Adata’s SE730H 512GB portable SSD reviewed

The TR storage labs have seen an influx of external drives of late. In the last couple of months, we reviewed Adata’s nigh-indestructible SD700 and Samsung’s blazing-fast Portable SSD T5. Today, we’ve got a drive that seeks to combine the best parts of each of those drives into one complete package: Adata’s SE730H 512GB.

As we mentioned when the drive was first announced, the SE730H is a revision of the previously-released SE730. The two drives are identical feature-for-feature. The only difference is an internal switch from planar MLC to 3D TLC flash. Like the SD700, the SE730 and SE730H meet IP68 specifications for dust-proofing and short-term submersibility. They also meet the same MIL-STD-810G 516.6 standard for shock resistance. But most importantly, the SE730 and SE730H leave 5 Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 1 behind in favor of 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2.

The SE730H brings its speed and toughness to bear in an extraordinarily compact, oblong package. The SD700 was already quite portable, but the older drive looks ungainly alongside the 2.8″ x 1.7″ x 0.4″ footprint of its successor. Samsung’s petite enclosures have long had a leg up on the competition, but Adata seems to have caught up—the SE730H weighs a mere 1.1 ounces. The SD700’s weather-proofing was only applicable when its rubber port cover was in place, and the same applies to the SE730H. The newer drive’s cover, however, is a rigid plastic affair that takes a solid tug to displace.

Fortunately, the SE730H isn’t rated to resist pliers and screwdrivers, so we broke it down to have a look inside. Inside, it’s not all that different from the SD700 (which was based on the SU800). The same Silicon Motion SM2258 controller is again paired with Micron’s TLC 3D NAND. This time around, the USB bridging duties are handled by a VL716 chip from Via Labs. The major difference between the SD700 and the SE730H, then, is the upgrade from the JMicron USB 3.1 Gen 1 bridge controller to the Via Labs Gen 2 chip. Let’s hope that’s all it takes to unlock T5-like speeds from the SE730H.

The SE730H is available in either 256GB or 512GB capacities and either gold or red finishes. Regardless of capacity or color, Adata’s warranty covers the drive for three years. The drive hasn’t hit e-tail yet, but Adata is setting the price targets at $160 and $260. That’s a bit steeper than the other externals we’ve reviewed, but if the SE730H can deliver suitably high performance in its impenetrable shell, it may just be worth it. Let’s find out.

TR RoboBench — Real-world transfers

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.



In our single-threaded tests, the SE730H is crazy fast. As we saw with Samsung’s Portable SSD T5, USB 3.1 Gen 2’s 10Gbps of theoretical bandwidth allows external drives to put up speeds on par with SATA 6Gbps internal drives. The SE730H trades blows with the editor’s-choice-winning Portable SSD T5 drives in these tests.

When eight threads are at play, the SE730H is still extremely fast, but the Portable SSD T5 family enjoys a consistent lead over the Adata drive. Let’s see how it does with the work set.



Again, the SE730H puts up amazing numbers at a queue depth of one, proving just as good as Samsung’s best. At 8T, the SE730H falls behind just a tad, especially in the read test. In that particular test, the SD700 beats both T5 drives and the SE730H, despite its USB 3.0 connection and lower theoretical bandwidth.

Overall, the SE730H is right on target with the high performance bar set by Samsung’s T5 portable SSDs. With irreproachable speeds and a certifiably durable exterior, the SE730H has everything going for it.

That’s it for performance testing. Flip the page to read about our test methods, or skip ahead for our closing thoughts.

 

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 Micron 3D TLC
Adata SE730H External SSD USB 3.1 Gen 2 Silicon Motion SM2258 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
Samsung Portable SSD T5 USB 3.1 Gen 2 Samsung MGX 64-layer Samsung TLC

USB 3.1 Gen 1 drives were connected to the motherboard via USB 3.0 port. USB 3.1 Gen 2 drives were connected via a 3.1 Gen 2 add-in card. The 2.5″ drives were connected via 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
USB 3.1 Gen 2 card Rosewill RC-509
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

We were quite taken with Adata’s weather-resistant SD700 when it graced our test bench, but that drive couldn’t compete with the incredible speeds and absurdly small footprint of Samsung’s T5 portables. With the SE730H, however, Adata has closed the performance gap.

The SE730H combines all the advantages of the SD700—dust, water, and shock resistance—in a package that’s every bit as compact, elegant, and fast as the Portable SSD T5 family. The only thing we might still complain about is that the SE730H isn’t available in high-capacity formats yet. A 1TB version may be in the works, but for now, shoppers looking for a terabyte or more of USB 3.1 Gen 2 goodness will have to stick to Samsung’s latest and greatest.

Speaking of shopping, the SE730H doesn’t appear to be listed online quite yet. Adata’s suggested prices are $160 for the 256GB drive and $260 for the 512GB version. That’s substantially more than the $130 of the Portable SSD T5 250GB or the $200 Samsung asks for the Portable SSD T5 500GB. If your portable storage is going to live an unexciting life being shuttled between offices, the T5 is a no-brainer. But for the more intrepid, outdoorsy data-hoarder, perhaps a 20-30% markup isn’t too dear for holding fast against the elements.

In summary, the SE730H is better in every way than the last Adata external we reviewed. It’s smaller, lighter, and faster, all while retaining the same ruggedness. Its speeds are on par with Samsung’s latest and greatest. While Adata’s suggested prices are a bit steep, we think they’re reasonable ask for the combination of speed and features that the SE730H offers. If the drive’s street prices end up closer to the T5’s, it will be a slam dunk. We’re happy to extend a provisional TR Recommended award to the SE730H family as a result.

Comments closed
    • marek100
    • 2 years ago

    Cool

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 2 years ago

    Could you take that drive out of the adapter and plug it to a system? Might be fun to see the performance impact of the adapter.

      • juzz86
      • 2 years ago

      Looks like mSATA to me, so I’d assume so. The PCB is just a USB-SATA bridge in these usually!

      Solid review Tone, cheers!

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        I’m using photos from Samsung’s site to try and figure it out, but I don’t think it’s mSATA.

        [url<]https://www.samsung.com/us/computing/memory-storage/solid-state-drives/ssd-850-evo-msata-250gb-mz-m5e250bw/?cid=pla-ecom-mul-27,000,002[/url<] Looks like the narrow "finger" on mSATA is too wide. I think it's M.2 that's not specifically keyed to M.2 AHCI - like it could maybe fit a PCIe drive physically but doesn't. The 850 EVO M.2 has two fingers, but the fingers are narrower and the slot doesn't have to physically have the second one. Like this: [url<]https://www.samsung.com/us/computing/memory-storage/solid-state-drives/ssd-850-evo-m-2-500gb-mz-n5e500bw/[/url<] It's all just guesswork on this end, though. AHCI M.2 drives will work in slots meant for PCI-e drives, assuming the pins go where they need to go (and the PCI-e variety of slot seems more common so the connectors might be more readily available), so I think that's what Adata did here.

          • juzz86
          • 2 years ago

          That’s some solid research, Ben!

          You’re right on looking a bit deeper. There’s six pins on the key here, as opposed to the eight for mSATA. Also a bit short for mPCIE. From memory there’s five (maybe six?) pins on the AHCI M.2 key, I’d say you were pretty bloody close mate 🙂

          Having it upside down doesn’t help!

          Is it possible to grab the model number from the VIA chip at all, Tony? That’d answer the question!

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            There are M.2 2242 SSDs which are 42mm in length, but all of Adata’s are only available in 128 and 256GB capacities. Would definitely be interested in the markings. I can make out what I think is the full number from the chip on the right, but Google search results come up totally empty.

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