This spring has turned out to be the time for nearly all SSD OEMs to update their lineups. A little over a month ago Intel introduced the SSD 730 and a bit over a week ago Crucial/Micron added the M550 to its portfolio. Today it's ADATA's time to join the game with their Premier Pro SP920...and FYI, there will be no April Fools jokes here.

While we are still a quarter or two away from wider availability of PCIe drives and the next big wave of SSDs, the recent product releases in the NAND department have made it economically reasonable for OEMs to update their drives. Both IMFT's 128Gbit 20nm MLC and Toshiba/SanDisk's second generation 64Gbit 19nm NAND are now available in volume, and given the higher density and thus lower price, it makes sense for tier two OEMs (i.e. the ones without NAND fabs) to adopt the new NAND into their products.

The SP920 is actually the first non-Crucial/Micron SSD to use Micron's 128Gbit 20nm MLC NAND. As a matter of fact, the SP920 adopts far more than just the 128Gbit 20nm NAND from Micron—the SP920 is more or less a rebranded M550. Everything from the PCB and chassis designs to the component choices are a match with the M550. In fact, even the firmware in the SP920 is listed as "MU1", which is the same as in the M550 and Crucial/Micron in general is known to use MUx firmware names. Thus, we're basically looking at a rebranded M550.

Crucial M550 vs ADATA SP920
  Crucial M550 ADATA SP920
Controller Marvell 88SS9189 Marvell 88SS9189
NAND Micron 64/128Gbit 20nm MLC Micron 128Gbit 20nm MLC
Capacity 128GB 256GB 512GB 1TB 128GB 256GB 512GB 1TB
Sequential Read 550MB/s 560MB/s
Sequential Write 350MB/s 500MB/s 180MB/s 360MB/s 500MB/s
4KB Random Read 90K IOPS 95K IOPS 80K IOPS 96K IOPS 98K IOPS
4KB Random Write 75K IOPS 80K IOPS 85K IOPS 45K IOPS 80K IOPS 88K IOPS
Endurance 72TB (~66GB/day) 72TB (~66GB/day)
Warranty Three years Three years

The only difference between the SP920 and M550 is that the SP920 uses 128Gbit NAND in all models, whereas the M550 only uses that in the 512GB and 1TB models and the smaller capacities use 64Gbit NAND. That gives ADATA a slight price advantage (128Gbit die has higher density and is thus cheaper) but in turn the performance of 128GB and 256GB models is worse due to fewer dies. At the bigger capacities ADATA is a bit more optimistic with the performance figures, which is something that's fairly common for the tier two OEMs. The likes of Intel, Crucial/Micron and Samsung like to be conservative and round the numbers down, whereas smaller OEMs will advertise every single IOPS and MBps they can get out of the drive.

ADATA obviously can't comment on the similarity for contract reasons but they are not denying that the SP920 is rebrand. They did disclose that the firmware is from a third party, which further confirms that we are looking at an M550 with different branding.

I'm generally not a big fan of rebrands because they don't really bring anything new to the market but I do see the business reasons behind it. In order for companies to be profitable, they must focus on their core competence and the actual product doesn't have to be that. If your sales channels or marketing for instance are more efficient that your competitors', you may be able to sell the exact same product and make more profit than the others. I have no doubts that ADATA has better sales channels in Asia and other markets close to its home ground and hence it can be viable to sell a rebranded drive. In the end, more competition is always welcome.

Advertised Capacity 128GB 256GB 512GB 1TB
Raw NAND Capacity 128GiB 256GiB 512GiB 1024GiB
# of NAND Packages 8 16 16 16
# of Die per Package 1x16GiB 1x16GiB 2x16GiB 4x16GiB
DRAM 256MB 256MB 512MB 1GB

Similar to the M550, the SP920 features full support for Microsoft eDrive thanks to TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 standards. Power loss protection is also included. Since the SP920 is almost an exact copy of the M550, please read our M550 review for more in-depth coverage of the included features and their purposes. As for the ADATA SP920, the main difference we'll see here is in performance of the 128GB and 256GB models, so let's get to the benchmark.

EDIT: The SP920 doesn't actually support TCG Opal 2.0 or IEEE-1667. This seems to be a feature Micron is keeping to themselves. 

Performance Consistency & TRIM Validation
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  • Samus - Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - link

    Marvell controllers are just simpler than Sandforce (which is a good thing)

    Marvell has eDrive support in their newer controllers, simpler firmware, lower power usage, and no compression technology (making the implementation simple and performance consistent)

    I prefer Marvell and Intel controllers over everyone else's but some newer controllers have looked promising (like OCZ's Barefoot)
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, April 3, 2014 - link

    Marvell only provides the silicon - the firmware development is up to the manufacturer.
  • hojnikb - Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - link

    It's interesting to see that lower capacity versions perform better than m500, despite using the same die size flash. Is this because of the updated controller or more aggressive flash programming ?
  • Samus - Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - link

    They have the m550 controller but use the m500's NAND technology so the lower capacity drives are in between the m500 and m550 in performance.
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, April 3, 2014 - link

    Likely just better optimization at the firmware level.
  • hojnikb - Thursday, April 3, 2014 - link

    So in theory, they could update the m500 and boost it's, if they wanted ?
  • hojnikb - Thursday, April 3, 2014 - link

    *write speed, silly me :)

    (damn no edit option)
  • nick2crete - Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - link

    Well ,i prefer to deal with Crucial than Adata even overseas where i am ..
  • Hubb1e - Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - link

    I just wanted to let the writer and editorial staff know that a good number of people skip right to the end of the article for the normal recap of the article's main points. This is especially true for SSD articles which IMO are getting to be a commodity and aren't all that interesting anymore. I felt that the final words didn't do a good job of recapping where this drive stands in the overall SSD segment, didn't give much in the way of a pro/cons for this drive, and refereed too much to a comparison with a drive that I don't know much about. This seems like a new writer so I wanted to let the staff know about my opinion on this so he can improve his next article for Anandtech.
  • mcnaughty - Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - link

    Totally agreed. Skip the waffle, we regular readers know all this already. Give us the numbers, and the interesting differences.

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