by Robert Tanner on July 29, 2013 in Solid-State Drives
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?
Real-world results are surprisingly hard to come by when testing SSDs. It is extremely easy to showcase just how much faster any SSD on the market is compared to even a modern mechanical disk drive. However, when we try to compare SSD to SSD, differences can amount to just a few seconds or even a fraction of a second, often well inside the margin of error (and human reflexes), making any results obtained meaningless.
We are always eager to hear about any demanding storage workloads our readers may have, but in an effort to get around this problem, we have put together three batch test files that target three levels of intensity.
Firstly we have our light batch file, which we drop into the Windows Startup folder. Windows 7 will execute and load various programs and commands as it boots, making it perhaps the most easily pertinent of our three tests. Almost everyone has an array of programs that starts with their OS, ranging from background applications like anti-virus to programs like a browser or music player.
This batch file will load four websites in Firefox, start Photoshop CS5 and load five 5MB or greater images, and load 15MB of data in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents. Several background utilities will also load; a PDF file and compressed file are opened for viewing, and of course, since nobody likes to work without listening to some music, we have our favorite 56MB FLAC file playing the entire time. Obviously, all of this takes place while Windows 7 itself is still loading. We start timing from the moment the machine is powered on to the moment the last program finishes loading – and it isn’t as long as you might think. (We provide raw cold boot times on the next page for direct comparison).
Our medium batch test is similar although we apply the use of timers to space apart the commands. Instead of booting, time begins from the moment we execute the batch file until the moment all tasks have completed. The medium test also consists of the following:
- Playback of a 56MB FLAC music file in Winamp
- 50 ~8MB JPEGs queued to open in Photoshop CS5 64-bit
- Launching of Adobe Lightroom
- Opening of three Excel, three Word, and one PowerPoint files (various large sizes; for example one Excel file consists of a 72MB database)
- Browsing to four different websites in Firefox
- Copy of a 4.5GB file to a separate location on the same drive
- Viewing of two PDF documents & compressed archives
- Execution of multiple small system utilities
To keep things simple, the heavy batch test is identical to the medium test in all respects, save for one important addition. Computer users coming from HDDs will be familiar with the slowdown or even molasses-like feeling that occurs from having an anti-virus or anti-malware scan running in the background. SSDs scoff at this sort of thing however, and the typical SSD user wouldn’t think twice about running an anti-virus scan at the same time as playing a fullscreen game since framerates will remain relatively unaffected.
The heavy test will capitalize on this by running an anti-virus scan from Microsoft Security Essentials on a static, unchanging 5.1GB test folder that contains 19,748 files and 2,414 sub-folders copied from the Program Files directory. Also worth noting is that because the medium and heavy batch tests are identical save for the AV scan, results between them are directly comparable.
For some odd reason the Ultra Plus didn’t do well in our boot test, falling a few seconds behind the other drives. In the medium batch test where OS booting isn’t a factor, it performed well by comparison, actually placing second best behind only the Vector in performance.
The story doesn’t change once we throw in a ton of random reads into the mix, which was originally a problem for the Marvell controller found in the m4. The Ultra Plus again places second best in the heavy batch test out of our ten drives, with a 32 second (or 25%) quicker time than its distant m4 relative and only ten seconds behind the top finisher.