ADATA SX900 128GB SSD Review

The ADATA SX900 128GB SSD came to us with a surprise under the hood, the new B02 version of the SandForce SF-2281 controller. This new stepping is designed to provide revolutionary improvements in power efficiency with no loss of speed. We test the SX900 and the SF-2281VB2-SPC controller to see how it stacks up against the competition.


SSD Test System

Compiled of mainstream components, the HardOCP SSD Test System is a good representation of a system that the majority of our readers will be using. This allows us to provide results as observed in the average users system.

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Testing Parameters

Testing SSDs can be a very trying experience for many who aren't accustomed to the "ins and outs" of these types of drives. As we get further away from the good old days when SSDs were a nutty over-the-top extravagance, the technology has continued to mature considerably.

One of the hardest concepts for newcomers to this technology to grasp is that SSDs simply aren't going to behave the same on the 100th day of use as it did on the first. This is just the reality of the situation, and even the maturation of the technology hasn't totally dispelled with these performance hills and valleys. Luckily the performance of SDDs has become more consistent with each generation, so the wild swings in performance aren't as pronounced today as those were even a few short years ago.

SSDs perform differently over the course of time for a various number of reasons. For the sake of testing and creating reproducible results the tests must be conducted under certain conditions, in an environment that will not change radically over the course of time.

There are three major types of testing, and some are better at certain aspects than others;

  • Synthetic Benchmarks: These are your typical AS SSD and HDTune testing applications, and extend to more advanced tests such as Iometer. These measure the performance of the SSDs in a manner that is typically unaffected by other components in the system, and provide a good idea of the base level of performance of the drive itself.

  • Trace-Based Benchmarks: These extend to programs such as PCMark Vantage and PCMark 7, and involve replaying a recording of computer activity that is gathered during certain system tasks. We will be using several "industry standard" traces that can be easily used by others to reproduce our results. Some testers will create custom traces to use and compare SSDs. This can sometimes lead to an unfair portrayal of system performance, as the traces themselves can be favorable to one type of drive over another, just by the nature of the system use during recording. Since these "proprietary" traces aren't available for others to freely use and reproduce results, we will not take that approach.

  • Application-Based Benchmarks: These tests measure the performance of applications more than these do the performance of the storage subsystem. We will use this approach sparingly, and only in cases where the performance of the underlying computer system, such as RAM, CPU, and GPU do not affect the results of the storage subsystem.

Steady State Testing

One area of performance that isn't mentioned often is the condition referred to as "steady state." This is the performance that will be experienced after an extended period of time with the SSD. We will be using Iometer testing to show the difference between a brand new shiny SSD, and that same SSD after it is loaded with data and subjected to continuous use over a period of time.

We will also use SNIA guidelines to place the SSD into steady state, and then test with our trace applications. Steady State trace-based testing will illuminate a bit of the difference between actual application performance after the SSD has been used for a period of time.

Simply put, there is no one program that can give us the whole picture of the SSDs performance. The trick is to know which programs to utilize and what measurements to take into consideration when evaluating the overall performance of the SSD. We will of course try to help you out with making an informed purchasing decision.