Enthusiast SSDs may get all of the fame and glory, but it’s the value brands that always sell the most drives. As a relative newcomer that doesn’t rely on SandForce controllers like many other vendors do, can SanDisk’s Marvell-equipped Ultra Plus deliver that “Ultra” good value we’re looking for?
SanDisk originally jumped into the SSD market utilizing both generations of the SandForce controllers, but the recent introduction of the Ultra Plus and Extreme II products do away with them – and for good reason, as the Ultra Plus has just aptly demonstrated.
Despite being a 4-channel controller, the Marvell SS889175 paired with a custom SanDisk firmware has allowed the Ultra Plus to not only dominate the army of SandForce clones, but also outperform older 8-channel Marvell controllers utilized in other SSDs. That it calls itself a value drive would almost be amusing, except that it is true. Since its launch earlier this year the Ultra Plus has maintained a track record for being one of the lowest cost SSDs at the most popular e-tailers without the need to resort to rebates or frequent promotions.
It is debatable just how much credit SanDisk’s novel nCache solution should get for such good performance but if one thing is certain, it is contributing toward the SSD’s good performance numbers. The Ultra Plus is weakest in sequential writes and SanDisk is up front about that in the official specifications, yet the nCache still allows it to place anywhere from average to exceedingly good random write performance in our tests. In particular, such strong Iometer performance was surprising to see from a value-brand solid-state drive, let alone one with a Marvell controller inside. AS SSD performance was also very strong, placing the drive almost within the score range of the premium enthusiast SSDs, and HD Tune certainly agreed as far as read performance went.
As of this writing, the Ultra Plus is $101 and $175 for the 128GB and 256GB models respectively. At these prices they remain cheaper than even most SandForce clones, while delivering considerably better overall performance without the issue of whether compressible or incompressible data is in use. As usual with most SSDs, consumers will see better, more-consistent performance from the 256GB model, and at $0.68 cents per GB it’s one of the most affordable.
The Ultra Plus is available in Laptop (G25) and Desktop (G26) SKUs. Both ship as a 7mm height drive, but only the G25 model includes a plastic shim so the drive will mount inside traditional 9.5mm laptop bay. The desktop model forgoes the shim for a 3.5” bracket and SATA cable instead. SanDisk wraps things up with a pretty standard 3 year warranty on its SSDs, although granted, these days that’s still longer than the average hard drive warranty.
It is admittedly refreshing to see a company not just innovating, but delivering unexpectedly good performance, yet at a price that consistently undercuts nearly all of its competitors. SanDisk’s Ultra Plus SSD delivers very good performance at a price which belies the fact that it can at times rival the performance of enthusiast-priced SSDs. For these reasons we award the SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB our Editor’s Choice award, for delivering the best value we’ve seen from a budget solid-state drive in some time. The Ultra Plus 256GB is one budget SSD I would not hesitate to personally use in my own laptop.
There is no single glaring weak point or caveats to be mentioned; the Ultra Plus is a genuinely good all-around solid-state drive from a global flash memory company that evidently knows how to maximize performance at an affordable price point when it comes to dealing with flash memory. That it is delivered at one of the most aggressive price points relative to the SSD market just seals the deal and as such earns our recommendation.