When you think of innovation in the storage industry you typically think of things like M.2 and SATA Express that help enable even faster transfer speeds. Well, a while back I was contacted by a lesser known company in the storage industry called Apacer. They had all of the standard products of course but there was one specific product that really caught my eye. This was their AS720 SSD, at first glance, it wasn’t especially innovative. But I noticed that along with the SATA connection on one end, it also had a new USB 3.1 Type C connection on the other end. This really got me thinking about how useful an SSD with dual interfaces could be. For starters, it is worlds smaller than the normal 2.5 inch USB storage devices because it doesn’t need a thick casing on top of the hard drive or SSD like most external USB drives. I was also thinking about how useful it could be when cloning your old drive to your new SSD, especially with laptops that aren’t going to have two SATA connections. So today I’m going to take a look at Apacer’s dual interface SSD. I’m going to dig inside and see what makes it tick, then test both interfaces to see just how well they both perform.

Product Name: Apacer AS720 Dual Interface SSD 240GB

Review Sample Provided by: Apacer

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

 

Specifications
Interface

-SATA 6.0 Gb/s interface, backward compatible with 1.5, 3.0 Gbps interfaces

-USB 3.1 Super Speed specification compliance, backward compatible with USB 1.1, 2.0, 3.0 interface specifications

Capacity 120 GB, 240 GB
Performance 120GB Model

Via USB 3.1 (Unit: MB/s)

Sequential Read: 550

Sequential Write: 275

Via SATA (Unit: MB/s)

Sequential Read: 550

Sequential Write: 275

4K (IOPS)

Random Read: 60,000

Random Write: 40,000

Performance 240GB Model

Via USB 3.1 (Unit: MB/s)

Sequential Read: 550

Sequential Write: 460

Via SATA (Unit: MB/s)

Sequential Read: 550

Sequential Write: 460

4K (IOPS)

Random Read: 78,000

Random Write: 75,000

Form Factor 2.5 inch
NAND Flash Media MLC
ECC Up to 55bit/1KB
Operating Voltage 5V ± 5%
Power Consumption (Unit: mA) 120GB Model

Via SATA

Active: 450

Idle: 60

Via USB 3.0

Active: 680

Idle: 250

Via USB 3.1

Active: 800

Idle: 300

Power Consumption (Unit: mA) 240GB Model

Via SATA

Active: 700

Idle:60

Via USB 3.0

Active: 950 

Idle: 250

Via USB 3.1

Active: 1,100

Idle:300

Dimension 100.10mm (L) x 69.85mm (W) x 7.00mm (H)
Reliability Features S.M.A.R.T, Wear-leveling, ECC (up to 55bit/512-byte sector), NCQ, sudden power-off recovery, DuraWrite Technology
Operating Temperature 0°C to 70°C
Storage Temperature -40°C to 85°C
Shock Half sine 3000G/0.3ms
Vibration Sine 30G, 10 ~ 2000Hz
Warranty 3 years
Certifications RoHS, CE, FCC
System Requirements

-Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows Vista

-MAC OS 10.4 or later

-Linux 2.6.33 or later

 


Packaging

The packaging for the AS720 is completely different than I’m used to seeing SSDs come in. The box is an off white and on the cover they are sure to highlight that this is the world’s first dual-interface SSD in gold lettering. Up in the top right corner is the capacity of course. Then the main portion of the front has a drawing of the drive that lines up perfectly with the drive in the front window. The back of the box doesn’t have too much going on. They repeat the line “Standard 2.5” SSD (Solid State Drive) can easily replace HDD with no need for extra drivers” in ten different languages taking up the top portion. They list all of the OS’s that are supported. Then there is a graph showing the performance differences between an SSD and a hard drive, but I think by now most people know those.

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Inside the drive comes in a formed tray with a clear cover. There is also a small extra area in the tray that houses the small microfiber drawstring bag that the drive comes with. This is for when you are using the drive as a USB drive on the go. You can keep the USB cable inside as well as the drive.

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Photos and Breakdown

Apacer gave the ZS720 a champagne color and on top are lines that remind me a lot of the old photo backgrounds from when I was in school. While they did try, I don’t think anyone is going to be picking up the AS720 for its looks. The colors don’t really go with any standard color scheme. That said, it does remind me a lot of the external USB drives on the market and in a way, this is an external just as much as it is an internal drive.

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The back side of the drive looks more like a normal SATA drive. In the middle is a sticker with the Apacer logo, the drives capacity, and serial number.

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The drive has the standard SSD mounting points on the side and bottom of the drive.

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The drive ships with a rubber plug that covers up the SATA data and power connections on the end of the drive. This way if you use the drive for USB the sensitive connections aren’t going to get broken off. SATA isn’t really designed to be in your pocket or in a bag.

image 9

On the opposite end of the SATA connection is where we find the USB 3.1 connection. Some of you have maybe not seen a Type C connection yet, well here you go, welcome to the future. Type C connections are similar in size to the Micro-USB plugs you find on most devices but they are rounded on the ends. This is because you can plug the connection in both ways, so there is no trying to get the plug in correct anymore. Type C is interesting because it was introduced with USB 3.1, but it isn’t exclusive to the format. This makes it a little interesting when shopping for cables because you can get Type C cables that only support USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 and both are slower than USB 3.1.

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Getting into the AS720 wasn’t very hard. I had to cut the warranty sticker across the bottom. Then from there I just had four screws on top of the drive to unscrew. They were a small Phillips head. Inside the PCB itself is attached to the bottom plate with four more screws. The top plate of the AS720, however, is made of an extremely thin plastic, with this being an external drive as well it does cause a little concern.

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To fit in the USB circuitry Apacer has completely packed the entire PCB full. It’s funny because recently a lot of the drives have been using partial PCBs that don’t even fill up the 2.5-inch format but here we have to use it all. So what is on the PCB. The AS720 runs on a JMicron JMF670 controller. This is a four channel controller introduced last year for lower budget drives. It has proven to be reliable over the past year but there are other options for the same market now like the SM-2256. Below it is a Nanya DDR3 256MB cache.

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Because of the filled up PCB Apacer has put the NAND on both sides. They have a total of 8 Micron L95B NAND. This is a 128Gbit, 16nm MLC NAND.

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Down at the end, the Type C USB connection sticks out past the PCB. Just behind it is an ASMedia ASM1351 USB3.1 to SATA 6Gbps bridge.

image 15

 


Test Procedures and Test Bench

Intel LGA2011 V3 Test System
CPU Intel i7-5960X Live Pricing
Motherboard Gigabyte X99-SOC Champion Live Pricing
Cooling

Noctua NH-U12S for cooling

Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste

Live Pricing

Live Pricing

Memory Kingston HyperX FURY Black 32GB Quad Channel Kit 2666 MHz Live Pricing
Storage Kingston Hyper X Savage 960GB SSD Live Pricing
Video Card Nvidia GTX 780 Live Pricing
Power Supply Thermaltake Grand 850W PSU Live Pricing
Case Dimastech Test Bench Live Pricing
OS Windows 10 Pro 64-bit Live Pricing

 

Test Procedures
CrystalDiskMark Sequential read and write speed testing
AS SSD File Copy benchmark using ISO, Program, and Game settings
Passmark 8 Advanced Disk Benchmark using the four default tests Database, File Server, Web Server, and Workstation
PCMark 8 Default storage benchmark but we use the bandwidth result not the score
Anvil's Storage Utilities We run the whole SSD benchmark but only use the 4K QD16 IOPS
Queue Depth Testing This uses Anvil’s as well but we run individual tests set to 4k file size at a queue depth from 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and for read speeds 128

 


Performance

For most of my performance testing I focused on the SATA performance of the Apacer AS720, but at the end, I do take a look at the USB performance as well. The SATA performance is what is going best show the capabilities of the drive and frankly, file transfer is really the only thing you need to worry about when running it as a USB drive. So to start things off I tested using CrystalDiskMark using the sequential setting to see the overall read and write speed of the drive. While the AS720 didn’t top the charts, in the read speed test it fell in the middle of everything. The gap between it and the drives above it was very small. In the write speed testing, the AS720 came in a little lower, with the higher end drives having a clear advantage here. With a write speed of 453.9 MB/s the numbers were still respectable, though.

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Next, I used AS SSD to test file transfer performance with three different file types. Here the result is the amount of time it took so the lower the result the better. I combined all three results so we can get a better look at the overall performance rather than focusing on any one number. The AS720 came in around 11 seconds between all three tests, a respectable result that is better than 2/3 of the drives tested.

graph3

Next, I used Passmark 8’s advanced hard drive benchmark. Here we use the four default settings to test the AS720 in a few different situations. In this chart a higher result is good. The AS720 didn’t do as well in this test, especially in the File Server test that the fastest drives really excel at. The AS720 isn’t really designed for any of these situations other than the Workstation test, but in that one it performed fine.

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Next for more of a real world test I use PCMark 8’s Storage benchmark. This test runs through multiple everyday programs. Rather than use the PCMark score I use the overall Storage Bandwidth result. This lets us know the average speed the drive had across ALL of the tests. Here the AS720 actually performed really well. The Vector 180 still outperformed it, but the AS720 held its own.

graph5

Next, I wanted to see the overall IOPS performance of the drive. To do this I use Anvil’s Storage Utility. I focus on the 4k results with a queue depth of 16. Here the AS720 performed really well on the write performance but fell behind in the read IOPS. I will have to take a closer look at the queue depth performance in the next test to see what the issue is there, but I was impressed with the write IOPS, they are still about 20k below the high-end drives, though.

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Okay, my last normal test was to take a look at how the drive handles varying queue depths. To do this I once again use Anvils but this time, I manually test both read and write performance starting at 1 queue depth, doubling it each test. Here we can see that in the read test the JMF670 controller falls on its face a little. It was a little slower from the start, but each time I double the queue depth it falls farther and farther behind. The Chromos performed similarly, but that isn’t really a great drive to compare too. Funny enough, in the write testing, we can see why the drive did well in our IOPS test. Where the HyperX drive capped at a queue depth of 4, the AS720 kept rising up until a queue depth of 32. The higher performance drives did still outperform the AS720, but It’s good to know it won’t fall on its face when writing a lot of files.

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So for the last bit of my testing I wanted to talk a look at how the USB performance of the AS720 compared to the SATA performance. It’s clear that the drive is designed first to be an internal drive, but I’m digging the idea of a thin drive that hooks up via USB type C for cloning the files to it or later when you don’t need the drive anymore it can be a nice backup USB drive. I ran into issues with running USB 3.1 originally, but it turned out to be our test bench. So to test out the overall throughput I ran the AS720 in CrystalDiskMark using both its SATA interface and its USB 3.1 interface. Not surprisingly SATA was the faster of the two interfaces, but USB 3.1 wasn’t that far behind with numbers that I would have killed to have not that long ago via USB.

usbvssata

 


Overall and Final Verdict

It's funny when you come across a product that you didn’t know people needed until you see it. The AS720 falls into that category. I’ve used USB docks, USB to SATA adapters, and many times I have had to use my test benches to clone hard drives. You see for someone who has those tools available, upgrading or replacing a drive isn’t all that hard. But when your only PC is a laptop with one drive spot it gets complicated to replace the hard drive or SSD. With the AS720, Apacer has made connecting their SSD in that situation simple and given the USB 3.1 interface fast as well. The USB transfer speeds didn’t match the SATA performance, but they weren’t far behind. The SATA numbers weren’t really blowing up the charts as well, but the drive held its own in most of our tests.

What really caught my attention though was the possibility of using the AS720 as an external SSD all of the time. It has the capacity and speed to work and you can quickly plug it in on any PC. The thin size makes it smaller than any of the other drives on the market as well. Really the only downside to that is the thin plastic casing they used for the top half of the drive. If it was an all metal casing I wouldn’t even be worried about banging it around in my bag. The styling, however, doesn’t really fit for in a PC or out of a PC.

The problem is the drive falls into this weird middle ground. When I looked into pricing for the 240GB AS720 that we tested, it is currently selling for $116.99. As an internal SSD, this is completely out of line with the competition. Those drives are selling for half that price. But for an external USB SSD, the AS720 is actually priced cheaper than most of the drives with a similar capacity. I feel like Apacer are really on to something by integrating a Type C connection into their SSD, but I think the drive needs to stay a little closer to the pricing for similar drives to really be justifiable. That said, it’s a cool feature that I think could really help them sell drives in the future.

fv5

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld replied the topic: #38046 27 Jul 2016 20:10
Today I take a look at an odd SSD that actually has a USB 3.1 Type C connection in it as well.

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