SanDisk Ultra Plus Marvell Powered SSD
SanDisk is best known for their memory products and with that, they've been doing a number of SSDs on both consumer and enterprise fronts. Their latest offering that came across our desk is the Ultra Plus line being powered by the Marvell 88SS9175 controller and SanDisk's own 19nm NAND. The 6Gbps interfaced drives are marketed towards the both the desktop and mobile computing crowds with promises of strong performance, high reliability and power efficiency. It comes standard in the 7mm, 2.5" form factor so it should be good to go for most Ultrabooks as well.
Available in capacities of 64GB, 128GB and 256GB (the model we received), they are competitively priced at $74.99, $109.99 and $219.99, respectively. Performance numbers vary between the different sized drives with the 64GB drive hitting up to 520MB/s reads and 155MB/s writes to the 256GB drive seeing numbers up to 530MB/s reads and 445MB/s writes. All are backed with a three year warranty and an MTBF of 2 million hours.
SanDisk Ultra Plus Features and Specifications:
|Flash Memory:||SanDisk 19nm eX2 ABL MLC|
|Interface:||SATA III (6Gbps)|
|Power (Max Active):||2.6W||2.7W||2.9W|
|Power (Min Idle):||0.08W||0.08W||0.08W|
|MTBF:||2.0 Million Hours||2.0 Million Hours||2.0 Million Hours|
|Endurance (TeraBytes Written):||>80 TBW||>80 TBW||>80 TBW|
|Size:||7.0mm x 69.5mm x 100.5mm|
- ATA Command Set ACS-2
- NCQ Support up to QD 32
- Support for TRIM
- S.M.A.R.T. Feature Supported
- Advanced Flash Management:
- nCache technology - Non-Volatile Write Cache
- Dynamic & Static Wear-leveling
- Bad Block Management
- Background Garbage Collection
- Tiered caching - Volatile and non-non-Volatile cache
- Supports multi stream - improves user experience in multitasking systems
- minimal write amplification
- Performance will be throttled in the event junction temperature of critical components is measured to be exceeding the maximum allowable for the products.
The back side of the drive is simply adorned with a sticker containing the model and legal information.
The drive comes with a installation and warranty guide and also an adhesive shim to add an additional 2mm to make the drive a more standard 9.5mm height.
Inside the Ultra Plus
Opening the drive required digging out the four screws which were hidden beneath the rear label.
The surprisingly diminutive PCB we found inside is held by two further screws with some thermal padding behind it.
On one side of the PCB we see just two NAND chips out of the four on board.
Looking closely, we see the 19nm eX2 ABL MLC chips are branded as SanDisk and are each 64GB in density for 256GB total on board.
On the other side, we find the remaining two NAND modules along with the controller and cache.
Thanks to the thermal padding, the lettering on the cache and controller are a little hard to make out. However, we can see enough to tell this is a Samsung DDR2 DRAM chip at 128MB capacity.
This is the first time we've seen the Marvell 88SS9175 SATA 6Gb/s capable controller and so far it seems very similar to the 9174 chip. It does a nice job of moving data quickly without the need for compression to boost performance; however, it does rely on a cache to buffer data as needed which sets it apart from the SandForce drives. It supports TRIM and idle garbage collection to keep things humming along and uses an eight channel architecture.
Test System & Comparison Drives
Legit Reviews Stoage Benchmark Test System
All tests were performed on a fresh and up-to-date install of Windows 8 Pro x64 with no other applications running while using AHCI mode set through the BIOS. Synthetic Benchmarks were run with the OS loaded on a 120GB Corsair Force SSD. In between every test, the test drive was secure erased using an instance of Parted Magic. As such, all results should be indicative of optimal performance. All components were set to their default speeds and are listed below.
Z77 Test Bench
|Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform|
|Core i5 2500k|
|ASUS Maximus V Gene Z77|
|Kingston HyperX KHX16C9B1RK28 8GB|
|Corsair Force 120GB (FW 2.4)|
|Antec Basiq BP550W Plus-EC|
|Windows 8 Pro 64-Bit|
Comparison Drives And Other Models We Have Tested
Since there are so many SSDs out there now with different controllers, we started a reference table of which controllers are used by each drive to help you compare results. Different controllers definitely perform differently and each has various strengths and weaknesses. Like CPU's, even identical drives will have variations in performance and part of that variance may be attributable to the NAND flash used. Since the tests of the drives listed have spanned different test benches and represent different interfaces, we have listed the most recent ones for easy reference.
|Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB
||LAMD LM87800||Yes||SATA III|
|Intel 520 Series 240GB
||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||Yes||SATA III|
|OCZ Vector 256GB||Indilinx Barefoot 3||Yes||SATA III|
|Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||Yes||SATA III|
|Samsung 830 Series 256GB
||Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040||Yes||SATA III|
CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 Readout:
For the SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB drive, the readout on CrystalDiskInfo 5.2.0 shows that both NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. are enabled, as well as TRIM and the interface is confirmed at SATA III (6Gbps). This is a great free tool to see lots of detailed information about the drive such as the firmware version for which we are running the latest available at the time of testing X211200.
Let's look at some benchmarks...
ATTO & AS-SSD Benchmarks
ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 8192KB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.
ATTO - Intel Z77 Platform
Benchmark Results: Its interesting how the scores drop off as it reaches the higher files sizes. This is likely a product of the nCache working its magic on the smaller file sizes. Scores topped out at 530MB/s reads and 441MB/s writes which is pretty close to specification.
AS-SSD (1.6.4237.30508) Benchmark - Intel P67 Platform
We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from two of them.
Benchmark Results: As usual with the Marvell controllers, benchmarks using incompressible data doesn't have a large impact on performance as we see nice scores here for the SandDisk Ultra Plus. In fact, it lead the way in 4k reads.
Benchmark Results: The graph proves out that the controller is data compression agnostic with performance even across differing levels of compressibility.
CrystalDiskMark and Anvil IOPS
CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 - Intel Z77 Platform
Benchmark Results: Given the other drives in the comparison are some of best drives on the market, the SanDisk Ultra Plus scored very well and again lead the 4k reads in the comparison chart.
Anvil Storage Utilities 1.050 RC5- Intel Z77 Platform
Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 32. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.
Benchmark Results: IOPS are a good bit below the SanDisk specification of 82k on reads and a little above the 39k specification on writes but overall decent performance.
Real World Copy & Boot Tests
File Copy Times Via Teracopy 2.27:
One of the most common operations performed on a PC is moving/copying files. Using a free application called Teracopy, we copied large numbers of two file types from one folder to another on the same drive. Teracopy allows us to objectively measure the time of transfer and using the same drive prevents other devices from tainting the outcome. The operation requires the drive to perform both sustained read and writes simultaneously. The first set of files is a 5GB collection of JPG's of variable size and compression levels with a few movie (.MOV) files thrown in for good measure since most cameras now take video as well as stills. The second is a collection of MP3 files of various sizes which totals 5GB collectively. These file types were chosen due to their wide use and mixture of file sizes and compression levels.
Install Results: The only drive in our comparison slower than the SanDisk Ultra Plus on the 5GB file copy was the budget friendly Kingston V300 drive. However, even the fastest drive in our comparison was 7 seconds faster on the JPG copy and 16 seconds on the MP3 copy.
Windows Boot Times Via BootRacer:
Windows start up/shutdown time is always something people are interested in and we haven't done it in a while because there was little variation with the majority of the SSDs. We recently began using an application called BootRacer to objectively measure the startup times of the drives. All of the instances of Windows were identical and freshly installed with only the video driver installed.
Test Results: Little separation in the boot scores with the SanDisk Ultra Plus falling right in the middle of all the other drives listed.
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
The 256GB SanDisk Ultra Plus yields 238GB in Windows after formatting etc. which is basically the conversion from GB (1GB = 1,000,000,000 bytes) to GiB (1GiB = 1,073,741,824 bytes).
The Ultra Plus drive is an interesting mix of performance and value. We start with performance which varies greatly by drive capacity. All capacities have speedy read specifications of 520MB/s to 530MB/s but writes are another story. The 64GB drive has rather modest write speeds of 155MB/s but ranges to a much more robust 445MB/s. That's a pretty sizable difference. IOPS really doesn't vary as dramatically with reads ranging from 79k to 82k and writes from 29k to 39k. It would be interesting to put all three capacities on the test bench and see how the real world usage pans out. They all use SanDisk's nCache technology feature which accumulates small writes and then flushes them concurrently the MLC NAND array. This explains why the larger file sizes didn't do as well on the ATTO benchmark and why the 4k scores were so good on the other tests.
The MSRP's SanDisk provided are $74.99, $109.99 and $219.99 for the 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB drives. Based on the 256GB drive, the price per usable GB is $0.92. That's pretty competitive in a market space where margins are shrinking faster than the supply of semi-automatic rifles. However, the next generation of controllers and interfaces is about to roll out so, like a lot of technology, it will be 'old' technology sooner than later.
To wrap up, the Ultra Plus is a nice choice offered by SanDisk with performance that is commensurate with the pricing. It doesn't measure up to the extreme enthusiast drives on the market but that's not its target demographic. Nor does it carry the same price tag. Their Extreme line is where you should look if that is more your speed and budget. With the SSD playing field shrinking, SanDisk is probably one of those companies that will weather the storm as mass storage is a mainstay of their business so support should be around for the foreseeable future.
Legit Bottom Line: The SanDisk Ultra Plus is a solid offering for those looking for good performance at a reasonable price although the 64GB drive may offer less bang for the buck due to its lagging write speeds.