Adata Legend 970 PCIe Gen5 2TB M.2 SSD Review: Scorching Speed Takes A Chill?

Reviews, Storage

Many experts were predicting a year ago that every PCIe 5.0 interface NVMe drive would have its own fan, but a quick look at the temperatures of non-fan-inclusive drives shows us how the most cautionary of those prognosticators came to that conclusion: This tech runs hot, and Adata’s Legend 970 design is here to cool its jets.

 Legend 970 2TB
Form FactorM.2 2280
InterfacePCIe 5.0 x4 (NVMe 2.0)
ControllerPhison PS5026-E26
FlashMicron 232L TLC
Endurance1,400 TBW

Experienced buyers might not be surprised to learn that we’ve been sitting on this drive for the past month waiting for it to show up at US sellers. Adata itself eventually offered it for direct sale at full launch MSRP while a lesser-known distributors began offering it at more reasonable European pricing. The Legend 970 is intended to take a market position just below that of the recently discounted T700 heatsinked drive, and we hope to soon see its price drop to match that position.

Though we were disappointed to learn that the Legend 970’s fan would require an external input, we do understand that the 3.3V power available across the M.2 interface would require a special low voltage fan, that it may lack sufficient amperage to power a fan in addition to the high-energy components of the drive itself, and that placing a fan on it could cause electrical noise that might interfere with drive operation. We’re not certain which of these technical reasons caused Adata to select the clunky SATA power cable to power its fan, or even if the reasons were indeed technical.

While the Legend 970 uses the same Phison E26 controller as its more highly spec’d Crucial rival, a third party has told us that the 3DC2D-labeled 232-layer Micron NAND is supposedly rated at 1600 MT/s, as opposed to the other drive’s 2000 MT/s (3FC2D). Peeling the heat sinks off the Legend 970 also revealed a different DRAM cache IC and a pair of vias…for which we won’t be discussing potential uses.

Test Hardware
CPUAMD Ryzen 9 7950X: 16C/32T 4.5-5.7 GHz, 64MB L3 Cache, Socket AM5
CPU CoolerAlphacool Eisblock XPX CPU, VPP655 with Eisbecher D5 150mm, NexXxoS UT60 X-Flow
MotherboardASRock X670E Taichi, Socket AM5, BIOS 1.11 (10-21-2022)
GraphicsPowercolor Red Devil Radeon 6750 XT: 2324-2623MHz GPU, 12GB GDDR6
Powerbe quiet! Dark Power Pro 10 850W: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Platinum
MemoryG.Skill F5-6000J3038F16GX2-TZ5N 2x16GB (32GB) DDR5-6000 CL30-38-38-96 1.35V
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Wi-Fi
Graphics DriverAMD Adrenalin Edition 2022.10.1

Thermal Results

One thing we noticed right away when doing thermal measurements is that our drives run 2° to 4° hotter when running Sandra’s extremely long “Overall Disk Score” test as compared to repeated runs of its “Physical Disk” test. Limited to system drives, the hotter test is used here. The non-heatsink T700 is cooled by the test motherboard’s M.2 heat spreader while Rocket 4 Plus cooling is improved via the Rocket NVMe heat sink added by its manufacturer to a combo deal.

While the hot locations of our X670E Taichi’s Gen5 NVMe slot seems problematic for fanless drives, the Legend 970’s fan solves that problem. Yet even the extra fan can’t get the Legend 970’s temperatures down to those of a Gen4 drive like the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus.

Performance Benchmarks

Sandra’s overall score shows how much faster the T700 can be, but its Aggregate Bandwidth test shows how fast a hot drive can begin to slow down.

Aida64 starts out liking the competing T700, but the Legend 970 starts to win some benchmarks as the test continues and the drives build heat.

3DMark hands the Legend 970 a winning score, and digging into its individual test reveals a few places where Adata’s lead emerged.

PCMark prefers the T700 drives, but its margins are too tight to set any Gen5 drive apart.

ATTO shows the T700 drives leading slightly overall, with the motherboard-cooled T700 leading even its heatsink-equipped counterpart.

Sequential Reads slam the door shut on the Legend 970’s hopes for a Crystal DiskMark win, and IOPs look even messier for the lower spec drive when compared to the top-spec T700.

Diskbench also prefers the T700 drives.

Given that Adata’s losses began mounting towards the end of our tests, it might surprise some to see that it finished only 1% to 3% behind the T700 drives in average performance.  As for why the motherboard-cooled T700 outperformed its heatsink-equipped variation, we’ve no additional info to reveal.

Comparing the Legend 970 only to the fastest drive on the market (ie, one it can’t beat) plus the fastest drive of the previous generation (ie, one that it must beat) doesn’t exactly seem fair, as there are many other Gen5 drives on the market that the Legend 970 might have beaten. And so, after we concluded all of our evaluation, we finally opened up a web browser to see how some of the drives we didn’t compare were holding up. It turns out that the Legend 970 is, according to some other reviewers, the second fastest drive on the market. It would have been nice to see it beating a few of those. Too bad we didn’t get samples of those before Adata supplied this one. With both the #1 and #2 drives already tested, we’re afraid that other drive makers will also be afraid to stand up.

Good reasons to buy the second fastest drive on the market includes its addition of a cooling fan that will make it more likely to continue functioning in extremely harsh conditions, ie something worse than the tight spot between a hot graphics card and an I/O panel. Even a system similar to ours would have pushed the #1 drive over the cliff (thermal throttling) had its ventilation been a bit worse.

And perhaps systems with poor ventilation would be the best place to put the Legend 970? Our decibel meter reported 49 decibels at ¼ meter, which calculates to 37db at 1m for those who like standard conversions. The great thing about high pitched noises is that they’re easier to block, but the bad thing is that they can be very annoying. So, into the stuffy case it goes.

Legend 970 2TB
2nd Fastest Drive Available
Powerful cooling fan
U.S. price exceeds fastest drive
No fan speed thermal control
 The Verdict
A bit noisier but able to survive hotter environments than our fastest drive, the only things holding back the Legend 970 are its lack of fan control and currently poor U.S. pricing.

But first we’d like to see the #2 performing drive reach a #2 price in the US. This has already happened in markets where availability isn’t an issue (Europe and parts of Asia), but we’re still seeing launch pricing premiums here. Rather than recommend it now, we’ll wait for its US price to normalize.

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