Today is a big day for SanDisk. We've already published an article that covers the Extreme II architecture and a full review of the 120GB capacity size drive. So far, so good - SanDisk's new enterprise SSD is a solid performer in what we're published already, but the easy test is now over, it's time to step into the big boy ring.
The 120GB capacity size was easy for SanDisk to steam roll competitor's products since SanDisk has the most advanced flash in a consumer SSDs on the market today. The 256GB class is another story though, more interleaving of the NAND and several products still around with 24nm/25nm means this capacity size is more street brawl than boxing match.
SanDisk's original Extreme is one of the big players in the 256GB class and its new $160 price point is amazing for such a good product. If I would have seen the price at Amazon, it would have won the Bang for your Buck - The Best 256GB Class SSDs under $200 award a few weeks ago. At the time the drive wasn't at Newegg, which I used to compare prices. In the same boat at OCZ's Vector, the Extreme uses older 2xnm flash and we know production has either stopped or been reduced. Extreme won't be around much longer at $160 or any price.
Enter SanDisk's new flagship SSD, Extreme II. Based on the latest Marvell 88SS9187, the same used in the Plextor M5 Pro / Xtreme and Crucial M500, the controller already has a solid reputation for stability, performance and the ability to scale to 1TB with new 128-bit NAND flash. The 9187 isn't a plug and play controller like the LSI SandForce SF-2281. If a company wants to use it, they need to either write firmware or hire an outside firm to do it. Working with a third-party means delays in the optimization cycle, because of that SanDisk is now building their own firmware, working on their own optimizations and promises to not have another TRIM event ever again.
Having their own in-house firmware team also means the secret sauce doesn't need to leave the company HQ. First introduced on the mainstream Ultra Plus SSD, SanDisk's eX2 ABL 19nm flash for the Extreme II features a fairly unique technology called nCache. We covered nCache in detail in out Extreme II Introduction article (linked above) earlier today and it's worth the read if you like knowing all of the little tech details. If you just want to read about the performance, read on!
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