SanDisk Extreme 120GB SSD
Sata 3 Sandforce speedster
Review Another week and yet another new range of Sandforce controlled drives has been pitched into battle in an already crowded market place. Still, here’s hoping the increased competition will impact on prices. Arriving hard on the heels of Intel’s new 520 range reviewed recently, is the Extreme series from flash memory experts SanDisk – the company’s second generation of consumer drives using a Sandforce controller.
Second time around: SanDisk's Extreme SSD
While better known for its range of Compact Flash and SD products, SanDisk was actually among the very first companies to release an SSD into the mainstream market. The U5000 appeared in 2007 and had a whopping 32GB of capacity. Soon after, the company seemingly disappeared off the radar as far as mainstream SSD’s were concerned, returning to the fray in 2011 with the launch of the Ultra range of drives.
As with the Ultra series, the Extreme drives use a Sandforce controller but in this case it is the ubiquitous Sandforce SF2281VB1-SDC with its 6Gb/s interface. Yet unlike many of the drives with this controller on-board that rely on Sandforce’s own firmware, the one in the Extreme has SanDisk custom coded (R112) firmware.
Sandforce controller, but the SanDisk Extreme has its own firmware
At the time of writing, the line-up consists of just two capacities – the 120GB model, which is on test here, and a 240GB version. A third drive, the flagship 480GB version, is on the way. The quoted sequential read/write performance for the range is 550/510MB/s for the 120GB drive, 550/520MB/s for the 240GB while the 480 is quoted at 540MB/s reads and 460MB/s writes. The 120GB drive has a quoted random read/write performance of up to 23,000IOPS and 83,000IOPS respectively.
Up to the test
To get to its advertised 120GB capacity, the drive uses four of SanDisk’s own 05091032G, 32GB 24nm Toggle MLC NAND chips. All the flash memory sits on one side of the board, leaving the Sandforce controller on its lonesome on the other side of the PCB. Once formatted, the drives capacity drops to 111GB.
CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD benchmarks
In use the drive took just 11 seconds to get to the Windows 7 desktop after the motherboard BIOS had finished loading while duplicating a 40GB folder of mixed file types and sizes took 8m 45s. Loading a copy of Office 10 Professional took just 5m 30s from hitting the instal button to completion.
SanDisk quotes sequential read/write figures for the Extreme 120GB of 550MB/s and 510MB/s respectively. A quick test with the ATTO confirms these figures as the test gave up figures of 551MB/s for reads and 510MB/s for the writes.
ATTO test results
These figures prove that SanDisk have been doing their homework with the drive as it puts the Extreme 120GB firmly in amongst the fastest drives around at the current time. For instance, Intel’s new 240GB 520 drive produces read/write figures of 552MB/s and 519MB/s respectively.
CrystalDiskMark 3 Results
Longer bars are better
The figures for both reads and writes drop when the drive is tested with the incompressible data that both the AS SSD and CrystalDiskMark benchmark use. Yet in both benchmarks, the read performance holds up reasonably well, which is a good sign that the custom firmware is doing a good job – handling incompressible data is something that Sandforce controller often struggles with.
An empty toolbox, but a good price/performance match
While SanDisk backs the drive with a three year warranty, it doesn’t provide any tools to help keep its performance in tip-top condition. It's a shame, as two of its competitors bundle really good software tools with their drives – Samsung offers SSD Magician and Intel has the excellent SSD Toolbox.
With a second generation of drives under its belt, the SanDisk Extreme SSD is really rather good, blending great performance with a price tag that’s not too eye-watering either. ®
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