SanDisk Ultra II 240GB Review (Page 2 of 10)

Page 2 - A Closer Look, Installation, Test System

The SanDisk Ultra II 240GB is based on Marvell's 88SS9190 controller with a custom firmware. But before we dig down into the ever so important technical details, let us briefly discuss the physical attributes of the SSD first. The SanDisk Ultra II 240GB has a very simple appearance -- a plain black cover with a sticker in the middle, and this is it. In fact, it looks almost identical to the Ultra Plus, except for the text shown in front. However, once you pick it up, you will notice where the difference is. Rather than the usual aluminum housing in most SSDs, the entire enclosure is made out of plastic. Usually, aluminum is desirable because it is lightweight and dissipates heat well, but I do not see the Ultra II running too hot during operation, haha. On top of the flat plastic finish is a large label across the center to ensure the user will make no mistake that this is a SanDisk Ultra II drive. Measuring in at 100.5 mm x 69.85 mm x 7.0 mm, its thickness -- or lack thereof -- will ensure wide compatibility. If, for some reason, a full 9.5 mm is needed for installation, a rubber spacer will be included out of the box. The SanDisk Ultra II 240GB is also extremely light to behold at 58g.

Turning the SSD around reveals more plastic. Again, there is no metal backplate, but a fully enclosed design is something users have come to expect from a solid state drive. As always, there are no exposed printed circuit boards like you would normally see with a traditional hard disk. The only thing that is common between the SanDisk Ultra II 240GB SSD and a traditional hard disk drive is its SATA 6Gb/s and corresponding power connector at the end. As shown in our photo above, you will find a large label with the usual series of certification logos, along with information on the brand, capacity, and serial number. This SSD is made in China, because I mean, what is not made in China nowadays?

The SanDisk Ultra II 240GB's shell is attached to the backplate by four small screws behind the label. None of the screws has a warranty seal over it, so you are probably able to get away with opening up the drive without voiding anything. Please do not quote me on it though. Personally, I would not put the three year warranty at risk for fun. But not to worry. To save you some trouble, I cracked mine open to take some photos of its internals for you to see. And by doing so, you will notice why the Ultra II is so ridiculously lightweight. A small PCB that occupies less than half the area -- more like a third, actually -- inside the casing is all you will get, as shown in our photo above. There are some of what appears to be thermal pads between the enclosure and flash ICs. The enclosure is plastic, which is not thermally conductive. On a second look, it is probably more to keep the PCB in place than anything else.

At the heart of SanDisk's Ultra II is a Marvell 88SS9190 controller. It is a brand new chip. For the 240GB variant we are reviewing today, this is the four channel variant. For higher capacity models, you will find the eight channel version. Paired with SanDisk's custom firmware developed in-house, they can be sure even if someone else has the same hardware under the hood, competitors will not be manufacturing Ultra II clones by any means. This SSD is rated at 0.085W active power and 0.075W in sleep mode. The maximum read and write operation power consumption is rated at 2.7W and 4.5W, respectively, which is reasonably efficient.

The SanDisk Ultra II 240GB's Marvell 88SS9190 controller is paired with 256MB of SK Hynix H5TC2G63FFR memory. To further improve performance, a portion of the MLC flash array operates in SLC mode, in which they refer to as the nCache (Nothing to do with NVIDIA, really). The Ultra II features a slightly updated version of nCache Pro, dubbed nCache 2.0, which improves flash write endurance, write performance, and reduced processor overhead. TLC allows bits to be stored in eight states, whereas SLC only allows two. This improves performance for small file writes by moving more complete chunks of data into the MLC storage later on, as most operating systems access storage devices using small -- majority being 4KB -- access blocks. It is rather interesting how they have both DRAM and flash cache on board; usually you will only need one of two. With this two tier caching approach, SanDisk aims to provide decreased write amplification in conjunction with improved speed. Of course, the advantage of having flash as the cache is it is non-volatile, unlike DRAM.

Rated at 550MB/s read, 500MB/s write, and up to 91,000 IOPS over SATA 6Gb/s, these figures are extremely competitive. To see how it translates to numbers in our benchmarks, we will pit them against many drives in the market to see how this new value entry from SanDisk steps up against SandForce, Indilinx, Phison, and Marvell based drives in the next seven pages or so.

A total of four NAND flash chips are found in the SanDisk Ultra II 240GB solid state disk, with two on each side. The chips used are SanDisk's own 1Ynm series X3 ABL Toggle TLC NAND flash memory, with a capacity of 64GB per integrated circuit chip. These are triple level cells manufactured on the 19nm fabrication process. 16GB out of the 256GB total capacity (Just under 7%) is used for overprovisioning, as with a number of drives on the market today. You will see 223GB in Windows. One SK Hynix H5TC2G63FFR chip is present; it is used with the Marvell 88SS9190 controller to ensure smooth operation, as aforementioned.

Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K @ 4.6GHz
CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-U14S (2x Noctua NF-A15)
Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution
RAM: Kingston HyperX Savage HX324C11SRK2/16 2x8GB
Graphics: Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 2GB OC
Chassis: SilverStone Temjin TJ04-E (Noctua NF-S12A PWM, Noctua NF-P12 PWM)
Storage: SanDisk Extreme II 240GB; OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB
Power: PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi Bravura
Optical Drive: LiteOn iHAS224-06 24X DVD Writer
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional

Compared Hardware:
- SanDisk Ultra II 240GB
- Crucial MX100 256GB
- G.Skill Phoenix EVO 115GB
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB
- Kingston HyperX 120GB
- Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB
- 2x Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB RAID 0
- OCZ ARC 100 240GB
- OCZ Agility 3 240GB
- OCZ Agility 4 256GB
- OCZ Octane 512GB
- OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB
- OCZ Vector 150 240GB
- OCZ Vector 256GB
- OCZ Vertex 2 160GB 25nm
- OCZ Vertex 2 60GB 34nm
- OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB
- OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB
- OCZ Vertex 4 256GB
- OCZ Vertex 450 256GB
- OCZ Vertex 460 240GB
- Patriot Blaze 240GB
- Patriot Pyro 120GB
- Patriot Pyro SE 240GB
- SanDisk Extreme II 240GB
- SanDisk Extreme PRO 480GB
- SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB
- Silicon Power Slim S80 240GB

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look, Test System
3. Benchmark: AIDA64 Disk Benchmark
4. Benchmark: ATTO Disk Benchmark
5. Benchmark: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0
6. Benchmark: HD Tach
7. Benchmark: HD Tune Pro 4.60
8. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 8.0
9. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
10. Conclusion