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

Page 2 - A Closer Look, Installation, Test System

The SanDisk Extreme II solid state drive is based on Marvell's 88SS9187 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 Extreme II 240GB has a very simple appearance -- a plain black cover with a sticker in the middle, and this is it. 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 don't see the Extreme 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 Extreme 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 if you have purchased the laptop bundle. People who have the desktop version will have a set of screws to go with a 3.5" adapter bracket. The SanDisk Extreme II 240GB is also extremely light to behold. The company specifies it as 57g, which is practically featherweight.

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 Extreme 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. In case you missed it, our particular unit is the SanDisk Extreme II 240GB, haha. This SSD is made in China.

SanDisk Extreme 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 Please do not quote me on it though. But not to worry. To save you some trouble, I cracked mine open to take some photos of its internals for you to see. Knowing the SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB, I was half-expecting some ridiculously small PCB that occupies maybe half the internal space in the Extreme II. However, after cracking open the enclosure, what we have is a full sized board inside. Being the performance version and all, this is probably something to be expected anyway, haha. I am also rather surprised to see thermal pads between the enclosure and flash ICs. The enclosure is plastic, which is not thermally conductive.

At the heart of SanDisk's Extreme II is a Marvell 88SS9187 controller. Yep, not a SandForce SF-2281. Surprising, isn't it? 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 won't be manufacturing Extreme II clones by any means. This SSD is rated at 0.22W active power and 0.10W in sleep mode. The maximum read and write operation power consumption is rated at 2.9W and 3.4W, respectively, which is reasonably efficient.

The SanDisk Extreme II 240GB's Marvell 88SS9187 controller is paired with 256MB of Samsung DDR3-1600 memory. This is twice as much RAM at twice the speed compared to the Ultra Plus 256GB. To further improve performance, a portion of the MLC flash array operates in SLC mode, in which Marvell refers to as the nCache (Nothing to do with NVIDIA, really). MLC allows bits to be stored in four 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, 510MB/s write, and up to 95,000 IOPS over SATA 6Gb/s, these figures are extremely competitive figures. To see how it translates to numbers in our benchmarks, we will pit them against the big boys of this game to see how this new flagship from SanDisk steps up against SandForce based drives in the next seven pages or so.

A total of eight NAND flash chips are found on the SanDisk Extreme II 240GB solid state disk, with all eight on one side. The chips used are SanDisk's own eX2 ABL MLC flash memory marked '05226-032G', with a capacity of 32GB per integrated circuit chip. These are multi-level cells manufactured on the 19nm fabrication process. 16GB out of the 256GB total capacity (Just under 7%) is used for overprovisioning, just like many SandForce based drives in the market today. You will see 223GB in Windows. One Samsung 256MB DDR3-1600 chip is present; it is used with the Marvell 88SS9187 controller to ensure smooth operation, as aforementioned.

Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K @ 4.50GHz
CPU Cooling: Thermaltake WATER2.0 Pro (Noctua NF-F12)
Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution
RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws-X F3-14900CL9D-8GBXL 4x4GB
Graphics: Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 2GB OC
Chassis: Lian Li PC-B12
Power: PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi Bravura
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64 SP1

Compared Hardware:
- SanDisk Extreme II 240GB
- G.Skill Phoenix EVO 115GB
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB
- Kingston HyperX 120GB
- Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB
- Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB
- 2x Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB RAID 0
- OCZ Agility 3 240GB
- OCZ Agility 4 256GB
- OCZ Octane 512GB
- 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
- Patriot Pyro 120GB
- Patriot Pyro SE 240GB
- SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB

Page Index
1. Introduction and Specifications
2. A Closer Look, Installation, 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 7.0
9. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
10. Conclusion