Looking for an SSD on a tight budget? Well, ADATA may have just what you’re looking for. In the cutthroat storage business, low prices are a given – especially at lower drive capacities. As such, it takes something more than just a low price to make for a convincing proposition. If pricing can’t go any lower, how about increasing the performance? That’s one way of doing things, and with the SP550 ADATA has chosen a middle ground of sorts.
Understand that when moving from a traditional mechanical drive to any modern SSD, the performance gain is significant. However, when you’ve already been using an SSD, the differences are less dramatic. For most users, it will prove challenging to tell the difference between, say, the SX930 (the last ADATA SSD we reviewed) and the SP550. This SSD comes in at an even lower cost for those who are looking into purchasing an SSD, but just can’t justify the price of the SX930 and similarly priced SSDs. What you’re getting is an SSD that performs well enough to have you appreciate the upgrade, but without making you pay any more than you would for a high-performance mechanical drive a few years ago.
As games, media and applications balloon in size, 128GB is no longer enough and 240GB is, at this time, the minimum for any kind of useful storage, especially within the context of a gaming machine. At this capacity, ADATA is providing respectable numbers across the performance range, with sequential read and write performance above the 500MB/s mark (incidentally, that’s higher than what we recorded with the SX930). However, those impressive figures aren’t enough to ensure a speedy drive and a snappy Windows experience. Noticeable performance gains are largely the result of speedy smaller transactions, and the SP550 performs moderately well at these.
Keep in mind this is not supposed to be an IO monster, but a desktop drive on the low-end of the pricing spectrum. ADATA claims a symmetrical 75,000 IOPS for both reads and writes, but in our testing we found that to be closer to the 55,000 mark. This is partly due to the different operating environment in which ADATA tests their drives, but it is consistent with our expectations and the results from other drives we’ve tested. The truth about IOPS performance, especially at QD32, is that it represents workloads that are far from typical of a desktop machine. Even then, 55,000 IOPS is over an order of magnitude more than what a traditional HDD offers. At this point the differences in performance are academic, so you shouldn’t obsess over these numbers. Suffice to say, the drive is more than fast enough for everyday use and gaming as well.
For those who are interested in the internals of the drive, the SP550 offers a respectable BOM which includes tri-level-cell NAND (TLC) from SK Hynix and 256MB of DDR3 memory from Samsung serving as cache. Together these are driven by the Silicon Motion SM2256 controller. This 240GB model makes use of eight NAND chips and as such the total capacity is actually 256GB. However, over-provisioning leaves you with a total of 223GB for use after a Windows format.
As for extras, ADATA is providing the typical software package with the SSD Toolbox, which takes care of your drive’s health, informing you of its status, firmware updates and just about anything else you may need to know about your drive, including optimizing its performance. The package is thin but it will suffice as it more than gets the job done. Simple drive-cloning software would’ve been great to see included, so you wouldn’t have to rely on third party tools – but given how infrequently most users need such software, it comes as no surprise that this isn’t featured as part of the toolbox.
Overall, this drive is competent and offers a fair and viable upgrade for those still on mechanical drives. It won’t deliver the performance of the SX930 and other high-end drives, but for the going price it’s hard to beat. Add in the three-year warranty and you have a truly convincing piece of kit for just under R1,400. We’re still partial to the SX930, but the SP550 is more than enough and offers perhaps the best value for money SSD you can buy.