Articles: Storage

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SandForce have put much effort into promoting their second-generation SSD controllers. Providing their reference PCBs and firmware to every SSD maker who wants them and supporting a broad range of flash memory chips in their controllers, SandForce have made their platform highly popular among top brands that have been in the flash storage business for many years as well as among young firms that want to make their first try.

All of this ultimately benefits the end-user. When there's a lot of competing products, we can expect to see very attractive offers. Today we are going to take a look at one of them. It’s a solid state drive from ADATA based on the SF-2281 controller. Not a prominent name on the SSD market, ADATA wants to win our hearts with enticing prices. The company's SandForce-based products are exactly like those of the more renowned brands, so why should you pay more for the brand only?

To have a full picture, let’s check out ADATA products in practical tests. The company has supplied us its flagship S511 SSD with a capacity of 240 gigabytes. Let’s have a look at it right now.

Closer Look at ADATA S511 240GB

ADATA has two varieties of SSDs based on the second-generation SandForce controllers: S511 and S510. The flagship S511 model features more expensive flash memory and higher performance. Ours is a 240GB SSD but the S511 series is also available in capacities of 60, 120 and 480 gigabytes.

The SSD comes in a rather nice-looking small cardboard box. The storage capacity of the product can be learned through the small window cut out in the face side of the package.

Judging by the text on the box, ADATA puts an emphasis on the SSD’s support of such technologies as SATA 6 Gbit/s, TRIM, NCQ and SMART but these are no competitive advantages. Every other modern SSD has all of them as well.

The box contains a standard set of things besides the SSD proper: an adapter for mounting the SSD into a 3.5-inch disk bay of your system case, an installation guide and a manual for Disk Migration Utility which facilitates the transfer of data from your old HDD to the new SSD. The utility itself is missing in the box, though. You are supposed to download it yourself from the ADATA website.

There’s nothing extraordinary about the exterior design of this product. The ADATA S511 looks just like a 2.5-inch SSD is supposed to look.


The most exciting things are hidden inside, of course.

So, the ADATA S511 240GB contains a PCB with a second-generation SandForce 2281 controller and 16 NAND flash memory chips manufactured by Intel. The marking indicates that these are 128-gigabit chips, each with two 25nm MLC flash dies with synchronous ONFI 2.2 interface. Thus, the controller has eight-channel access to the flash chips and complements it with 4-way interleaving (we talked about the benefits of that technique in our previous review). It’s easy to calculate that the total amount of memory inside this SSD is 256 gigabytes, but 16 gigabytes are a reserve space, traditionally for SandForce-based products.

The ADATA S511 falls into a large category of high-performance SSDs with SF-2281 controller and 25nm synchronous flash. Other products in this category include, for example, Corsair Force Series GT, Kingston HyperX and OCZ Vertex 3, so that’s quite a respectable company.

ADATA is regularly updating firmware for its products, so the ADATA S511 can be used with a version which is based on the latest SandForce 3.3.2 reference firmware. This is important since this reference firmware version is supposed to be free of old bugs that used to plague SF-2281-based products in the past.

Here are the official S511 240GB specs:

  • Controller: SandForce SF-2281
  • Interface: SATA 6 Gbit/s
  • Flash memory: synchronous 25 nm NAND
  • Capacity: 240 gigabytes
  • Cache memory: none
  • Sequential read speed: 550 MB/s
  • Sequential write speed: 520 MB/s
  • Random write speed (in 4 KB data blocks): 85,000 IOPS

Like many other SSD makers, ADATA offers a 3-year warranty for its products.

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