Exteme II The Max
It was June of last year when we had a look at the first edition of the SanDisk Extreme SSDs which was powered by what was at the time, the hottest SSD controller on the planet - the SandForce SF-2281. Times have definitely changed and while the SF-2281 controller is still very much a popular controller, there are a number compelling options available now. With that, SanDisk has decided to change things up a bit with their high performance Extreme II drives and go with the latest Marvell 88SS9187 controller which we first saw on the Crucial M500 review. It puts out some really nice numbers and in fact SanDisk has even stated that the Extreme II drives are the fastest retail drives they've outed to date.
We were fortunate enough to get our hands on all three available capacities SanDisk is offering 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB. All of them see an overall performance increase over the first generation Extreme drives with the increases most pronounced on data that's incompressible which we'll see in our benchmarks. They are all also covered with a robust 5-year warranty which equals the best on the market that we could find and have a MTBF of 2,000,000 hours.
SanDisk Extreme II Series SSD Specifications and Features:
|Controller:||Marvell 88SS9187 SSD processor|
|Max Seq Read:||550MB/s||550MB/s||545MB/s|
|Max Seq Write:||340MB/s||510MB/s||500MB/s|
|Max IOPS Read:||91K||91K||95K|
|Max IOPS Write:||74K||78K||75K|
|Max Read Operating:||2.9W||3.5W||3.2W|
|Max Write Operating:||3.4W||5.0W||5.0W|
|MTBF:||2.0M Hours||2.0M Hours||2.0M Hours|
|Endurance:||>80 TBW||>80 TBW||>80 TBW|
|Size:||7.0 mm x 69.85mm x 100.5mm|
- SATA 6 Gb/s compliant: Backwards compliant to SATA 3 Gb/s & SATA 1.5 Gb/s
- ATA Command Set ACS-2
- NCQ support up to queue depth = 32
- Support for TRIM
- S.M.A.R.T. feature supported
- Advanced Flash Management:
- nCache™ – Non Volatile Write Cache
- Dynamic and Static Wear-leveling
- Bad Block Management
- Background Garbage Collection
- Tiered caching – Volatile and non-volatile cache
- Supports multi stream – improves user experience in multitasking systems
- Minimal write amplification – increases endurance and performance
- Performance will be throttled in the event junction temperature of critical components is measured to be exceeding the maximum allowable for the product
The notebook bundle comes with a spacer shim for more fitment options in a variety of equipment, changing the drive height from 7mm to 9.5mm.
The desktop bundle comes with a SATA 6Gbps data cable and a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate as well as the necessary screws for affixing to the plate. We'll have a look inside each drive now.
Inside the Extreme II Drives
Opening the drives to get at the guts required the removal of four screws that lies underneath the label on the back of the drive.
On the back side of each PCB board is devoid of any component of note.
Around the other side we find all of the important bits. On the left is the 480GB drive, the center is the 240GB drive and on the right is the 120GB drive that has a more blue color board. There are thermal pads on most of the main components that you can see still stuck on in some places.
The 120GB drive as shown above, along with the 240GB and 480GB drives all feature SanDisk 19nm Toggle MLC NAND made by SanDisk. The 120GB drive has only four modules, each 32GB in capacity.
The 240GB drive has eight modules, each 32GB in capacity.
The 480GB drive has eight modules as well, but these each have a capacity of 64GB.
Each drive has a DRAM cache chip to support the processor. The 120GB drive has a Samsung cache with part number K4B4G1646B-HCK0 and is 128MB in capacity.
The 240GB drive has a 256MB Hynix cache with part number H5TQ2G63DFA
The 480GB drive also has the Samsung cache of 512MB.
Thanks to the thermal pad it's a little tough to read but what we have is the Marvell 88SS9187 controller. Definitely faster than the previous version of the Marvell controller, it plays nice with the newer and smaller architecture NAND all the new drives are sporting. This is one of the few controllers currently offering AES 256-bit hardware encryption, avoiding any additional overhead software encryption may carry although SanDisk doesn't mention this in their product overview so it may not be enabled.
It also supports tiered caching, or what SanDisk calls nCache utilizing the DRAM cache, SLC cache and MLC NAND storage. nCache accumulates small writes (segments) and then flushes them in a consolidated fashion to larger sections of the NAND flash array which all helps keep write amplification low.
Test System & Comparison Drives
Legit Reviews Storage 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.
|Seagate 600 240 SSD||LAMD LM87800||SATA III|
|OCZ Vertex 450 256GB||Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10||SATA III|
|Crucial M500 480GB||Marvell 88SS9187||SATA III|
|OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||SATA III|
|Samsung 840 Pro 240GB||Samsung MDX||SATA III|
|Sandisk Ultra Plus 256GB||Marvell 88SS9175||SATA III|
|Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB||LAMD LM87800||SATA III|
|Intel 520 Series 240GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||SATA III|
|OCZ Vector 256GB||Indilinx Barefoot 3 M00||SATA III|
|Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||SATA III|
|Samsung 830 Series 256GB||Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040||SATA III|
CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 Readout:
For the SanDisk Extreme II Series drives, 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 - R1311.
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: Obviously, the 120GB SanDisk Extreme II drive doesn't quite have the horsepower of the larger drives with the 240GB faring much better on the writes and the 480GB putting out some impressive numbers overall.
AS-SSD (1.6.4237.30508) Benchmark - Intel Z77 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: All three of the SanDisk drives post a similar overall score although the larger two really do a fair bit better in the writes department and compare favorably with the best drives in the comparison.
Benchmark Results: It's a little bit redundant to display all three charts but it's obvious that the compressibility of the data being used plays no factor in the performance.
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: Interestingly, the 120GB drive happened to post the best read score although statistically not really a noticeable difference. Writes are a different story with the 120GB drive about 170MB/s off of the larger drives.
Anvil Storage Utilities 1.050 RC6- 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: In terms of IOPS performance, all three drives performed very similarly with outstanding read numbers and very good writes..
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: File copy times weren't quite where we thought they'd be based on the synthetic benchmark performance but certainly not disappointing by any stretch.
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: Boot times were essentially identical, nestled in where we see all of the top drives, just fractions of a second apart.
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
For the SanDisk Extreme II series of drives user available capacity is 111GB, 223GB and 447GB for the 120GB, 240GB and 480 GB drives respectively. This is the typical level of overprovisioning set aside for many drives on the market today to help stave off excess NAND wear and increase overall drive endurance.
SanDisk has done a really nice job on the Marvell 88SS9187 controller firmware by squeezing out some great performance. Of course SanDisk has a great deal of expertise when it comes to flash memory storage solutions and holds over 4,500 patents. We saw sequential reads hit a touch over 520MB/s and writes clear the 520MB/s mark on the larger drives with the 120GB drive turning in more modest numbers in the writes department. IOPS performance was strong with reads/writes hitting just over 90K and nearly 70K respectively. The performance doesn't really dip on the incompressible data like we saw with the first Extreme series of drives so overall performance is more consistent and faster.
Since SanDisk fabricates their own NAND flash wafers, they are in a good spot in the market as there are a handful of drive makers that rely on others for supply. This allows them to control quality, choose the best binned parts for these high performance drives, and can do so at relatively low cost. Their 19nm Toggle MLC NAND is what we find inside these drives and is partly responsible for the solid performance numbers. The smaller lithography flash requires more error correction and generally has lower endurance which the controller needs to handle but the drives have a 2,000,000 MTBF rating.
Pricing is slated to be $129.99, $229.99 and $439.99 for the 120GB ,240Gb and 480GB drives respectively. This comes out to $1.17, $1.03, and $0.98 per usable GB which is pretty much in line with comparable drives on the market. All in all, the Extreme II drives can stand with some of the best consumer drives available.
Legit Bottom Line: SanDisk has made quite a nice improvement over the first generation of the Extreme series drives by leveraging the Marvell 88SS9187.controller and their own 19nm Toggle NAND.