A recent trend in the area of high-end SSDs is the steadily increasing favorability of Marvell’s latest 88SS9187 controller amongst the larger players in the market. Plextor’s M5 Pro Extreme was one of the earliest drives to use this controller and Crucial’s new M500 drive also follows suit.
SandForce’s SF-2281 controller is still the most widely used, but it seems that larger SSD manufacturers with the ability to craft their own firmware are realizing that there is little value in opting for SandForce’s solution in this crowded marketplace.
SanDisk is the latest SSD manufacturer to join the steadily growing group offering top-tier drives with Marvell's controller as their new Extreme II SSD also employs Marvell’s 88SS9187 controller. This is paired with custom firmware from SanDisk and 19nm Toggle-Mode MLC NAND that is result of SanDisk’s collaboration with Toshiba. The Extreme II SSD will be offered in three capacity points: 120GB, 240GB and 480GB. This drive is also SanDisk's latest flagship, replacing the old SandForce-powered Extreme SSD, which won the Best Value award in our previous High-end SSD Shootout.
To further differentiate themselves from its competitors, the Extreme II SSD also implements new SanDisk’s own nCache technology to improve random write performance. nCache is interesting because a portion of the Extreme II SSD’s MLC NAND die is set to operate in SLC mode to improve random write performance. It’s a low-latency, high performance write buffer than works in conjunction with the main DRAM cache, the objective of which is to cache small random writes and then write them to the main MLC NAND storage when the drive is idle. Additionally, because it is built into each MLC NAND die, this means that it is able to maximize all the memory channels that is built into the controller.
Along with SanDisk’s mainstream offering, the SanDisk Ultra Plus, this means that all of SanDisk’s drives are now running on Marvell silicon.
Launched just over a week ago at the company's 25th anniversary event, we've been lucky to give the new Extreme II SSD a closer look in this review. As usual, we sampled the 240GB capacity which is a popular size among seasoned enthusiasts. On the other hand, we noted newcomers venturing into SSD territory tend to want to keep expenses manageable and often opt for the 120GB sized options to augment their terabyte-sized storage HDD. We start the review rolling with the following snapshots of the drive:-