SanDiskUltra II SSD review: A new level of SSD affordability

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The Good The SanDisk Ultra II SSD delivers good performance, and its high-capacity versions are currently the most affordable on the market. The drive includes helpful software.

The Bad The drive's 120GB version is comparatively expensive. The three-year warranty is not as long as might be expected.

The Bottom Line With the lowest pricing on the market, the SanDisk Ultra II is an excellent upgrade for your aging computer.

8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

The SanDisk Ultra II SSD delivers the goods as a budget solid-state drive (SSD).

The new internal storage device is available in 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB capacities that cost just $80, $108, $219 and $495, respectively. This is proving to be, for the most part, a new low in SSD pricing.

While the Ultra II isn't the fastest SSD I've seen, nor does it have the longest warranty, the drive has enough performance and features to be an excellent deal for those looking to upgrade an aging computer that's still running on a regular hard drive.

If you have a computer that already runs on an SSD and you want to upgrade to an even faster drive, check out this list of top SSDs on the market for alternatives.

The SanDisk Ultra II is a new budget standard SSD from SanDisk. Dong Ngo/CNET

A SanDisk drive first: TLC NAND flash memory

The Ultra II is a standard 2.5-inch 7mm-thick internal drive, looking very similar to the Ultra Plus or even the new Extreme Pro that came out a few months ago.

On the inside, however, it's very different from its older brothers, being the first drive from SanDisk that uses the company's second-generation 19nm Triple Level Cell (TLC) flash memory. Prior to this, TLC NAND flash memory was mostly used in Samsung's drives, such as the Samsung 840 .

In a nutshell, TLC flash memory allows the memory cells to stack up vertically, which in turn packs more storage into the same space. This means the SSD is now cheaper to make but has slower performance and shorter endurance -- the total amount of data that can be written to the drive before it become unreliable -- than other types of memory, including Multiple Level Cell (MLC) and Single Level Cell (SLC).

SanDisk, however, says that its firmware, combined with the Marvell 88SS9187 controller, will still make the Ultra II perform well and provide high endurance. However, unlike the case of the Extreme Pro, SanDisk doesn't provide a specific endurance rating for the Ultra II. But the included three-year warranty generally means that you won't have any problem with it within at least the first three years.

SanDisk Ultra II SSD specs

120GB 240GB 480GB 960GB
Interface SATA 6Gbps SATA 6Gbps SATA 6Gbps SATA 6Gbps
Controller Marvell 88SS9187 Marvell 88SS9187 Marvell 88SS9187 Marvell 88SS9187
NAND flash memory SanDisk 2nd Gen 19nm TLC SanDisk 2nd Gen 19nm TLC SanDisk 2nd Gen 19nm TLC SanDisk 2nd Gen 19nm TLC
Sequential read 550 MB/s 550 MB/s 550 MB/s 550 MB/s
Sequential write 500 MB/s 500 MB/s 500 MB/s 500 MB/s
Random read 81K IOPS 91K IOPS 98K IOPS 99K IOPS
Random write 80K IOPS 83K IOPS 83K IOPS 83K IOPS
Warranty 3 years 3 years 3 years 3 years

nCache 2.0 technology

The Ultra II is equipped with SanDisk's nCache 2.0 tech, a new caching architecture that converts a portion of the drive's TLC flash memory to SLC mode, thus offering better performance and reliability. This means the drive can deliver much faster peak performance than it would normally without nCache. SanDisk says nCache 2.0 will also help deliver consistent performance with low energy consumption.

The drive also includes SanDisk Dashboard software that allows users to monitor and manage the drive's features, as well as contacting the company's customer support via Live Chat. On top of that, the software also provides links to download Apricorn's EZ GIG IV for drive cloning, and Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus+ to protect the system from malware, both for free.

The SanDisk Dashboard software is a handy utility. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

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