Adata premier MicroSD 32GB review

… Or shall we call it Sandisk Ultra…?

Manufacturer ADATA
Brand Premier
Announced Capacity 32 GB
Formatted  Capacity 29.71 GiB
UHS Class I
SD Bus UHS104
Price Amazon.com – Not recommended 
Amazon.co.uk – Not recommended 
AliExpress – € 9.66

Adata2

Adata Is nowadays a very relevant player in the DRAM market but is also starting to emerge on the solid state market. Having offered products with higher than average performance at average price points made Adata a known brand is Asia and now appearing in both Europe and on the US.

This MicroSD card from Adata is presented without flowering or blushing marketing. It is simply described as Adata Premier brand, supporting Class10 and UHS-1 minimum writing speeds. This austere grinding scheme sits nicely on the overal branding strategy: give customers the numbers, raw, unaltered and unprocessed. Higher graded MicroSD cards are simply referred by it’s performance figures: W:45MB/s or W:80MB/s. This is the way it should be done.

ADATA_FRONTOn the actual MicroSD card under test, the packaging shows the same basic information, without too much distracting gradual elements. It is worth noticing that there is no anti counterfeiting scheme, but taking into consideration that most other schemes are simply not effective, and as this is a rather low end product, it doesn’t really matter.

A really big surprise came when we looked at the MicroSD’s technical registers. This MicroSD card carries exactly the the same manufacturer ID and Model as the Sandisk Ultra cards. Even the compressed formatted capacity is exactly the same as compared with the 32GiB Sandisk Ultra card.
This may mean that either Sandisk is sourcing cards to ADATA or the other way around. Regardless, it does demonstrates proximity between these two brands, although both models perform somewhat differently.

Another note worth mentioning is that there are two physical distinct parts for the same card. The unit we’re reviewing is packaged on a black card sleeve. There’s a different part with a white packaging mentioning write performance up to 48 MB/s (this number does feel familiar…) which probably only supports UHS54 bus, although exactly with the same brand name. If possible always choose the black one.

Compressible data performance

adata_2_2Write performance in compressible data is around 18,5MB/s which is slightly below our baseline card, and although it’s stability is remarkable, we cannot escape the notion that is a low end product.

When looking at read performance it’s like as if we discovered a new continent, as read speeds exceed 80MB/s! Finally a MicroSD card able to use the new 104MB/s SD bus. It might not be that useful for most people, but it demonstrates it is out there. In computation with our baseline card, it almost achieves a 4-fold read performance increase. This does show the potential of recent SD controllers, that even when paired with low performance flash modules, significant performance increases are indeed possible.

This performance hike is then demonstrated again on the mixed content tests, depending on the operations mix: if write operations are most significant then it the controller cannot make miracles in hiding the poor performer flash, being marginally beat by the baseline card. But when read operations are most common, performance is greatly  increased.

Random data performance

adata_1_2Usually random data perforce is a little lower than in compressible data. On this MicroSD card it is significantly different, for the worse.

Read performance is mostly maintained, with the sole exception of the very small data block, which is unexplicably worst, at less than 20MiB/s. This means that read performance is often above 85MiB/s, and a significantly above our baseline card.

Things go south when we start looking at write performance. On this test write throughout dropped to less than 15MiB/s, a drop of around 25% as compared with compressible data. This is a really eye opener:

  • There’s a compression scheme working on this MicroSD’s controller. This is probably due to the low expected endurance of the flash cells.
  • This compression scheme gives a significant performance boost to write operations, consistently.
  • The embedded flash is extremely slow. There’s no way to hide slow flash on uncompressible data, unless we add parallelism, both on the controller and on flash devices.

Usually, slow flash is often associated with low grande, low endurance flash, and this does seem to be the case. Regardless, if this scheme is able to ensure enough longevity to the MicroSD card, then its the way it needs to be.
Finally, mixed performance is consistently higher than our baseline card. Even with very low grade flash, having an improved controller means tha most users will find significant benefits as compared with older cards.

Conclusion and final notes

There’s no way around the fact this is a low end MicroSD card. However, this is a higher quality low end product. On all aspects where performance could be improved without cost increase, they were. This is visible on the controller performance on read operations, which pushed the embedded flash to it’s limits, but not past them. Having a very low grade flash doesn’t let it go any further. However, is still feels weird that the is a very umbilical relation with Sandisk, to an extent not clear right now.

This a MicroSD card which although not exactly high end, isn’t as bad as other lower end offerings, even those from more familiar brands, such as Sandisk… If you need to get an MicroSD card, and you see this one in between a bunch of unbranded ones, choose this one.

Write performance is not worth writing home about, but read performance is solid. So solid that for many users this may actually be the right microSD card. If camera is not able to exceed class 10 performance because it’s GoPro (a any I its clones) which mostly takes videos, or any other camera unable to take bursts o photos, this microSD card fits best: you’re unable to take advantage of any write performance increase, and when you take the card out to get those videos it does it almost as fast a most card readers can handle, at more than 80MB/s. Just to put things in perspective, just a few years ago most hard drives wouldn’t sustain such read  or write performance values.

To find out how this card stacks against the the competition, read our MicroSD card shootout.

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