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24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro

With two new 24nm flash based SSDs in our labs, it was time to put them face to face.
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Published Wed, Mar 14 2012 8:18 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT

Introduction

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 01 | TweakTown.com
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On February 28th we published our first review of the SanDisk Extreme 240GB, the first 24nm flash drive on the market with a SandForce flash processor unit. In the review we focused mainly on the low price point of the drive since the performance was still very close to the large number of Team SandForce drives using 25nm IMFT flash. What we didn't know at the time was our test systems were compromised in some way. I would love to give an explanation, but I honestly don't have one. It wasn't just the primary test system, but both identical systems and even a fresh build system based on another chipset, the older P67 test rig.

To make matters worse, even a brand new build based on another company's Z68 board did the same thing. After spending 18 to 20 hours a day working on the issue Chad Sebring chimed in with an idea, look at the drivers. All of the systems were using the same chipset drivers, but we were trying different RST drivers. After downloading a different set of drivers from a different web page we had TRIM again. It's safe to say that for the next couple of weeks I will hate computers. I HATE YOU COMPUTERS!!!

Today we are taking another look at the SanDisk Extreme 240GB, this time with TRIM working. To spice things up a bit, we're also including performance data from the new Plextor M3 Pro SSD in our charts. While we were playing driver investigator a pair of new M3 Pro drives hit our lab. Normally we'd have these drives finished up and the review posted within a couple of days, but obviously we were having some issues.

The Plextor M3 Pro is the newest SSD on the market to use Toshiba 24nm Toggle Mode flash. The SanDisk Extreme uses the same flash, made at the same factory, but sporting a SanDisk badge. These two drives, the SanDisk Extreme and the Plextor M3 Pro are the hottest new SSDs on the market, with the fastest flash available. They have one very big difference though, the SanDisk uses a SandForce SF-2281 controller and the Plextor M3 Pro uses the ageless Marvell 88SS9194-BKK2.

In a couple of days we'll have a full report online for the two Plextor M3 Pro SSDs. Till then, let's take a look at the performance of these two new "it" SSDs and see how they compare, this time with TRIM working.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

SanDisk Extreme 240GB

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 02 | TweakTown.com

Before we dive into the numbers let's take a quick look at the specifications.

Here we see the SanDisk Extreme specs, today we're focusing on the 240GB drive with a claimed sequential read speed of 550MB/s and a sequential write speed of 520MB/s. IOPS is listed as up to 33K read and 83K write. The controller is from SandForce, the SF-2281 that we've seen in around 30 drives since 2010. The Extreme is different from all of the other, it uses 24nm SanDisk Toggle flash.

The SanDisk Extreme ships with a bare drive, quick install guide and a three year warranty. SanDisk is not shipping the Extreme with a desktop adapter bracket, software package or cables.

Plextor M3 Pro 256GB

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 03 | TweakTown.com

The Plextor M3 Pro is the fastest model in the new M3 Series. We've already published a review of the M3 standard model and it achieved very good performance results. The 256GB Pro model we're looking at today uses a Marvell controller with beefed up programming and that increases write speed. Both the M3 and M3 Pro use the same 24nm Toshiba Toggle Mode flash.

The new M3P or M3 Pro as we are calling it is a new 7mm design, we'll talk more about that in our full review in a couple of days. It ships with a five year warranty, desktop adapter bracket, extensive software package and extensive documentation.

256GB / 240GB Pricing Comparison

Newegg lists both of the drives we are looking at the performance of today. The Plextor M3 Pro 256GB is listed at $389.99 and the SanDisk Extreme 240GB is now priced at $339.99.

Side-by-Side Comparison

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 04 | TweakTown.com

We're just going to briefly look over these two next generation drives. Both the Extreme and the M3 Pro use the 2.5" form factor so you'll not have a problem installing either in notebook. The Plextor does ship with a desktop adapter bracket for desktop use though.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 05 | TweakTown.com

Both drives have the proper mounting points on the bottom.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 06 | TweakTown.com

The Plextor uses a 7mm Z-height for next generation Intel Ultrabooks and the SanDisk uses a traditional 9mm height.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 07 | TweakTown.com

SATA power and data connectors are offset to the side where they should be.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 08 | TweakTown.com

This is why I built this page to begin with. The Plextor is on the right side and places the controller on the opposite side from the flash. The SanDisk divides the flash on each side of the PCB.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 09 | TweakTown.com

Both drives only use eight 24nm flash chips on the 240/256GB models. We have to wonder what the performance would be like with a full 16 chip spread.

Also the Plextor uses a 512MB cache buffer. SandForce controllers do not use external cache, one of the reasons why they generally cost less than many other drives with other controllers.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 14 | TweakTown.com

We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, Cooler Master, LSI, Corsair and Noctua.

You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.

In order to fully utilize SATA III you need a system with native SATA III support. P67, Z68 and X79 systems are preferred, but AMD has made advances in their newer SATA III systems as well. Older X58 systems with Marvell based SATA III do not deliver the same high levels of performance, so we recommend newer systems when available.

ATTO Baseline Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34

ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.

SanDisk Extreme 240GB

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 15 | TweakTown.com

Plextor M3 Pro 256GB

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 99 | TweakTown.com

Both drives read well over 500MB/s, but the Extreme has a solid 20MB/s advantage when reading data. That advantage moves to nearly 90MB/s when writing data, but these numbers are mainly used for marketing and seeing peak performance under ideal conditions.

Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00

Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:

Benchmark: measures the performance

Info: shows detailed information

Health: checks the health status by using SMART

Error Scan: scans the surface for errors

Temperature display

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 16 | TweakTown.com

In HD Tune Pro we're looking at sequential reads. The SanDisk Extreme has an average speed of 410MB/s and with TRIM working the graph is steady with little variation in the speed. The Plextor only achieves an average sequential read of 384MB/s, also with a steady line on the graph.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 17 | TweakTown.com

The sequential write results were 408MB/s average with the Extreme and 327MB/s on with the M3 Pro. This is a fairly big difference, but one that we expected from the specifications sheet.

Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time

AIDA64 Random Access Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

AIDA64 offers several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.

Drives with only one or two tests displayed in the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cached fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron and Toshiba.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 18 | TweakTown.com

Access times are what make SSDs feel fast in your system. The SanDisk delivers the typical SandForce read access times we are used to seeing. The Plextor M3P has an amazingly low read access time with an average of .05ms.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 19 | TweakTown.com

Once again we see typical SandForce access times, this time while writing data. The Plextor though goes to new levels with a .04ms average.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

Developer Homepage: http://crystalmark.info

Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html

Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark

CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.

Key Features:-

* Sequential reads/writes

* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes

* Text copy

* Change dialog design

* internationalization (i18n)

Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 20 | TweakTown.com

Here we're looking at 4K and native command queuing performance. The Extreme has a 4K read speed of 41MB/s while the M3P only hits 35MB/s. The Plextor has a higher 4 and 32 command read speed, though.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 21 | TweakTown.com

One of the most important performance perimeters for SSDs is 4K single command write speed. In this test the SanDisk Extreme delivers nearly 140MB/s, one of the highest we've seen to date. The Plextor hit just over 103MB/s in this same test.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage/

Buy It Here

PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.

FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 22 | TweakTown.com

HDD1 - Windows Defender

HDD2 - Gaming

HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery

HDD4 - Vista Startup

HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker

HDD6 - Windows Media Center

HDD7 - Windows Media Player

HDD8 - Application Loading

Now we are really getting down to what matters, real-world performance. Both the SanDisk Extreme and the Plextor M3 Pro score just over 85,000 Marks in the canned Vantage test. We've seen a small handful of Marvell based drives hit this same mark, but this is the first time we've ever had a drive based on a SandForce controller achieve more than 79,000 Marks.

PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article - full instructions are included.

- Brief Methodology

SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.

Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test

Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (128GB), 240 (256GB)

60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB

120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB

240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB

Empty but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 23 | TweakTown.com

HDD1 - Windows Defender

HDD2 - Gaming

HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery

HDD4 - Vista Startup

HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker

HDD6 - Windows Media Center

HDD7 - Windows Media Player

HDD8 - Application Loading

We prefer our own test where data occupies the drive before the benchmark is ran. Since most of us don't run our drives empty this is a much more accurate test of real-world performance. At a 50% fill state the SanDisk Extreme delivers 53,841 Marks, one of the highest scores we've recorded. The Plextor M3 Pro 256GB only scores 44,770.

What is interesting is the Plextor M3 Pro is only marginally faster than the base model M3 when both drives are half full.

Benchmarks - AS SSD

AS SSD Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.3577.40358

Developer Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software

Product Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software

Download here: http://www.alex-is.de/PHP/fusion/downloads.php?cat_id=4&download_id=9

AS determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without the use of the operating system caches.

In all synthetic tests the test file size is 1GB. AS can also determine the access time of the SSD, the access of which the drive is determined to read through the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke). The write access test is only to be met with a 1 GB big test file. At the end of the tests three values for the read and write as well as the overall performance will be issued. In addition to the calculated values which are shown in MB/s, they are also represented in IO per seconds (IOPS).

Note: AS SSD is a great benchmark for many tests, but since Crystal Disk Mark covers a broader range of 4K tests and HD Tune Pro covering sequential speeds, we will only use the Copy Benchmark from AS SSD.

Copy Benchmark

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 24 | TweakTown.com

SandForce has been working on increasing their file transfer performance and the SanDisk Extreme is the best of the lot. Plextor uses the Marvell controller that used to run away in this test and as you can see it is the fastest of Marvell drives. The SanDisk just runs away in this test.

Benchmarks - Passmark

Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.passmark.com

Test Homepage: http://www.passmark.com

Many users complain that I/O Meter is too complicated of a benchmark to replicate results so my quest to find an alternative was started. Passmark has added several multi-user tests that measure a hard drives ability to operate in a multi-user environment.

The tests use different settings to mimic basic multi-user operations as they would play out on your server. Variances is read / write percentage as well as random / sequential reads are common in certain applications, Web Servers read nearly 100% of the time while Database Servers write a small amount of data.

The Workstation test is the only single user environment and will be similar to how you use your system at home.

24nm Flash SSD Faceoff - SanDisk Extreme Retake and Plextor M3 Pro 25 | TweakTown.com

Neither of these drives are being sold as enterprise solutions, but that isn't going to stop you from loading up your web server where the performance is amazing. The Plextor does work faster in the web server test; this is due to its higher high queue depth performance. The database test shows the Extreme with a 10MB/s lead.

Final Thoughts

This article started out as a follow up to our original SanDisk Extreme review where we managed to botch the performance numbers. Obviously we needed to get the correct performance information out there, but then the new Plextor M3P arrived. With everyone buzzing about these two drives we felt it would be better to put them in the ring together and see what happened.

Even without TRIM, the SanDisk Extreme was a good performer, but with TRIM working, we can say that this is the not only the highest performing SandForce drive on the market, but this is the highest performing consumer SSD regardless of controller.

The Vantage score of over 85,000 was very impressive, but even more impressive is how the Extreme is able to carry the performance over to when data is present.

In the coming days we'll take a closer look at the Plextor M3 Pro 256GB and 128GB drives. These models ship with an impressive software, documentation package and have the industries longest warranty length.

Stay tuned for more soon!

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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