ADATA XPG SX300 128GB & Intel 525 Series 180GB mSATA SSDs

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ADATA XPG SX300 128GB & Intel 525 Series 180GB mSATA SSDs

January 20, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

ADATA XPG SX300 128GB mSATA SSD Intel 525 Series 180GB mSATA SSD
ADATA Technology Intel
Street Price
US$125 ?

Mini-SATA is a small form factor developed by Intel for solid state drives using the mini-PCI Express interface. It's supported on a handful of desktop and mini-ITX motherboards but more common in the mobile space. Most laptops and ultrabooks have but a single SATA drive bay, forcing users to sacrifice storage space for a peppy SSD or trade performance for a roomy old fashioned hard drive. Having an mSATA option allows you to have both, using an SSD on the mini-PCIe slot and a HDD on SATA.

The ADATA XPG SX300 and Intel 525 Series 180GB are two more SandForce SF-2281 based SSDs, though this time in mSATA form. The last ADATA model we tested, the SX910, was a fairly snappy drive but faced heavy competition in a market flooded with 2.5 inch SATA SSDs, mainly other SandForce models. As mSATA is just taking off, the SX300 and 525 face virtually no competition. The Intel 525 is similar to the the 520, though according to earlier reports, it was supposed to be equipped with 22 nm NAND Flash — our CX300 and 525 samples are both outfitted with run-of-the-mill 25 nm modules. The 525 hasn't been officially released but one was fortuitously included with our sample of the Intel Next Unit Computing DC3217BY.

ADATA XPG SX300 128GB and Intel 525 Series 180GB.

Due to the small form factor, mSATA drives top out at about 256GB though this shouldn't be an issue for most users since larger drives are prohibitively expensive per byte. With the circuit board being a minuscule 51 x 30 mm, finer fabrication processes are required to increase storage capacity. Both drives have a SF-2281 controller chip and 25 nm Flash chips, 4 x 32GB for the ADATA SX300 128GB and 3 x 64GB for the Intel 525 180GB.

Like most SandForce drives, a percentage of the 525's storage is withheld from the user to replace cells as they eventually wear out from overuse. The SX300 follows in the footsteps of the SX910, having altered firmware that frees up all available capacity to the user. This obviously creates some concern regarding longevity but ADATA is apparently confident with this move, rating the drive for 1,200,000 hours of operation and backing it with a standard 3 year warranty.

Intel 525 180GB installed on a SATA drive adapter.

Like most desktoptop motherboards, our hard drive testing platforms lacks an mSATA connector, so testing these SSDs are tested using an mSATA to SATA adapter, model number Syba SY-ADA40050. The documentationc claims no bottleneck for dataflow, but we would not be surprised if there is some overhead, however slim. The adapter board has an exposed circuit board which can be an issue depending on how snug the SATA power connector fits. Flexing and even cracking or breaking the board is within the realm of possibility, so some caution should be exercised handling the adapter.

ADATA XPG SX300: Specifications
(from the product website)
Capacity 64GB/128GB/256GB
Form Factor Full-size mSATA
Interface SATA 6Gb/sec
NAND Flash Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND Flash Memory
Controller LSI SandForce SF-2281
Dimensions 50.95 x 30 x 4mm(L × W × T)
Weight 7g
Performance Read: 550 MB/sec.
Write: 505 MB/sec.
IOPS: Read 25,000/Write 85,000 (Maximum 4K Random Write)
Operating Temperature 0~70 °C
Storage Temperature -40~85 °C
Shock Resistance 1500G/0.5ms
MTBF 1,200,000 Hours
ECC Recovery Up to 55 bits correctable per 512-byte sector (BAH)
Certification RoHS, CE, FCC
Warranty 3 Years

The SX300's specifications are unremarkable for a moderately fast Sandforce variant. The sequential write and random read performance figures are a little low compared to the SX910. We don't have any verified numbers for the Intel 525 as it hasn't officially launched but our guess is it's comparable to the 520.

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