The new SanDisk Ultra Plus solid-state drive is an upgrade to the SanDisk Ultra that came out last year. The Plus notation doesn't necessarily mean better performance, but rather lower total cost. The new drive, at launch, is among the most affordable on the market and in fact is more affordable than the SanDisk Ultra.
For that reason, it's easy to look past the drive's comparatively unimpressive performance. With the Plus in the name, one might expect the drive to be comparable to the
That said, the SanDisk Ultra Plus is in no way a slow SSD. It still makes a great upgrade for those moving on from using a hard drive as the main drive of their computer, be it a laptop or a desktop. If you need something faster, even if it costs more, check out this list of alternatives.
Design and features
|Drive type||7mm-thick, 2.5-inch standard internal drive|
|Connector options||SATA 3 (6Gbps), SATA 2, SATA|
|Available capacities||64GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|Product dimensions||7mm-thick, 2.5-inch standard|
|Capacity of test unit||256GB|
|Controller||Marvell SS889175 (6Gbps SATA/NAND combo controller)|
|Flash memory type ||SanDisk 19nm eX2 ABL MLC NAND|
|OSes supported||Windows, Mac, Linux|
Coming in the now-familiar 7mm chassis, the new SanDisk Ultra Plus looks very different from the SanDisk Ultra or the SanDisk Extreme, with a premium finish. It's the first from SanDisk that comes with a piece of framing that can add another 2.5mm to its thickness in case you want to use in places where standard 9.5mm internal drives are used.
The new drive does not, however, come with a drive-bay converter that would help it fit in places where 3.5-inch desktop drives are used. This is not a big deal, since you can safely use an SSD inside a desktop computer without securing it to the chassis. Since it has no moving parts, staying loose inside a computer doesn't really affect an SSD's performance or durability.
On the inside, the new SanDisk Ultra Plus is also very different from its predecessors. It's the first drive from SanDisk that uses the new Marvell SS889175 controller, which is designed for both SSD and regular SATA standards. The controller supports SATA 3 (6Gbps), and the Ultra Plus is also backward-compatible with SATA 2 (3Gbps) and SATA (1.5Gbps). You'll want to use the drive with a computer that supports SATA 3, however, to get the most out of it.
As for flash memory, the Ultra Plus uses SanDisk's own 19nm eX2 ABL MLC NAND. While this is multiple-layer cell memory, which is popular in consumer-grade SSDs, the Ultra Plus' type of memory is capable of having a small portion work in single-layer cell mode, which is similar to the memory used in enterprise-grade SSDs. This mode is called nCache, and the drive's firmware determines how much of its total capacity is used for this. According to SanDisk, the SLC nCache portion is allotted dynamically and remains less than 1GB.
In short, the unique feature of the Ultra Plus is that it's a consumer-grade SSD that can potentially offer the experience of a much more expensive enterprise-grade SSD.
The new SanDisk Ultra Plus is designed to use just 0.12 watt of power during operation. While this is not the lowest I've seen, it's still very low and will help improve the battery life a great deal, compared with a 2.5-inch hard drive.
Cost per gigabyte
At around $217 for 256GB, the SanDisk Ultra Plus costs just 85 cents per gigabyte. Its 128GB version costs about the same at 86 cents per gigabyte. This makes the new SSD one of the most affordable on the market. The recently reviewed OCZ Vector, for example, costs somewhere between $1.05 to $1.17 per gigabyte, and the Samsung 840 Pro is close to $1 per gigabyte. Even the older SanDisk Ultra is about $1 per gigabyte.
Prices of SSDs have been very volatile lately; you can expect them to get even lower in coming months.
The SanDisk Ultra Plus didn't impress me much in my testing. I reviewed the 256GB-capacity drive both as a computer's main drive hosting the operating system and as a secondary drive that works as extra storage space.
When used as the main drive, the Ultra Plus helped improve the overall performance of the computer a great deal. The test system took just about 11 seconds to boot up and about 5 seconds to shut down, much faster than when it used a hard drive. Applications also loaded much more quickly. Compared with other SSDs, however, it wasn't much different, though slower than many. Since SSDs are generally very fast compared with standard hard drives, it's hard to quantify the difference between them when it comes to the overall performance of a computer.
What can be easily quantified, however, is the data-transferring speed, or sequential read/write performance, which is not exactly an SSD's strength. In this test, when used as the main drive of a computer and performing both read and write duties at the same time, the Ultra Plus scored 107MBps, just about average among all SSDs tested. A faster drive, such as the Samsung 840 Pro, managed about 170MBps in this test.
When used as a secondary drive, the Ultra Plus did much better in data transfer tests, at 168MBps for writing and 227MBps for reading. However, these still were just about average on the charts.
Overall the SanDisk Ultra Plus offered a typical SSD experience in our tests and would wow anyone who has decided to move up from a hard drive.
|As Secondary Drive||As OS Drive|
With decent performance and very affordable pricing, the SanDisk Ultra Plus makes a great investment for those who want to upgrade their computer's main hard drive to an SSD.