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SanDisk Extreme 240GB SSD with 24nm Toggle Mode Flash Review

We've seen prototype SandForce drives on display with 24nm Toggle Mode flash for nearly a year, but SanDisk is the first partner to launch such a product.
@TweakTown
Published Tue, Feb 28 2012 3:15 AM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: SanDisk

Introduction

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

SanDisk Extreme 240GB SSD with 24nm Toggle Mode Flash Review 01 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 27 IMAGES

Just last week we saw the Plextor M3, the first solid state drive to use new Toshiba 24nm Toggle Mode flash. The Plextor paired the most advanced flash available today with an aging Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2 controller and still achieved very good results. In that review we concluded the Plextor M3 was one of the first Marvell based products to compete head to head with the high performance SandForce SF-2281 drives.

For almost a year now SandForce toured with a SF-2281 controlled drive sporting 24nm Toggle Mode flash. The prototype was shown at Flash Memory Summit, Intel Developers Forum, LSI AIS and finally at CES 2012. It wasn't like this day was a big secret, but none the less, 24nm is now here. Today we get to see the latest evolution for high-end Team SandForce.

SanDisk 24nm synchronous Toggle Mode HBL NAND Flash???

I think by now most of our regular readers know about IMFT, Intel and Micron's joint flash venture. Toshiba and SanDisk have teamed up as well. Flash Forward, LTD celebrated the opening of Fab 5, a 300mm flash memory fabrication facility in Japan, back in July. Flash Forward is owned by Toshiba (50.1%) and SanDisk (49.9%). This puts SanDisk in a good position when it comes to manufacturing SSDs.

SanDisk 24nm Toggle Mode flash is the successor to the Toshiba 32nm Toggle Mode flash that was first introduced on many enthusiast class SandForce SATA III SSDs in 2011. Don't think Flash Forward is stopping at 24nm, they are already working on 19nm with parts sampling as I type this.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability and Packaging

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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For most users, the manufacturing technology doesn't mean anything. Numbers like 550MB/s read speed mean more than 24nm die size. SanDisk started aligning themselves with SandForce several months ago when they released the Ultra, a SF-1200 based budget drive. The Extreme that we are looking at today is the successor and SanDisk's first SATA III SSD.

The SanDisk Extreme SSD is already available in 120GB and 240GB capacity sizes. Later this year SanDisk will release a massive 480GB model. The 240GB drive we are looking at today is capable of reading data at up to 550MB/s. The claimed write speed is 520MB/s. The read IOPS are quoted at just 33K, but the random write IOPS are an incredible 83K.

As we mentioned the 120GB and 240GB Extreme SSDs are already listed for sale. Newegg carries both capacity sizes and at very competitive prices. The 120GB Extreme is available at the time of writing for 169.99 and the 240GB drive we are looking at today is listed at 339.99.

The SanDisk Extreme SSD doesn't ship with an extravagant accessory package. You get a solid three year warranty and a lengthy documentation for the warranty in several languages, but that is about it. This should also allow SanDisk to play a pricing game if they choose to. We would like to see a desktop adapter bracket ship with the drive, but it didn't happen with this release.

The Packaging

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SanDisk kept the red and black look with the Extreme. On the front of the package we get some general features associated with SSDs. SanDisk also shows the capacity size of the unit in the box on the front.

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There isn't a whole lot of information on the back of the package and we were not able to find any performance metrics on the package anywhere. It looks like at one point SanDisk was going to show a comparison between their Extreme and a 7,200 RPM spinner. The package mentions "** As compared to a 7,200 RPM SATA 2.5 hard drive. Based on published specifications and SanDisk internal benchmarking tests." At some point a sticker may replace information at the top with some performance data.

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On the inside we found the SanDisk Extreme inside an anti-static bag, pleased in a clear plastic shell and the Installation Guide / Warranty statement tucked behind the plastic shell.

SanDisk Extreme 240GB SSD

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

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Here we get our first look at the new SanDisk Extreme. There isn't a lot of info on the front of the drive other than the SanDisk logo.

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The back of the drive has a wealth of information on it. Our sample drive was manufactured just 19 days before our sample arrived. The model number, SDSSDX-240G-G25 and serial number are both listed here. The serial number shown ends in 2349 so it is a safe bet that SanDisk is pumping these drives out at a fast pace.

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The standard mounting points are on the side of the drive. This is a 9mm height drive so it will fit in most notebooks without issue. There are a growing number of ultrabooks that call for a 7mm height and this won't fit in this small but growing market.

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The SATA power and data ports are offset to the left side as they should be.

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Finally the moment we've been waiting for, 24nm goodness. The SanDisk Extreme uses the LSI SandForce SF-2281 flash storage processor. This is a term we are hearing pretty often these days instead of controller.

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The Extreme uses eight SanDisk branded 24nm Toggle Mode flash chips, four on each side.

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We suspect the 480GB model will populate all 16 flash slots. Till that arrives the high density 24nm chips will give us something to analyze.

SanDisk Extreme 240GB SSD with 24nm Toggle Mode Flash Review 13 | TweakTown.com

The PCB is a SanDisk design and it looks a little different when compared to some of the other designs on the market. Most of the small surface mount components are located on one side of the PCB.

Benchmarks Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

SanDisk Extreme 240GB SSD with 24nm Toggle Mode Flash Review 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 SSD with 24nm Toggle Mode Flash Review 15 | TweakTown.com

In our first test we achieved a read speed of nearly 558MB/s, a little faster than SanDisk's claimed performance. The write test was also faster than SanDisk's claimed performance numbers, nearly 535MB/s. We always like it when a drive outperforms the marketing numbers.

Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

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.

SanDisk Extreme 240GB SSD with 24nm Toggle Mode Flash Review 16 | TweakTown.com

SandForce has been working really hard these last few months on their firmware to increase performance and reliability. Here we see the performance side of their work paying off. The Vertex 3 240GB sitting on our charts uses an older firmware version (but a newer FW is available on OCZ's website) than the SanDisk Extreme SSD 240GB. The SanDisk Extreme delivers a very good sequential read across the drive. The average speed is just over 409MB/s.

SanDisk Extreme 240GB SSD with 24nm Toggle Mode Flash Review 17 | TweakTown.com

When a new flash is introduced you never really know how the die shrink will affect write performance. From this view it looks like the SanDisk 24nm Toggle Mode flash handles the new geometry just fine and still produces exciting write speeds. Here we see an average sequential write of just under 412MB/s.

Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

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 cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron and Toshiba.

SanDisk Extreme 240GB SSD with 24nm Toggle Mode Flash Review 18 | TweakTown.com

Manufactures and outside marketing companies like to show big numbers, they are exciting. The truth about SSDs though is the small number, read access times are what makes your PC feel so fast. The SanDisk Extreme 240GB delivers solid read access times that are consistent. We measured .15 ms in our test.

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The write access times fell in line with several other SandForce based SSD we tested over the last year and that isn't a bad thing.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

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.

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In CDM we're looking at 4K and native command queuing performance. The SanDisk Extreme delivers a good 4K read speed, right around 40MB/s. That number increases as commands are stacked. At 32 read commands the Extreme hits 212MB/s which is good, but not as fast as the Vertex 3 240GB when we tested it.

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The single command 4K write speed on the Extreme is very impressive, just over 132MB/s. Once again that number increases by a large amount when the commands are piled on.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

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.

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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

As always this is where things start to get very, very interesting. SanDisk sent over a data sheet with their marketing propaganda and some performance information their hit in their labs. Usually we glance over these sheets and toss them in a file folder, which sits on the floor, with the day's lunch wrappings in it.

This time though one number caught my eye and perplexed me. The claimed Vantage score per SanDisk was 62K. There are a few ways to test with this benchmark, with your OS on the drive and with your test drive in a secondary position. At first I just figured SanDisk tested the Extreme as a primary drive with the OS on it and that is how they concluded a 62K combined score.

If you follow our SSD reviews you know the latest and greatest SandForce based SSDs have been flirting with 80,000 Marks. A few are able to hit 78,000 and the new Intel 520 Series 240GB SSD leads the Team SandForce pack with just over 79,000 Marks. The SanDisk numbers were very close to what we hit. In our testing with the drive empty we only scored 64K Marks, a disappointing score.

PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

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.

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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

Ah, don't count the SanDisk Extreme out just yet. As we've mentioned we're playing with a new flash type here and with new flash comes new surprises. The SanDisk Extreme only scored 64K when the drive was empty, but you and I don't boot off empty drives. With the SanDisk Extreme half full it delivers 53K Marks which is even faster than the OCZ Vertex 3 240GB when we tested it!

We've been saying for nearly a year now that we want to see SSDs keep their performance as the drive fills, we want constant performance that is predictable. In our testing we see the SanDisk Extreme giving us predictable performance in the 25%, 50% and 75% full tests.

Benchmarks - AS SSD

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

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

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Keeping with the surprises, this one not so pleasant, we have the data copy test. A handful of the newer SandForce SSDs like the Corsair Force GT perform very well in this test, but the SanDisk Extreme doesn't follow suit. The Extreme is still faster than any platter based HDD, but falls well short of some other SSDs based on the SF-2281 controller.

Benchmarks - Passmark

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

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.

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SanDisk isn't planting the enterprise flag on the Extreme, but with performance like this, some of you might be willing to take a close look for your web and database servers.

Final Thoughts

Editor Note: After this article was published we learned that TRIM was not working on our test system at the time the Extreme 240GB was tested. A follow up article has been published with accurate benchmarks. Please read it here.

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For me, the progress made by SanDisk with their new 24nm Toggle Mode flash is very exciting. For you, the end result of using a smaller die size for the flash is exciting. This is because with each die shrink more flash can be manufactured per 300mm wafer. This takes place during the lithography process. The cost of a 300mm wafer stays the same, but when you're able to get more chips per wafer, the savings trickle down to the final product. The SanDisk Extreme 240GB already costs less than the OCZ Vertex 3 240GB at Newegg, which is our current pricing benchmark in which all SSDs are compared against.

The lower cost doesn't equate to lower performance with the SanDisk Extreme. The Extreme isn't as fast as the new Intel 520 Series, but it does cost significantly less, a benchmark for the people. Still, the SanDisk Extreme isn't that much off the pace set by Intel a couple of weeks ago and I doubt you would notice the difference between the two under real-world conditions.

One area that you will notice a difference between the SanDisk Extreme and several other popular drives is the accessory package. The Extreme ships bare, no desktop adapter bracket, no disk cloning software and the warranty sits in line with other companies selling drives with a low cost pricing model. With Intel touting their five year warrant and "Intel Optimized Firmware" for reliability, it would be nice to see SanDisk increase their warranty to five years as well.

For most people looking to purchase their first SSD, the accessory package doesn't matter. The SanDisk Extreme 240GB we tested today delivers what you need, solid access times, fast boot times (measured at 19 seconds on our test bench), good sustained sequential performance and at a price that is much low than many offerings on the market today. I hate to do it, but we are just loving the price of this drive. At the time of writing the SanDisk Extreme is the lowest priced SF-2281 240GB drive at Newegg with good flash, i.e. NOT asynchronous IMFT flash.

The flash makes a big difference in real-world performance and the SanDisk Extreme isn't going to leave you in the slow lane like asynchronous flash drive, even though the price is the same.

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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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