SanDisk Ultra Plus SSD (256GB) - A Marvell Alternative

Launch SRP: S$360


The Shift to Marvell

Mention SanDisk and you are likely to think of USB flashdrives and memory cards. The company hasn’t really been strong in the SSD space (from a marketing perspective) but they are looking to change that by providing consumers with a variety of options.

Recently, we reviewed their flagship SanDisk Extreme SSD in our Great High-end SSD Shootout, and we found it to be an excellent drive, delivering good performance at an attractive price. On the other end of the scale, we also reviewed their ReadyCache SSD companion drive that greatly speeds up any system still running on mechanical hard drives for a relatively low cost.

Today, we are looking at another drive from SanDisk, the Ultra Plus. There are a couple of differences between the Ultra Plus and the Extreme SSD series of drives. While the Extreme drives are driven by the very popular SandForce SF-2281 controller, SanDisk has instead chosen to go with Marvell for the Ultra Plus drives. In this case, the controller of choice is the fairly new Marvell SS889175.

The Ultra Plus is SanDisk's new range of drives using a new Marvell controller and is targeted at more mainstream users.

This controller is not entirely different from the more popular Marvell 88SS9174. In fact, it can best be described as being a light version of the 88SS9174. While the 88SS9174 is often complemented with 512MB of DRAM, the 88SS9175 as fitted in the SanDisk Ultra Plus has to make do with just 128MB. Furthermore, this controller has just four independent NAND channels (the 88SS9174 supports up to eight), which should hamper random access performance. Naturally this meant that the memory chips in this 256GB drive are of 64GB density each. The memory chips used are SanDisk’s own 19nm MLC NAND memory. If you remember, the SanDisk Extreme drives are fitted with SanDisk's faster Toggle-Mode MLC NAND. Factoring all this information, we expect the SanDisk Ultra Plus to be a slower performer than most of the other drives we've recently tested.

Here’s a quick look at the drive.

The drive is of the slimmer 7mm form factor, but it comes with an additional bumper to "expand" it to 9.5mm if required. Apart from this bumper, there's no additional accessories. 

Peeling away the cover, we can see the innards of the drive. As you can see, it's really basic. There's the Marvell SS889175 controller, a 128MB DRAM chip, and four 64GB SanDisk MLC NAND chips (two on each side).

The Marvell SS889175 controller chip is second from top. The 128MB DRAM chip is above, while the bottom chips are the NAND flash memory chips. As can be expected, SATA 6Gbps connection is the normal external drive interface.

The Good
Fast sequential read and write performance
Bumper to convert drive to 9.5mm form factor
The Bad
Below average random access performance
No HDD installation bracket or other accessories
Extremely expensive; top performing drives retail for much less

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