SanDisk Extreme 2 240GB SSD Review
With the release of the $230 Extreme 2 240GB Solid State Drive, SanDisk is proving once again that they were more than just a NAND manufacturer. They’re fully capable of creating a high performance Solid State Drive without the usual high price tag.
SanDisk have certainly been on a role this past 18 months. First they introduced the first Extreme series and then later the Ultra Plus series with its extremely distinctive 19nm eX2 ABL NAND. While both were innovative, neither was able to cement SanDisk’s place in this marketplace and they are still best known as an OEM for other manufactures.
The Extreme certainly helped get a foot in the door with consumers, but its combination of SanDisk 24nm Toggle Mode NAND ICs and a SandForce SF2281 controller was not exclusive. Ironically, it was Corsair and their Force GS who are better known for such a combination. The Ultra Plus on the other hand used distinctive NAND, but due to controller choices it was rather limited on the performance side of things.
The all new Extreme 2 changes all this as it uses a whole lot more of those 19nm eX2 ABL NAND ICs and pairs them to a different high performance controller. SanDisk hopes this unique combination will allow them to further solidify their place in the mindshare of consumers and provide those selfsame consumers with a radically different choice.
Since this is an Extreme branded drive, consumers could easily be forgiven for thinking it used an LSI SandForce SF2281 controller. After all, the SF2281 is still the dominant choice for many and it was what powered the original Extreme series. The Extreme 2 deftly avoided this elder statesman of the SSD world by using Marvell’s new ‘Monet’ 88SS9187. This is the full-fledged ‘bigger brother’ version of the controller found inside the Ultra Plus and is the driving force behind some of the best drives available today, such as the Crucial M500.
One thing the new Extreme 2 shares in common with its predecessor is a reasonable asking price. For $229.99, or 95 cents per Gigabyte, this is neither the most expensive nor the cheapest in the mainstream arena, but it does give the Extreme 2 a real chance at becoming an even better value that the original model.
In keeping with this more budget orientated approach to the mainstream marketplace SanDisk has once again opted for a semi-plastic clad case. We were less than impressed with this combination on the Ultra Plus and are even more so on the higher priced Extreme 2 series. This is not a major issue as the drive is meant to be housed inside a computer chassis and is more than durable enough for its intended task. On the positive side the Extreme 2 is a 7mm form factor device and as such can easily fit inside UltraBooks, something which the full metal original Extreme series could not.
Opening up the Extreme 2, we can see that while the components are radically different than that of the original Extreme, the architecture itself is very similar. Much like the Extreme 1, the Extreme 2 makes use of 8 NAND ICs instead of the more efficient 16 IC configuration. This may impact overall performance slightly, but given the unique nature of the 19nm eX2 ABL NAND ICs this may not be as significant as it was with the original Extreme series.
Unlike the original, the Extreme 2 also uses external ram cache in the form of a Samsung branded DDR3-1600 256MB RAM IC. This is because the Marvell 88SS9187 requires an external cache and is par for the course for all Marvell controller based drives. It is worth pointing out though this cache amount is not set in stone across the entire series. Rather, for approximately every 1GB of NAND SanDisk will include 1MB of onboard cache.
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