SanDisk Ultra Pro Review

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Pros: Low cost; 7mm form factor fits in Ultrabooks

Cons: Slower speeds than competitors; Mediocre IOPS

Verdict: The SanDisk Ultra Plus offers much faster performance than a traditional hard drive at a cheaper price than most competing SSDs.

SSDs keep getting less and less expensive. At just $179 for the 256GB capacity ($99 for 128 GB), the SanDisk Ultra Plus provides solid performance at a price that's lower than most of its competitors. Though this drive won't set any speed records, it provides a strong upgrade from a hard drive. Plus, at just 7mm thick, the Ultra Plus will fit inside almost any notebook, including most Ultrabooks.

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Design

While it won't win any design awards, the SanDisk's plain jane black chassis with gray sticker won't repulse you for the few minutes you need to look at it before hiding it inside your PC. More important than the 2.5-inch drive's look is its thin 7mm profile, which allows it to fit in almost any notebook. While most after-market SSDs today are still 9mm high, an increasing number of notebooks, including Lenovo's X and T Series, have bays that only support the shorter 7mm standard. If your notebook has a 9mm bay, 7mm drives like the Ultra Plus will still fit easily.

Controller and Flash Memory

The SanDisk Ultra Plus is powered by a Marvell 88SS9175 controller with 128MB of RAM and 19mm SanDisk NAND Flash. It also uses SanDisk's nCache technology, which speeds up small writes by holding those transactions in a temporary cache and then sending them to the NAND in one larger operation. Like every modern SSD, the Ultra Plus supports SATA 6Gb/s interfaces.

The Competitors

To see just how the SanDisk Ultra Plus stacks up, we compared the test results of our 256GB review unit to those of three other SSDs we've tested recently, including the Samsung SSD 840 PRO Series (256GB, $229), the Intel SSD 335 (240GB, $199) and the OCZ Vertex 4 (240GB, $219). All drives were tested on the same quad-core Core i7 notebook running Windows 8.

CrystalDiskMark

To get a sense of what the SanDisk Ultra Plus SSD is capable of in a best-case scenario we ran CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2, a synthetic test that measures read and write speeds by transferring a 1000MB file in sequential, 512K and 4K block sizes.

When transferring the file sequentially, the SanDisk Ultra Plus managed a solid read rate of 459.5 MBps, which falls a little short of the Intel SSD 335 (490.6 MBps) and the Samsung 840 PRO Series (490.6 MBps), but handily beats the OCZ Vertex 4 (388.7 MBps). Its write rate of 409.8 MBps also fell in the middle of the pack, beating the Intel SSD's mark of 325.9 MBps, but not the OCZ Vertex 4 (435.2 MBps) or Samsung SSD 840 PRO (462.7 MBps).

Using 512k blocks, the SanDisk Ultra Plus achieved modest read / write speeds of 264.8 / 366.6 MBps, which compares unfavorably to Samsung SSD 840 PRO (430.1 / 418.5 MBps), OCZ Vertex 4 (284.9 / 413.3) and the Intel SSD 335 (386.7 / 291.1 MBps). With smaller 4K blocks, the Ultra Plus fell in the middle of the pack, providing 24.3 / 57.2 MBps read / write speeds. That showing is better than the Intel SSD 335 (20.9 / 52.3 MBps) but behind the OCZ Vertex 4 (26 / 62.2 MBps) and the Samsung SSD 840 PRO (27.8 / 51.2 MBps).

Like all modern SSDs, the Ultra Plus uses NCQ (Native Command Queuing) to dramatically speed up 4K transfers. With a queue depth of 32, the SanDisk Ultra Plus provided a strong read rate of 330.3 MBps, which was higher than the OCZ Vertex 4 (316.6 MBps) and the Intel SSD 335 (214.8) but still short of the Samsung SSD 840 PRO (370.7 MBps). Its write rate of 172.3 MBps was over 100 MBps behind all three of its competitors.

IOPS (Input/Output Per Second)

The higher an SSD's IOPS, the more work it can do at one time. Low latency is important too, because the faster your drive starts executing a command, the sooner it can move on to the next one. We used IOMeter to measure random and sequential read / write IOPS for 4K blocks.

Drive Read IOPS
Random
Write IOPS
Random
Read
Latency
Write
Latency
Samsung 840 Pro 79,010 35,700 0.04 0.89
OCZ Vertex 4  64,350 29,361 0.49 1.08
SanDisk Ultra Plus 33,956 15,159 0.94 2.11
Intel SSD 335 25,229 16,719 1.2 1.9

When performing random 4K transactions, the SanDisk Ultra Plus managed a read rate of of 33,956 IOPS, which is better than the Intel SSD 335 (25,229) but not as good as the OCZ Vertex 4 (64,350) or SAMSUNG SSD 840 PRO (79,010). The Ultra Plus's write IOPS of 15,159 trailed all of its competitors, especially the SSD 840 PRO (35,700), by a wide margin. The SanDisk's read / write latency of (.94 / 2.1) also trailed the field.

Drive Read IOPS Seq Write IOPS seq Read
Latency Seq
Write
Latency Seq
Samsung 840 Pro 76,219 78,308 0.41 0.41
OCZ Vertex 4  64,547 73,074 0.49 0.43
SanDisk Ultra Plus 71,530 61,915 0.45 0.52
Intel SSD 335 73,605 53,478 0.43 0.59

The SanDisk Ultra Plus delievered a 4K sequential read IOPS of 71,530, which is significantly stronger than the OCZ Vertex 4 (64,547) but still way behind its other competitors, The SanDisk drive's latency was slightly less than the Samsung SSD 840 PRO and OCZ Vertex 4's.

File Copy Tests

Drive Multifile Copy
(sec)
Single File Copy
(sec)
Samsung 840 Pro 0:25 0:15
OCZ Vertex 4 0:33 0:20
Intel SSD 335 0:34 0:19
SanDisk Ultra Plus 0:35 0:17
Hitachi 7,200 rpm Drive 2:37 1:10

To see how quickly the SanDisk Ultra Plus copies files, we timed two different operations: copying 4.97GB of mixed-media files and transferring a single 3.1GB file. The Ultra Plus's times of (35 / 17 seconds) was within a few seconds of the OCZ Vertex 4 and Intel SSD 335, but way behind the Samung SSD 840 PRO (25 / 15 seconds).

Zip Tests

Few individual tasks stress your storage system like compressing or uncompressing files, because the drive must both read and write plenty of data at the same time.

Drive Zip Time
(mm:ss)
Unzip Time
(mm:ss)
Samsung 840 Pro 2:49 2:19
OCZ Vertex 4 2:49 2:23
Intel SSD 335 2:50 2:24
SanDisk Ultra Plus 2:55 2:26
Hitachi 7,200 rpm drive 4:06 3:43

When we zipped a 4.97GB group of mixed media files, the SanDisk Ultra Plus (2:55) trailed its competitors by a modest 5 to 6 seconds. The drive unzipped that archive 2 to 5 seconds slower than the Samung, Intel and OCZ drives.

Single Application Open Tests

Perhaps the most important benefit any SSD offers is the ability to open applications and files much more quickly than a spinning hard drive. To see how quickly the Samsung SSD 840 PRO Series drive can launch apps, we recorded open times for five typical applications: Adobe Reader opening to a 500-page PDF, Excel 2010 opening to a 6.5MB spreadsheet, Firefox 17 opening to a blank page, Photoshop CS6 opening to a 400MB TIF file, and Word 2010 opening to a blank document.

Drive Adobe Reader (sec) Excel (sec) Firefox (sec) Photoshop (sec) Word (sec) Average Open (sec)
Samsung 840 Pro 3.7 1.9 1.1 6.9 0.4 2.8
SanDisk Ultra Plus 4.1 2.4 0.8 7.8 0.6 3.1
OCZ Vertex 4 4.2 1.9 0.8 11.0 0.4 3.6
Intel SSD 335 3.9 2.2 1.2 10.7 0.6 3.7
Hitachi 7,200 rpm drive 7.7 6.3 3.6 24.7 1.9 8.8

When it came to opening apps, the SanDisk Ultra Plus beat both the OCZ Vertex 4 and Intel SSD 335 by more than half a second on average, but only because the drive's Photoshop open time of 7.8 seconds was significantly faster than the OCZ and Intel drives. With other apps, SanDisk's drive sat in the middle of the pack.

Multitasking: App Opens Under Stress

Drive Adobe Reader (sec) Excel (sec) Firefox (sec) Photoshop (sec) Word (sec) Average Open (sec)
Samsung 840 Pro 4.3 3.2 2.4 12.2 0.6 4.5
SanDisk Ultra Plus 5.9 4 1.6 10.7 1.0 4.6
OCZ Vertex 4 5.5 3.2 1.6 18.7 0.6 5.9
Intel SSD 3.8 3.8 2.9 19.0 1.2 6.2

To see how well the SanDisk Ultra Plus can handle multitasking, we performed the same app open tests with our zip test going on in the background. Under these difficult conditions, the drive provided solid performance on average, opening the five applications in an average of 4.6 seconds. However, most of that result came from the Ultra Plus' stronger Photoshop times; its open rates for other apps hung in the middle to bottom of the pack.

Pricing

The SanDisk Ultra Plus comes in 64, 128 and 256GB capacities. The 128 and 256GB drives currently go for $99 and $179 respectively. Amazon was the only retailer we found selling the 64GB capacity, which is too small for anything but a netbook, and the site charges a ridiculous $120 for it, more than the 128GB version. At $.70 per Gigabyte for the highest capacity, the Ultra Plus is significantly less expensive than the Samsung SSD 840 PRO Series ($.93 per GB), the OCZ Vertex 4 ($0.91 per GB) and the Intel SSD 335 ($0.83 per GB).

Verdict

The SanDisk Ultra Plus offers solid SSD performance in a 7mm form factor that will fit into nearly any notebook chassis. If you're willing to pay $50 more (for the 256GB capacity), the Samsung SSD 840 PRO Series provides much better read, write and application open speeds. For around $30 more, the 9mm OCZ Vertex 4 is also noticeably faster. However, if you're looking for a good SSD value, the SanDisk Ultra Plus is a really strong choice.

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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, Online Editorial Director on
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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Capacity 256GB
Rotational Speed
Seek Time
Read/Write Speed
Ports SATA
Storage Type SSD
Size 028 in. x 2.75 x 3.95 inches
Weight
Company Website www.sandisk.com