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Josh Norem

Nov 25, 2013

SanDisk Extreme II 480GB SSD

At A Glance

Extreme

Five-year warranty; very fast; has firmware software.

Titanium

Below average PCMark score; middling IOPS at 32QD.

Second swing at Extreme SSD scores a hit

The last time we saw the SanDisk Extreme SSD it wasn’t exactly “extreme.” It was a fine drive and all, and we awarded it a “what a nice boy” verdict of 8 because it was decent, but it didn’t blow off our anti-static leashes or anything. The problem was it was a “me, too” SSD, using 24nm toggle NAND and an LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller, which was all the rage in the ancient SSD era of 2012. Times have changed though, and SandForce isn’t the only game in town anymore. SSD manufacturers are now trying to separate themselves from the pack of wannabes by going with different combinations of controllers and NAND flash, and that’s the tactic SanDisk has employed this time around by changing both the NAND flash and the controller, making the SanDisk Extreme II SSD an all-new drive.

The Extreme II offers relatively extreme performance, but not in all benchmarks.

At the heart of the new drive beats Marvell’s third-generation SSD controller, the 88SS9187 “Monet,” released this year and found so far in the Crucial M500 and Plextor M5 Pro SSDs. It offers eight NAND channels and supports up to 1GB of external DDR3 memory (external to the controller, not the SSD). Inside the drive’s belly is new 19nm SanDisk toggle NAND, which is also being used by Corsair and Seagate in their newest SSDs. The NAND is rated for 3,000 program/erase cycles, which works out to roughly 80 terabytes written over the course of the drive’s life. That’s about 40GB of writes per day, which would be considered enough data-writing to warrant an intervention by family and friends. The drive also comes with a five-year warranty— superb—but a fairly bare-bones drive utility that shows you smart values and updates firmware—not superb.

The most unique attribute of the Extreme II is what SanDisk calls Tiered Caching, which utilizes both volatile DDR RAM and non-volatile SLC NAND for cache, instead of just DDR like most SSDs on the market (besides SandForce drives, which never used external cache). The secondary SLC NAND cache helps with small writes, which are common in desktop workloads, as they are written to the SLC NAND in groups at high speed before being written to the MLC NAND, resulting in improved performance.

We saw that improvement in our Sony Vegas test, which encodes a 20GB video file to the SSD as fast as it can handle it—the Extreme II completed the test in record time. Its sequential-read and -write speeds were also quite good with compressed and incompressible data, putting it shoulder-to-shoulder with the fastest drives available. It scored surprisingly low in PCMark Vantage, however, and its 32QD IOPS score of 40K-plus was about half what its counterparts could produce, harming the Extreme II’s overall ranking. Though the Extreme II isn’t quite as fast overall as the Samsung 840 Pro , it is much less expensive, and it’s slightly faster than the Corsair Neutron GTX , just not in all tests, making it an overall much-better-than-average drive, but not Kick Ass.

$440, www.sandisk.com

Benchmarks
 SanDisk Extreme II
SanDisk Extreme II
Crucial M500Samsung 840 ProCorsair Neutron GTX
Controller
Marvell 88SS9187
Marvell 88SS9187
Marvell 88SS9187MDXLAMD
Capacity
480GB240GB480GB512GB480GB
CrystalDiskMark


   
Avg. Sustained Read (MB/s)
521
533
480534441
Avg. Sustained Write (MB/s)484493422514478
AS SSD - Compressed Data

   
Avg. Sustained Read (MB/s)508
510
493513507
Avg. Sustained Write (MB/s)473478408495475
ATTO     
64KB File Read (MB/s)503528502524345
64KB File Write (MB/s, 4QD)462477422497485
Iometer     
4KB Random Write 32QD (IOPS)42,69949,85083,35482,92785,375
PCMark Vantage x6438,09376,55671,61975,20567,426
Sony Vegas Pro 9 Write (sec)275275485294286

Best scores are bolded. All tests conducted on our hard drive test bench, which consists of a Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 motherboard, Intel Core i5-3470 3.2GHz CPU, 8GB of RAM, Intel 520 Series SSD, and a Cooler Master 450W power supply.

THE VERDICT

SanDisk Extreme II 480GB SSD

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