RoboBench.

 

TR RoboBench — Real-world transfers

The first time we benched a portable SSD, it was the first USB storage device to be tested on our current storage rigs. Thus, we hatched a plan to test it against a USB-docked SATA drive to provide a point of reference. This time around, we’ve dispensed with the drive dock, since we have our existing data from Samsung’s Portable SSD T3 and Portable SSD T5 to work with.

RoboBench comprises 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.



With a single thread, speeds are dead even between the SD700 and the much larger T3 2TB. The Samsung drive’s size advantage becomes much more apparent with eight threads, where the T3’s write performance leaves the Adata drive in the dust. Good thing the SD700 is dust-proof. Despite trailing the T3, the SD700’s transfer speeds are plenty fast enough for external storage.

Next up, the work set.



The gap completely disappears in the work set. In both single- and eight-threaded testing, the two drives are neck-and-neck. The T3’s gargantuan capacity doesn’t lend it much of a speed advantage when it comes to the more random-I/O-heavy work set.

If you only consider USB 3.0 external SSDs, Samsung’s 2TB Portable SSD T3 might claim a victory in eight-threaded sequential transfers, but by and large, the SD700 is able to keep up. Adata’s external is a potent portable. Allow us to compare apples to oranges, however, and the Portable SSD T5 and its next-generation USB 3.1 Gen 2 interface make it the king of portable SSDs in our testing.

Even so, our testing can’t account for Adata’s durable outer shell, and we doubt the Samsungs could stand up to the same level of abuse that the SD700 likely can. The combination of speed and apparent durability the SD700 offers could be more appealing than speed alone to some users.

 

Test notes and methods

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

  Interface Flash controller NAND
Adata SD700 External SSD USB 3.1 Gen 1 Silicon Motion SM2258 32-layer Micron 3D TLC
Samsung 850 EV0 2TB SATA 6Gbps Samsung MHX 32-layer Samsung TLC
Samsung Portable SSD T3 USB 3.1 Gen 1 Samsung MGX 48-layer Samsung TLC

All drives were connected to the motherboard with a USB 3.0 port. The 2.5″ drives were connected using a USB 3.0 drive dock for SATA drives.

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
Drive dock StarTech USB 3.1 Single-Bay Dock
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.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

  • IOMeter 1.1.0 x64
  • TR RoboBench 0.2a

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

Our USB storage data set is too small for us to produce overall rankings and scatter plots for now, but we can still speak in more general terms about the SD700’s performance and price proposition.

The SD700 packs mighty file-transfer capabilities into an impressively trauma-resistant package. It’s a bit less compact than Samsung’s Portable SSD T3 and Portable SSD T5, but is nonetheless small enough to be pocketable. The Samsung drives’ metal finishes are more attractive to me than the SD700’s rubber and textured-plastic treatment, but the competition boasts no protection against the elements. Sacrificing eye candy is a sensible compromise for the practical benefits one might gain from Adata’s ruggedizing, especially for a device that will likely spend most of its time in a pouch, pocket, or backpack.

About the only feature missing from the SD700 is support for USB 3.1 Gen 2 and its 10 Gbps peak transfer rates. Now that we’ve tasted the speed of Samsung’s Portable SSD T5 and its Gen 2 interface, we’d prefer that next-generation connection come standard on any external SSD worth its salt. Given Adata’s plethora of external SSD offerings, we’d expect the company will ultimately release updated versions of its products with the next-gen interface in tow. That future is already heralded by the USB 3.1 Gen 2 SE730, but that drive is only available in a 250GB model for now. 

At $190 on Amazon, the 512GB SD700 is barely more expensive than similar-capacity internal drives. For instance, the SU800 512GB and 850 EVO 500GB are each going for $180 on Newegg right now. As we’ve discussed, inflated SSD prices mean that the typical premium placed on externals is at a relative low. When life gives you lemons, buy a portable SSD.

If you’re in need of a durable, lightweight external SSD without the speed or durability handicap of spinning rust, the SD700 is worth a look. Its fast transfer speeds and accident-proof shell make a compelling combination. Next time you need storage to take with you while you windsurf or mountain climb or take field samples, the SD700 will readily meet your needs. If any of you actually do those kinds of activities with SSDs in tow, let us know how it goes—we’re interested to hear how your data fares.

Comments closed
    • Norphy
    • 2 years ago

    [quote<]About the only feature missing from the SD700 is support for USB 3.1 Gen 2 and its 10 Gbps peak transfer rates. Now that we've tasted the speed of Samsung's Portable SSD T5 and its Gen 2 interface, we'd prefer that next-generation connection come standard on any external SSD worth its salt.[/quote<] Does this drive not having USB v3.1 Gen 2 really matter? According to your own benchmarks, the drive can't saturate a 5Gbps connection so what good would upping the speed of the USB bridge to 10Gbps do?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 2 years ago

      It might not make a huge difference, but it could make a difference in the copy tests, since [url=http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/usb-3-uas-turbo,3215-2.html<]USB 3.0 has to carry more than just data[/url<]. The big thing is this: [quote<] When link flow control, packet framing, and protocol overhead are considered, it is realistic for 400 MBps or more to be delivered to an application.[/quote<] And look at where the copy test tops out - right around 400MB. Will you notice the difference? Probably not. Is there extra performance to be had in USB 3.1 Gen 2? Probably.

    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    I think Adata is one of those memory products companies in Taiwan that’s really making a name for themselves these past few years, while other names seem to have dimmed (get it?) a bit. And their designs are pretty nice too. Maybe MSI and Asus should poach some Adata designers. Then again maybe not.

    Case manufactures should look at Adata’s designs. They’re nice and not too garish.

    • Fieryphoenix
    • 2 years ago

    As far as water resistance goes, the feat may be less impressive than it seems. This weekend I pulled a major boner when I left my parent’s old Crucial 120 GB SSD in my pants pocket after cloning to a larger one. I went on to launder the damn thing. I can report that after a cold wash and then a spin in the dryer at permanent press temperatures, it still works. I did take it apart and clean the circuit board with isopropyl, but there was no visible corrosion apart from scant trace on one screw mount.

      • ronch
      • 2 years ago

      Being able to save a device after water gets inside and preventing water from getting inside in the first place are two very different things, I think.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 2 years ago

    I have a suggestion for another test for external drives. Put it on an Xbox One and check FFXV load times. I’ve almost bought an eternal SSD just because of those load times.

    • Yan
    • 2 years ago

    I’m wondering if it would make sense to pair one of these with a Chromebook (bring your own OS) to make an inexpensive laptop with a reasonably big hard drive. If these things really weigh only 17 g (it seems hard to believe), you’d hardly notice their presence.

    Edit: check when you convert inches to cm, or stick with the original. 😉

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