Introduction and Specifications, Pricing and Availability
SanDisk entered the SATA III SSD market with great fanfare. The company is a pioneer in the flash market and even co-owns a NAND flash factory with Toshiba.
We've looked at the Extreme SSD 240GB on a couple of occasions while going through firmware revisions. At the same time we've tested the largest capacity size, 480GB and the 120GB model.
Today we're running the 480GB Extreme SSD through some tests and now that firmware R211 is public, we can tell you all about it.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
SanDisk released the Extreme SSD in 60GB, 120GB, 240GB and 480GB capacity sizes. The performance changes a little with each capacity size with the 240GB model being the fastest. Today we're looking at the 480GB model and as you can see some of the performance metrics are down a bit when compared to the 240GB size.
One of the reasons SanDisk made such a splash with the Extreme SSD is the price. Google Shopping tipped up a low price for the Extreme SSD 480GB of just $359. This price blows the sweet spot of $1 per GB out of the water and makes this one of the lowest priced large capacity SSDs on the market today.
In order to get to such a low price point SanDisk made the Extreme SSD a no frills product. Unlike some other Team SandForce offerings, SanDisk didn't include a desktop adapter bracket or data migration software. At this price we aren't going to complain because the price is amazing. You also get a three year warranty.
Packaging and SanDisk Extreme 480GB SSD
Without a desktop adapter bracket or a dense accessory kit the retail box is fairly small. You get a lot of general information on the package.
In the package we found a paper manual that accompanies the actual drive.
SanDisk Extreme 480GB SSD
Here we get our first look at the actual drive. Black on black with a splash of red is visually appealing.
Your model number and serial number are on the back.
All of the mounting points are located where they should be. Here we see the side mounts and on the previous image we saw the bottom mounts.
The SATA power and data labels are also where they should be.
SanDisk chose the LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller and paired it with sixteen 24nm SanDisk Toggle NAND flash chips.
The 240GB Extreme uses just eight NAND flash chips, but this larger 480GB model uses sixteen. This will give us out first opportunity to see how the flash count affects power in our new power tests later on in this review.
Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance
Desktop Test System
Lenovo W530 - Mobile Workstation
We use two systems for SSD testing. The desktop runs a majority of the tests and the Lenovo W530 runs the notebook power tests as well as the real-world file transfer benchmark.
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.
Using ATTO to find the peak performance we observed the SanDisk Extreme SSD 480GB achieving 548MB/s read and 525MB/s write speeds. The read speed is in line with SanDisk's claimed performance, but the write speed of 525MB/s is quite a bit faster than the claimed 460MB/s.
Benchmarks - Sequential Performance
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
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.
Starting with a new drive, the first few tests allow us to get the drive out of fresh out of box (FOB) performance and into a consumer steady state. Reading across the drive we hit a maximum of 443MB/s and averaged 421MB/s. This level of performance is pretty standard on SandForce drives with firmware based on 5.0.3 and 5.0.4.
Write performance is slower on SandForce drives with 512GB of NAND flash. Here we hit just over 400MB/s average, but there is nothing slow about that.
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 cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron and Toshiba.
We hear a lot from manufacturers about the high sequential reads and write performance, but very little about latency. Latency is what makes a SSD feel fast in our computers, especially read latency. This is the time it takes for your request to be turned into an action. When you double click Internet Explorer you want your web page to open instantly. When you feel a delay, you feel increased access time.
As you can see in the charts most SSDs hover around the sub .1ms, but a few fall into the .05ms range.
Write access time isn't as big of a deal for consumer SSDs since under normal use you read more than you write data. However, if your write latency gets too high, your drive will pause for seemingly no apparent reason. We haven't had that problem with SSDs in a while, but a write event with high latency can slow down the read actions that are stacked in a string.
Benchmarks - 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.
* 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.
In CDM we're looking at 4K and native command queuing performance. The SanDisk Extreme SSD 480GB delivers 36MB/s when reading 4K data. That jumps up to 72MB/s with QD4 and to 226MB/s at QD32.
The 4K writes suffer from the increased capacity size with the SandForce controller. Here we see just 20MB/s at 4K and that scales to just 38MB/s at QD4. It appears the SF-2281 has lost some steam when scaled to 512GB.
Newer controllers like the new LAMD and Marvell scale really well in products like the Corsair Neutron and OCZ Vertex 4.
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/
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.
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
With the drives empty, Vantage shows fairly even performance for most of the ultra high performance SSDs. The SanDisk Extreme still has very good read performance at low queue depths and for consumers the read performance outweighs the write performance.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing
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.
Using the half full mark as a measuring stick, the SanDisk Extreme SSD 480GB is one of the top three performing high capacity drives on our chart. This is an important measurement because none of us run SSDs without data on them and SSD performance changes so much when populated with data.
Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities
Anvil Storage Utilities
Version and / or Patch Used: RC5
So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests, you can run a full test or just the read or the write test or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K DQ16.
Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.
The software is used several different ways and to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.
Fill Compressible Data
As most of you know by now SandForce based drives lose performance when working with incompressible data. In the two images above we see the performance drop off in each category.
QD32 Random Read
The Anvil 4K QD32 random read test delivers just over 57K IOPS.
QD32 Random Write
The 4K QD32 write performance was just under 50K IOPS. The 240GB Extreme SSD delivers around 92K IOPS with firmware R211 so there is a performance penalty when choosing the 480GB model.
Benchmarks - BootRacer
BootRacer - System Boot Time
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0
Developer Homepage: Greatis
Product Homepage: BootRacer
Download here: http://www.greatis.com/bootracer/download.htm
Note: In this test we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation loaded with an operating system and several program files. The data on the drive at the time of the test is 45GB. The second test, 50GB Free, was ran with the drives filled with block data until only 50GB of free capacity remained.
Starting with BootRacer we start our tests run on a Lenovo W530. Any performance drawbacks from using the 480GB capacity size can't be seen while booting to Windows.
Benchmarks - DiskBench
DiskBench - Directory Copy
Version and / or Patch Used: 184.108.40.206
Developer Homepage: Nodesoft
Product Homepage: DiskBench
Download here: http://www.nodesoft.com/diskbench/download
Note: In this test we use the Lenovo W530 Mobile Workstation and a SuperSSpeed S301 SLC 128GB SSD to move a 15GB block of data to and from the target drive. This is part of our real world test regiment. Roughly 45GB of data resides on the target drive before the '15GB Block' is transfer. The 15GB Block is the same data we built for the Data on Disk Testing.
Copying large amounts of data to and from the SanDisk Extreme is fast as well, but other products on the market are faster.
Benchmarks - Power Testing
Bapco MobileMark 2012 1.5
Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
Test Homepage: http://www.bapco.com
MobileMark 2012 1.5 is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of office productivity, media creation and media consumption. Unlike benchmarks that only measure battery life, MobileMark 2012 measures battery life and performance simultaneously, showing how well a system design addresses the inherent tradeoffs between performance and power management.
In the introduction I said we'll take a look at the power usage difference between the SanDisk Extreme 240GB and the 480GB. Since it has more physical NAND flash I'm not surprised to see the 480GB Extreme do a little worse in this test, but I am surprised to both of these drives do worse than the Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB.
Until now I thought the SanDisk Extreme was a really good drive for notebook use. Just a couple of days ago we tested the Silicon Power Slim S70 and it delivered around 276 minutes of battery time in MobileMark 2012 1.5, more than the Neutron GTX, but still less than the Crucial m4. The two SanDisk Extreme drives were down around 40 minutes to the Crucial m4 512GB.
PCMark Vantage HDD Test - Power Draw
Before I started doing the notebook test I was only testing power while playing back a trace from FutureMark's PCMark Vantage. Here we see the SanDisk Extreme 480GB doing really well (in yellow). This test doesn't take into account idle time unless induced by the benchmark.
As you can see, the Extreme doesn't have the peaks that the other drives do and at the low end the Extreme pulls less power than the other drives.
I'll admit, we're still scratching our heads, but the results were verified in several runs.
Any performance limits we found while testing the SanDisk Extreme 480GB are nullified by one simple fact - $359. That price makes the SanDisk Extreme 480GB SSD one of the lowest priced, high capacity SSDs on the market, and it's not even a drive with low performance asynchronous flash. It even costs less than the OCZ Agility 3 480GB, one of the lowest priced async flash drives currently listed at Newegg. SanDisk gets a really big thumbs up for the price.
In order to get to that price though SanDisk had to do two things. The first is co-owning the NAND flash factory. The price really shows the advantages of having your own fab. The second thing SanDisk had to do was skimp on the accessory package. This one has an effect on your user experience because you might need to buy a desktop adapter bracket if using the Extreme in a desktop. Notebook users really don't have to worry about the adapter bracket, but without data migration software, you might find yourself in a situation where you have to spend some money to avoid reinstalling Windows.
Still though, the price trumps anything I could possible say since it's paired with a mature controller with high quality flash. For those still wondering, TRIM is now fixed on SanDisk Extreme drives with firmware R211 and is no longer an issue. It's just a footnote in history now.
We've tested a number of capacity sizes in the SanDisk Extreme line up now and would recommend all of them. SanDisk found an opening in the market and made sure the Extreme SSD would stick as the low price and no frills high performance SSD. It's really hard to go wrong when offering one of the fastest SSDs at the best price.
The 480GB model though does have a few notes to go with it though. Newer products on the market have higher write performance especially when dealing with 4K. The price jump negates the higher performance in the write department though since you won't see much of a difference after you get your programs installed and your system setup for daily use.
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