ADATA SX300 128GB mSATA SSD Review

airman - 2012-09-03 16:18:24 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: October 14, 2012
Price: $124.99

Introduction:

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to review an SSD by ADATA. the ADATA SX900 128GB. That drive offered excellent performance at a price point just above $100 — a worthy substitute to a more expensive drive that achieves similar results. Today in the spotlight is the younger sister to the ADATA SX900 series drives. Instead of using strictly SATA, ADATA has developed this device to provide a product for which people can finally dust off their mSATA ports and play with them for a while. The ADATA SX300 120GB is an mSATA hard drive, which provides a super easy way to add extra storage to your laptop or motherboard that supports it.

This review will feature a complete evaluation of the ADATA SX300 128GB mSATA SSD. I will review its physical appearance, cover its hardware, and present its performance results from a wide range of synthetic hard drive benchmarking tools. These results will provide a comparison between its performance and how it compares to other drives. I like the idea of mSATA because adding a second hard drive to a laptop or adding a caching drive on your desktop is super easy and can take as little as 30 seconds to install. In this review, I will be using it as a system drive operating on Windows 7. Let's get started first by taking a look at the drive, its packaging, its hardware.

 

Closer Look:

Not unlike the packaging for the ADATA SX900, the ADATA SX300 is housed in a blue and black box that has a window in the front to allow the new or potential owner to see the drive. The ADATA logo is at the top and a hummingbird is on the left side of the front face. To the right of the hummingbird is the drive's model number (SX300), that it is SATA 6Gb/s, and that is has an mSATA interface. On the bottom right of the front face is an icon that says Norton Internet Security is free for 60 days and that it comes with a 3-year warranty. The rear of the box says the same thing in more than a dozen languages, as well as "Built-in ECC and Wear-Leveling technology / Compatible with Serial ATA (SATA) specification / Applicable to Intel Smart Response Technology". Other than that, the company's website is listed and a barcode/serial number is printed on the back as well.

 

 

 

 

 

The only thing inside of the box is a plastic tray that contains the drive itself. I should have put something for scale in the picture, but the drive is about 3cm tall by about 5cm in width (standard to mSATA devices). Taking a close look at the drive, I see that it's a rather simple piece of equipment — not too much more than a really fancy flash drive. The only thing that sets it apart is its 6Gb/s capability, allowing it to have transfer speeds over 500MB/s, both read and write. There are two memory chips per side of the PCB, meaning that these chips are 32GB a piece — wow! However, there is no indication on them as to their brand or manufacturer's name. We find a SandForce controller under the warranty sticker (the SF-2281VB1-SDC to be exact). SandForce appears in many other high end drives that provide some great numbers.

 

 

 

Now that I have taken a close look at the drive and its packaging, we can now move onto its Specifications & Features. After this, I will begin testing and sharing these results.

Specifications:

Capacity
64GB/128GB/256GB
Form Factor
Full-size mSATA
Interface
SATA 6Gb/s
NAND Flash
Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND Flash Memory
Controller
LSI SandForce SF-2281
Dimensions
50.95 x 30 x 4 mm (L x W x T)
Weight
7g
Performance
Read: 550 MB/s
Write: 505 MB/s
IOPS: Read 25,000 / Write 85,000 (Maximum 4K Random Write)
Operating Temperature
0 °C – 70 °C
Storage Temperature
-40 °C – 85 °C
Shock Resistance
1500G / 0.5ms
MTBF
1,200,000 Hours
ECC Recovery
Up to 55 bits correctable per 512-byte sector (BCH)
Certification
RoHS, CE, FCC
Warranty
3 Years

 

Features:

 

 

 

 

Information provided courtesy of ADATA @ http://www.adata-group.com.

Testing:

Testing of hard drives can be done in several different ways – one method involves leaving the drive bare and connecting it as a secondary drive in an existing system. By simultaneously cleaning the drive after each benchmark run-through, this allows you to see its theoretical peaks in performance. However, these results would only represent a best-case scenario – one that you may never see unless operating a bare drive. The second method, which OverclockersClub employs, involves loading the operating system and benchmarking suite onto the test drive itself. This would give performance results that emulate real-world usage more closely. Testing will be completed with the Z68-based system listed below, alongside a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit that is updated to SP1 and fully patched as of the date of testing. The latest Intel Rapid Storage technology drivers and software have also been installed. All tests are conducted with the drive connected to a native SATA III 6 Gb/s port on the motherboard, in an effort to eliminate any possible bottlenecks with performance.

 

An important note about this setup:

The motherboard used in this review setup does not have a SATA3-capable mSATA port, which will hinder result reporting. We were unable to find a SATA3-capable mSATA port in OCC's arsenal of available hardware or else we would have tested on that!

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Drives:

 

Benchmarks:

  1. HD Tune 4.60 Pro
  2. HD Tach
  3. SiSoft Sandra 2012
  4. Crystal Disk Mark
  5. ATTO Disk Benchmark
  6. AS SSD
  7. IO Meter
  8. PCMark Vantage
  9. Windows Startup / Shutdown

Testing:

HD Tune 4.60 Pro measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers. In the 4.60 Pro version, the user can measure not only drive performance as a whole, but run more precise file and random access benchmarks as well.

Benchmark:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HDTune shows us the wall built by running the SSD on a SATA2 port instead of a SATA3 port. However, in lower-speed tests we find the ADATA SX300 among the fastest drives.

Testing:

HD Tach v3.0.4.0: HD Tach is another hard drive benchmark utility, much like HD Tune. This benchmark measures the average read speed, random access time, and CPU utilization during operation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The burst speed that this drive is capable of providing is a surprising figure. It's the third fastest drive tested and only lags the tied leaders by 0.2 MB/s. The drive index figure determined by SiSoft Sandra shows us the ~270 MB/s limitation from SATA2.

Testing:

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0: Crystal Disk Mark is a hard drive benchmark designed to measure the read and write speeds of drives by using 4k blocks, 512k blocks, and sequential data. For the test, we chose the 1000MB option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The SATA2 mSATA interface on this Gigabyte Z68 board shows its limiting effects on overall drive performance. However, even on SATA2, these speeds still provide a very fast experience.

Testing:

Atto Disk Benchmark v2.47: Atto Disk Benchmark is another aged, but good hard drive benchmark utility designed to test read and write speeds for different file sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here again we see the speed of this mSATA SSD worthily compared to the top competitors in the 4K testing. In the other tests, we can clearly see the line between SATA2 drives and SATA3 drives.

Testing:

AS SSD v1.1.3466.29641: AS SSD is a benchmark specifically designed to test the speed of solid state drives. However, it also works for traditional hard drives. It is designed to measure the read and write speeds, as well as access times for set block sizes. It also assigns a score to the read, write, and overall performance of the drive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing too much to note in these tests — we see scattering about many drives' scores. One interesting thing is we see similar results between both ADATA drives, even though the SX900 was tested on SATA3.

Testing:

IOMeter is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. It was originally developed by the Intel Corporation and announced at the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) on February 17, 1998. Since then, it has seen widespread use within the industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For performance metrics, the ADATA SX300 mSATA SSD doesn't supply very specatcular numbers, but this is most likely due to the SATA2 limitation.

Testing:

PCMark Vantage: With this benchmark, I will be running the hard drive test suite. The measurement for the hard drive suite will be the total score, then the scoring for each test will be broken down. There are a total of eight hard drive tests within PCMark Vantage, and all eight will be run to gauge the performance of each drive tested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some charts do a good job at characterizing the drop-off between SATA2 and SATA3. Other results are a mixed bag — this mSATA SSD performs in the lower-average group of drives in Futuremark's PCMark Vantage.

Testing:

In the world of computing, everyone likes a computer that can start up and shut down quickly. The ability to boot into your system as fast as possible allows you to start the tasks you set out to do that much more quickly. Not to mention the older you get, the greater the chance is that you'll forget what you wanted to use the computer for in the first place! The sweet spot is about 30 seconds or less. It is possible with conventional hard drives, though very difficult to attain this "golden" 30-second time. This time should be easier to attain with the speed of an SSD, but the only way to tell is to test it. To run these tests, I used a stopwatch to calculate the number of seconds it took from pressing the power button on the case, to having a fully-functioning desktop. For the shutdown test, I began timing from the click of the shutdown button in the start menu, and stopped when the system power was off completely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like many of the other recent SSDs we've tested, the ADATA SX300 128GB mSATA SSD is among the fastest in this category.

Conclusion:

Even though I wasn't able to fully stretch the legs of the ADATA SX300 128GB mSATA SSD since my mSATA port is only SATA2, I still feel like the visible performance is very comforting. Most likely, this drive will be used in a laptop or other small form factor device, where either a SATA3 mSATA port will be unlikely or the raw performance from SATA3 is just not necessary and won't typically be missed.

The closest "apples to apples" comparisons I was able to see came from the small file read/write tests where the drive's bandwidth isn't capped by the SATA2 interface. In these tests, we find the ADATA SX300 mSATA SSD to be matching up quite well with the other top competitors. The SandForce controller is certainly an excellent medium for excellent drive performance, even if limited by a SATA2 port on a SATA3 drive. Moving to an SSD on a laptop, in particular, creates a much better experience with must faster startup and shutdown times and improved battery life. With an ADATA SSD in my laptop, it can shut down and restart in the time that it can hibernate and boot up. For just under $1 per gigabyte, the ADATA SX300 provides very nice enhancements over a conventional mechanical hard drive. Even though I'm using it on a SATA2 interface and I know I am missing out on some raw performance, to the naked eye, day-to-day tasks would not show much difference.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: