We’ve waxed poetic a number of times about the democratization of the PCIe storage market. The number of NVMe products from SSD makers everywhere has grown substantially over the years. Adata is one of the companies on the front lines of the NVMe wars, and it’s been slinging a variety of powerful gumsticks into the market. Over the last couple of years, the manufacturer has put together an extensive lineup of NVMe drives. The SX8000 was the first, but Adata sliced and diced various combinations of controllers with planar and 3D NAND to produce the SX6000, SX7000, SX9000, Gammix S10, and Gammix S11.
Despite that deep roster, no NVMe-equipped Adata drive has yet passed through our storage labs. Until now, that is. Meet Adata’s XPG SX8200.
|Adata XPG SX8200|
|Capacity||Max sequential (MB/s)||Max random (IOps)|
The XPG SX8200 is available in 240-GB, 480-GB, and 960-GB capacities. Adata sent us the 480-GB model to play with. This newcomer is built on Micron’s latest-generation 64-layer 3D TLC NAND and Silicon Motion’s SM2262 controller. If this all sounds familiar, it should. We saw this combination last year at Computex when we got a sneak preview of Adata’s upcoming SSDs. The goods included an enterprise-oriented (and enterprise-named) IM2P33E8 drive packing the same hardware. More recently, we saw a similar combination in Intel’s excellent-value 760p SSD, though the controller had a haze of Intel mystery applied to it.
The SX8200’s primary mission is to outperform its predecessor, the XPG SX8000. That could prove tricky, since the older drive’s controller was backed up by MLC NAND. Anyway, we never tested the SX8000, so we won’t be able to be offended if the SX8200 fails its mission.
The XPG SX8200’s four NAND packages are distributed evenly on both sides of the PCB, with a slice of DRAM on each side as well. The top side hosts the controller. The SM2262 enables a number of fancy tricks, like pseudo-SLC caching and Silicon Motion’s proprietary “NANDXtend” error-correcting technology. Unfortunately, Adata hasn’t leveraged the controller’s encryption acceleration features, so the privacy-minded may want to think twice about this drive.
Adata warrants the XPG SX8200 for five years. The 480-GB drive’s endurance rating is a solid 320 terabytes written, so longevity shouldn’t be a big concern. Adata’s pre-launch suggested price was a lofty $260, but street prices seem to be quite a bit lower. Newegg’s hocking the drive for just $210, while Amazon is only asking $190. These cuts may prove to be a huge boon for the drive, depending on what kind of overall performance it puts up in our test suite. Speaking of which, let’s get to it.
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 128-KB block size.
The XPG SX8200’s sequential read speeds are respectable, right up there with Intel’s NVMe drives. However, its sequential write speeds are lackluster for an NVMe SSD. We discussed these results with Adata, and the company explained that these speeds reflect the raw write speed of the 3D TLC NAND. In other words, the drive’s pseudo-SLC caching mechanisms hadn’t sufficiently recovered from writing the IOMeter test file to the drive and were effectively useless.
We’ve seen this sort of behavior with a few drives in the past. Some SSDs’ caching implementations just don’t play nice with our IOMeter test setup. We’ll seek to address this when we update our storage bench and methods, but for now, results are results. The SX8200 will have plenty of opportunity to regain ground throughout the rest of our test suite.
The SX8200’s random response times look great for both reads and writes. No caching shenanigans at play here.
The jury’s still out on the SX8200. Random response times and sequential read speeds are just fine, but sequential write performance remains an open question. We’ll revisit those again during our RoboBench tests. For now let’s move on to sustained and scaling IOMeter tests.
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 that 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.
The XPG SX8200’s peak is high but brief before it stair-steps down a steady write rate. Both the peak and steady state look quite competitive, so let’s check out what the actual numbers are.
Very good! The XPG drive’s peak rates are only eclipsed by much bigger and more expensive drives. Optane makes all other drives’ steady-state rates look slow, but, well, that’s the difference between 3D Xpoint and NAND.
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 SX8200 makes it all the way to QD32 before it starts to level off. How does it look against other NVMe drives?
The XPG SX8200 scales a whole lot better than the Intel 760p despite the two drives’ similar technological underpinnings. It almost keeps up with Samsung’s 970 EVO 1 TB, despite that drive’s heftier size (and price tag).
Unlike our sequential tests, these results are a resounding success for Adata’s new NVMe hotness. Next, it’s time for real-world workloads.
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|
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.
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.
Let’s take a look at the media set first. The buttons switch between read, write, and copy results.
Wow. The XPG SX8200 sets a record for the 1T read test, and comes pretty close at 8T too. Write speeds are much, much better than IOMeter would have had us believe. Only Samsung’s high-end 900 series drives do much better.
Next, the work set.
No chart-topping performances this time, but the SX8200 lands close to the summit across read, write, and copy. The drive can certainly move files around with alacrity.
The XPG SX8200 turned in an outstanding RoboBench performance, reaffirming that the IOMeter sequential write results are off-kilter. On the next page, it’s time to press the drive into primary storage service.
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.
Snappy as any drive can be. Boot results are never very well-differentiated, but nonetheless the Adata drive comes out ahead of many other drives.
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 790-MB 4K video in Avidemux, a 30-MB spreadsheet in LibreOffice, and a 523-MB image file in the GIMP. In the Visual Studio Express test, we open a 159-MB project containing source code for the LLVM toolchain. Thanks to Rui Figueira for providing the project code.
Bog-standard load times across the board. Games are next.
Nothing remarkable here. The XPG SX8200 will load your games just fine. XPG is a gamer brand, after all.
Our primary storage testing didn’t uncover anything ugly hiding in the SX8200’s PCB. Flip to the next page for our test methods or skip ahead to read the conclusion.
Test notes and methods
Here are the essential details for all the drives we tested:
|Adata Premier SP550 480GB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2256||16-nm SK Hynix TLC|
|Adata Ultimate SU800 512GB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2258||32-layer Micron 3D TLC|
|Adata Ultimate SU900 256GB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2258||Micron 3D MLC|
|Adata XPG SX8200 480GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Silicon Motion SM2262||64-layer Micron 3D TLC|
|Adata XPG SX930 240GB||SATA 6Gbps||JMicron JMF670H||16-nm Micron MLC|
|Corsair MP500 240GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Phison 5007-E7||15-nm Toshiba MLC|
|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|
|Crucial MX300 750GB||SATA 6Gbps||Marvell 88SS1074||32-layer Micron 3D TLC|
|Crucial MX500 500GB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2258||64-layer Micron 3D TLC|
|Crucial MX500 1TB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2258||64-layer Micron 3D TLC|
|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|
|Mushkin Reactor 1TB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2246EN||16-nm Micron 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|
|Patriot Hellfire 480GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Phison 5007-E7||15-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 512GB||SATA 6Gbps||Samsung MEX||32-layer Samsung MLC|
|Samsung 860 Pro 1TB||SATA 6Gbps||Samsung MJX||64-layer Samsung MLC|
|Samsung 950 Pro 512GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung UBX||32-layer Samsung MLC|
|Samsung 960 EVO 250GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung Polaris||32-layer Samsung TLC|
|Samsung 960 EVO 1TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung Polaris||48-layer Samsung TLC|
|Samsung 960 Pro 2TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung Polaris||48-layer Samsung MLC|
|Samsung 970 EVO 1TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung Phoenix||64-layer Samsung TLC|
|Samsung SM951 512GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung S4LN058A01X01||16-nm Samsung MLC|
|Samsung XP941 256GB||PCIe Gen2 x4||Samsung S4LN053X01||19-nm Samsung MLC|
|Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Toshiba TC58||15-nm Toshiba MLC|
|Toshiba OCZ VX500 512GB||SATA 6Gbps||Toshiba TC358790XBG||15-nm Toshiba MLC|
|Toshiba TR200 480GB||SATA 6Gbps||Toshiba TC58||64-layer Toshiba BiCS TLC|
|Toshiba XG5 1TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Toshiba TC58||64-layer Toshiba BiCS TLC|
|Transcend SSD370 256GB||SATA 6Gbps||Transcend TS6500||Micron or SanDisk MLC|
|Transcend SSD370 1TB||SATA 6Gbps||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, 950 Pro, RD400, and 960 Pro require 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|
|Platform hub||Intel Z97|
|Platform drivers||Chipset: 10.0.0.13
|Memory size||16GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||Adata XPG V3 DDR3 at 1600 MT/s|
|Audio||Realtek ALC1150 with 188.8.131.5244 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:
- IOMeter 1.1.0 x64
- TR RoboBench 0.2a
- Avidemux 2.6.8 x64
- LibreOffice 4.3.2
- GIMP 2.8.14
- Visual Studio Express 2013
- Batman: Arkham Origins
- Tomb Raider
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
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.
With the sole exception of our IOMeter sequential write tests, the XPG SX8200 put on a strong showing throughout our test suite. We fully expect it to earn a respectable place among our rankings. 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.
The SX8200 480 GB turns out to be about as fast the 950 Pro 512 GB and RD400 512 GB (neither of which suffered any IOMeter setbacks when we tested them). This is a great place for the SX8200 to be, and it’s heartening to see that fab-less OEMs like Adata can produce drives as compelling as more vertically-integrated players like Toshiba and Samsung. Of course, Samsung’s newer drives are faster than this SX8200, but they’re also quite a bit more expensive.
That brings us to the question of bang-for-the-buck. In the plots below, the most compelling position is toward the upper left corner, where the price per gigabyte is low and performance is high. Use the buttons to switch between views of all drives, only SATA drives, or only PCIe drives.
At $0.40 per gigabyte from Amazon, the XPG SX8200 is the cheapest NVMe drive currently available in our result set. It’s tied with Samsung’s 970 EVO 1 TB, which got a surprise price cut on launch. At the same time, it nearly matches the performance of the RD400, which is the strongest 500 GB-class NVMe drive we’ve reviewed. The XPG SX8200 also handily outclasses the more expensive Intel SSD 760p, whose mission is explicitly bang-for-buck.
All told, the Adata drive’s blend of performance and affordability gives it an enviable perch on our scatter plots. Our conclusions might have been a completely different story if the drive was going for its initial asking price of $260. The SX8200 would have been a great little drive that nobody would ever buy, given that the 970 Pro 512 GB’s new launch price is only $250.
As it stands, the SX8200 easily gets our recommendation. The drive offered us lightning-quick file transfer speeds, steadfast application load times, and a close-to-irreproachable IOMeter performance. Combined with its low street price and five-year warranty, the XPG SX8200 leaves little to be desired. If it had managed to ace our IOMeter sequential write tests, or maybe if it offered more robust encryption features, the drive could have been a strong contender for an Editor’s Choice award, but for now it goes home TR Recommended.