ADATA is the largest manufacturer of flash and dRAM memory for computers in Taiwan. They have been at the forefront of developing SSD for many years, bringing famous sSDs such as the SX8200, SX900, and S510.
Now, we need to review the ADATA Swordfish SSD in the 1 TB variant. It is available in the M.2 form factor, using a fast x4 3.0 PCI-Express connection to interact with the rest of the system. Under the hood, ADATA uses an RTS5763DL Realtek controller, which is Realtek’s entry-level SSD controller with four channels, but full bandwidth of the x4 PCIe interface and support for AES encryption. Flash chips are 96-layer TLC 3D flashes produced by Toshiba/Sandisk. ADATA has renamed the NAND chips and simply declares them as “3D NAND flash”. For cost reasons, a DRAM cache module is not installed. We looked at the ADATA Falcon last week, which is slightly high-end: 10 dollars more expensive and better performing because it is based on the RTS5763DL, it also has more capacity because it lacks additional overprovisioning.
The ADATA swordfish is available with a capacity of 250 GB (40 USD), 500 GB (65), 1 TB (115 USD) and 2 TB (230 USD). The strength for these models is set to 120 TBW, 240 TBW, 480 TBW, and 960 TBW, respectively. ADATA comes with a five-year warranty.
The ADATA Swordfish is basically the most affordable M.2 NVMe SSD on the market; there are some competitors in a few dollars, but this doesn’t really make any difference. We checked the ADATA Falcon last week, which is “very affordable” at 130 dollars, but the swordfish is on a completely different level, offering 1 TB of capacity for 115 dollars, which is a difference of more than 10%.
Internally, the ADATA Swordfish is powered by a four-channel Realtek RTS5763DL controller, which is the company’s most affordable controller that still offers decent performance. Last week’s ADATA Falcon uses the Realtek RTS5762DL, which is basically a higher level and a slightly higher price ratio. The flash tokens on the Swordfish are 96 layers Sandisk/ Toshiba TLC, which is a selling point against those QLC units that occupy the same price range, making them direct competitors.
Average in all our real-world tests, the ADATA Swordfish performs performance very similar to those QLC drives. The crucial P1 is 1% faster and the Sabrent Rocket Q is 2% slower. The comparable entry-level TLC units are Intel 660p, WD Blue NVMe and ADATA SX6000 Pro, which appears to be a narrow cousin of swordfish. The fastest units in our test suite, such as ADATA SX8200 Pro, HP EX950 and Kingston KC2000, are about 10% faster, certainly noticeable, especially when it comes to non-consuming workloads.
To reduce production costs, ADATA does not include a DRAM cache chip in swordfish. DRAM on an SSD is used as a fast temporary storage for the drive’s internal allocation tables, which are converted between the physical disk addresses (as seen in the operating system) and the actual location where the data is stored on the flash chips: “which chip, at which location”. Using DRAM has a speed advantage because it works much faster than flash, but it’s a cost/performance balance. A 1TB SSD typically uses 1 GB of DRAM, which costs a few dollars. If you can save money, you’ll be able to position your drive more aggressively, which will lead to more sales, or you’ll enjoy higher margins. The downside is that random IOPS performance is lower because the controller needs to access the flash more often to process allocation tables. For almost all consumer workloads, random writing performance in a large area doesn’t really matter, as our benchmarks demonstrate. Consumer workloads are still very heavy, and if writes occur, they are in a relatively small area, so exactly SSDs without DRAM were invented.
Looking at the synthetics, we see that the Realtek controller is definitely disabled a little. Random read/write is lower than many competitors, sequential transfers reach 1.8 GB/s of read and writes 1.2 GB/s. Our real tests show that performance is not half 3GB/s drives, even close. In order to improve performance, Swordfish SSD uses the NVMe host memory buffer, which automatically allocates a small portion of the system’s main memory for SSD allocation tables, 16 MB in this case.
Where the Realtek controller shines is a heavy writing performance. Unlike other transmission status units on the market, ADATA has configured its unit to use as much capacity as possible in pseudo-SLC mode, which helps absorb large bursts of writing. This 1TB version uses the maximum theoretically available capacity of SLC: 350 GB. This is a big plus over small SLC cache drives. For example, the WD Black has only 6 GB, which means that the write speeds will decrease after only a few GB written; The Swordfish ADATA will happily slip by hundreds of GB. Once the SLC cache is exhausted, performance decreases significantly, however, because the controller literally has no space to work with, so it must download the SLC control level to tLC in the background when managing inbound writes from the host system. However, given the large cache size, this problem is unlikely to occur. Once the write task stops, the drive will automatically download the SLC data to TLC, so the maximum performance will be restored after a while.
The ADATA Swordfish comes with a metal thermo-shooter, which looks great and definitely adds to the look of the product. However, the term “state” cannot completely eliminate the limitation in the most difficult conditions. In our heat test we saw some limitation after about eight minutes of non-stop writes, which essentially means “no thermal limitation”. This is a very good result; Low-cost heatsink avoids limitation for all typical use cases, so that they run at maximum performance.Photo:ADATA
The ADATA Swordfish 1 TB sells for 115 dollars, which is a very convincing argument. In this price range, we see no alternative. If you’re willing to spend an additional 5 dollars, the Sabrent Rocket Q might be an option. If you’re willing to increase your budget by 15 dollars, which is over 10%, several other units are worth a look, with the Silicon Power P34A80 and ADATA Falcon my favorites here. Last but not least, high-end units aren’t that far off in absolute dollars. Around 150 dollars, different SSDs, such as HP EX950 and ADATA SX8200 Pro, offer much better performance, but they are also more expensive. You could definitely consider the swordfish ADATA for an unenthusiastic system, perhaps for mom and dad, or for other uses where cost is much more important than final performance.
|SSD 1 TB ADATA Swordfish|
|Form Factor||M.2 2280|
|NAND Flash||3D NAND|
|Sequential R/W performance (max)||Up to 1800/1200MB/s|
|Storage temperature||-40°C – 85°C|
|Note||1. Performance may vary based on SSD capacity, host hardware and software, operating system, and other system variables. 2. The SSD is based on the TBW or Warranty period. 3. Visit www.adata.com/en/ss/prowar/ for more details.|
|Dimensions (L x W x H)||80 x 22 x 3.85mm|
|Weight||10.5g / 0.37oz|