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Appeared on: Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Lexar Professional Workflow DD512 512GB Review

1. Features

The Lexar Professional Workflow line of products is a modular device that accepts includes a choice of two four-bay reader and storage drive hubs, a selection of card readers, and two storage drives. It has been designed to let you offload and back up your work, faster.

Lexar has recently added 512GB and 256GB USB 3.0, flash-based storage drives to its Professional Workflow Line. The Professional Workflow DD512 and DD256 storage drives give photographers and videographers the power to back up images and video files from multiple memory cards at once.

The drives have been released as a storage options for the Lexar Professional Workflow line of products but still, Lexar believes they can be also used as a stand-alone external SSD drives.

Leveraging USB 3.0 speeds, the drives provide read transfer speeds up to 450MB/s and write speeds up to 245MB/s. The drives also include an LED capacity meter, so you can see available storage space at a glance.

The Lexar Professional Workflow DD512 and Lexar Professional Workflow DD256 are available with MSRPs of $200 and $140, respectively, and each include a two-year limited warranty.

Today we have in our labs the DD512 flash-based storage drive. It can be simply plugged into the hub and start transferring and archiving files. It can be used with Workflow HR1 and HR2 USB and Thunderbolt 2 hubs, and is compatible with both PC and Mac. And of course, you can use it as an external USB 3.0 SSD.

2. Unboxing

We received the DD512 SSD in the following packaging; pretty stylish don't you think?

The package includes a USB 3.0 cable.

Sized at 74mm (2.9in) x 60mm (2.4in) x 23mm (0.9in) (W x L x H), the drive's small form factor make it for use on the go or at home or office.
On the top side of the device there is the Lexar logo embossed on the plastic cover.

A LED capacity meter is on the front allowing you to see the available storage space at a glance. Each white LED indicates 20% full when illuminated. The 6th blue LED indicates power and activity.

Turning the device around you'll see the USB 3.0 port on the rear side.


The drive uses the SM2246XT SATA 6Gb/s SSD controller, which has been designed for small form factor and low power client and industrial storage solutions for PCs, Ultrabooks, Tablet PCs, and other embedded applications. It has a single-chip, DRAM-less design supports the latest generation NAND in high-speed Toggle, ONFI, or Async mode.

The controller supports the following speeds:

Sequential Read: 520 MB/s
Sequential Write: 300 MB/s
Random Read: 28,000 IOPS
Random Write: 65,000 IOPS

However, the DD512 512GB supports only 450 MB/s for sequential read and 245 MB/s for write.

Below you see more features of the device, reported by Sysoft Sandra. The available capacity for storing your files is 477GB. The drive also supports Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) and Data Set Management command (TRIM), but not Native Command Queuing or SATA Device Sleep (DEVSLP) - features provided by the controller but disabled by Lexar:

3. HDTachRW, HDTune Pro

We start the tests with the HDTachRW software. The software measures the sequential read speed, the random access speed and sequential write speed.

The reading speed was pretty stable throughout the complete SSD and was 251.9 MB/s on average. Lexar promised a 450MB/s for read but that's typically happens with the specific benchmark:

We move on to the HD Tune Pro software, another utility we used to measure the drive's reading and writing performances. Although not necessarily representative of real-world workloads, HD Tune's targeted tests give us a glimpse of each drive's raw capabilities.

The sequential reading test returned a 237.7 MB/s average speed, confirming the figures given by the HDTach benchmark.

Below you see some additional random reading tests. The Lexar drive gave a 289.283 MB/s average reading speed for an 1MB transfer size and a 264.940 MB/s average reading for transferring files with random sizes - an not so fast performance compared to other SSDs.

In the corresponding random write test, the SSD wrote files with random sized at 264.940 MB/s and 1MB files a little faster, at 289.283 MB/s. Smaller 4KB files were written at 36.573 MB/s:

HD Tune's file benchmark also features three data patterns available that can be used during the write process: zero, random and mixed, which is a combination of zeroes and random data. Certain SSDs use a compression technique which improves performance when compressible data is used. For these devices the results will be highest when writing zeroes and lowest when writing random data.

Let's start with a sequential transfer speed of a 500MB file using zeros in the writing part:

The Lexar DD512 SSD read the 500MB file at an average speed of 320.731 MB/s and wrote the file at 200.504 MB/s . The 4K random single performance with 4096 byte blocks was just 3719 IOPS for reading and 2863 IOPS for writing, which are very low. When we enabled the 32 requests option, both figures were even lowered down to 3185 IOPS and 3071 IOPS for both read/write, respectively.

Selecting the "Random" data pattern (zeroes and data) had not any serious impact to drive's sequential read performance, but made the 4K random read test seven slower that previously:

Selecting the "mixed" data pattern did not have any significant impact in the drive's performance:

Below you see some additional sequential and random reading tests:


4. ATTO Disk Benchmark

The next software we used was the ATTO Disk Benchmark. The tool measures storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. The benchmark performs file transfers ranging from 0.5 KB to 8192 KB. ATTO can be adjusted to do overlapped I/O, in a variety of queue depths. We tested the SSD using the benchmark's default settings, using 256KB file length performance and QD4. ATTO probably gives the most accurate results for compressible read and write data.

As you see above the drive's reading and writing performance with compressible files was pretty stable with files larger than 64KB. The reading speed hit the 340MB/s while writing reached the 208 MB/s. Both figures are lower than those quoted by Lexar and generally low for a 512GB SSD.

The drive also seems to suffer in tasks needed to access or write small 4KB files:


5. CrystalDiskMark

The next benchmark is the CrystalDiskMark. The software provides throughput data based on sequential reads and writes, and random (512K/4K/4KQD32) reads and writes of various sizes.

Below you see the drive's performance with incompressible (0Fill) data:

As you see below, the performance of Lexar's SSD is the same no matter if the stored/retrieved data is compressible or not:

The benchmark confirmed previous performance figures at least in the sequential read and write tests - 342MB/s and 220.4 MB/s for read/write, respectively. However, it was extremely slow when it was randomly dealing with smaller files.


6. AS SSD benchmark

We move on with the AS SSD benchmark, which contains five synthetic as well as three practical tests. The synthetic tests determine the sequential and the random read / write performance of an SSD. These tests are carried out without using the operating system's cache. The Seq-test measures how long it takes to read and write an 1GB file. Most importantly, this sequential benchmark uses incompressible data for all of its transfers.

The 4K benchmark tests the read and write performance for random 4K blocks. The 4K-64-THRD-test corresponds to the 4K procedure except that here the read and write operations are distributed on 64 threads:

TheDD512'ss performance in sequential reading with incompressible test was nevertheless the same we previously saw - at 322 MB/s for read and 193 MB/s for write.

Again, the rest of the results prove that the drive has not been optimized to access or write small files fast enough, at least compared with other SSDs.

At the 4K random reading tests, the Samsung SSD reached the top of the chart below, with an average reading speed of 33.03 MB/s.

The drive was slower at the 4K random writing tests, giving 68.8MB/s:



In the following graph you see how the Lexar DD512 drive reads and writes files, which have been partially of fully compressed. It is obvious that the both reading and writing speeds are pretty stable and do not depend on level of file compression.

7. IOMeter benchmark

This is the IOMeter benchmark. Iometer is run by using workstation and database patterns for queue depths (outstanding I/Os) representing very light and moderate loads. Iometer is both a workload generator (that is, it performs I/O operations in order to stress the system) and a measurement tool (that is, it examines and records the performance of its I/O operations and their impact on the system). The app's ability to bombard drives with an escalating number of concurrent IO requests also does a nice job of simulating the sort of demanding multi-user environments that are common in enterprise applications. The software can be used for measurement of the performance of an SSD. We started using the IOMeter tests using the Xtreme Benchmark template .

For the specific test, we used 100% random, 67%-33% Read/write distribution, aligned with the benchmarks we had already done in the past with other SSDs.

The Lexar DD512 512GB SSD showed an overall poor I/O performance:


8. Anvil Pro

The next benchmark is the Anvil Pro, an ‘all inclusive’ storage utility. The software is tests transfer speeds as well as IOPS  The IOPS tests can be configurable with preset testing scenarios for read (Seq 4MB, 4K, 4K QD4, 4K QD16, 32K and 128K), write (Seq 4MB, 4K, 4K QD4, 4K QD16) and mixed IO. 

We used the software with the S850 PRo SSD and tested the drive with 0-fill compression (RAW), 8% compression, 25% compression, 45% compression, 67% compression and finally 100 % (incompressible data). Below are the results with 0-fill compression as well as with fully incompressible files.



9. PCMark 7 Professional, PCMark 8 Storage benchmark

Below you see the results of Futuremark's PCMark 7 Professional edition. The software includes 7 PC tests for Windows 7, combining more than 25 individual workloads.


Lexar's SSD scored 2039 points at the storage benchmark:

We continue with the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark, which uses traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.

The DD512 SSD scored 4497 points,and was generally slower than other internal SSDs:

10. Conclusion

The Lexar DD512 was released as a USB 3.0, flash-based storage option for the company's Professional Workflow Line, which has been designed for photographers and videographers who need to quickly back up images and video files from multiple memory cards. However, the DD512 can be also connected directly to your computer and be used as an external SSD.

The drive itself is compact in size, easy to carry around and easy to use offering plug-n-play convenience. Our benchmarks showed that it is adequately fast in the sequential read and write tasks, reaching the 340MB/s and 200 MB/s for read / write, respectively. That's probably faster than your CF card but not exactly what Lexar is promising and what we would expect from an external SSD.

The DD512 has been obviously optimized for using it as a backup device. Its performance with small files is by far lower than other SSDs and it cannot be efficiently used for tasks that require intense random read/write operations.

So with $170 you get a nice accessory for your Professional Workflow HR1 or a compact external device to get with you and backup your daily work, files or photos. The main advantage of the device seems to be its price, which possibly the lowest you can find for a 512GB SSD - not to mention for an external one.


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