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SanDisk Ultra Plus SSD review: A worthy upgrade from a hard drive

Dong_Ngo.jpg

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.

The new 7mm SanDisk Ultra Plus is much different from the 9.5-mm predecessor, the SanDisk Ultra.
7.6

SanDisk Ultra Plus SSD

The Good

The <b>SanDisk Ultra Plus</b> is great-looking and comparatively affordable. The drive offers decent performance.

The Bad

The SanDisk Ultra Plus' overall performance could use some improvement compared with similar drives' numbers. The drive doesn't come with desktop accessories.

The Bottom Line

If you're moving up from a hard drive, the SanDisk Ultra Plus is totally worth its price.

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 Samsung 840 Pro or the Plextor M5 Pro. As it turns out, in performance the new Ultra Plus is no match for any recent top-tier SSD.

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 7mm SanDisk Ultra Plus is much different from its 9.5mm predecessor, the SanDisk Ultra.
The new 7mm SanDisk Ultra Plus is very different from its 9.5mm predecessor, the SanDisk Ultra. Dong Ngo/CNET

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.

Performance
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.

CNET Labs' boot/shutdown scores (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Shutdown  
Boot time  
Samsung 840 Pro
5.21 
10 
Samsung 840 series
6.09 
11 
Plextor M5 Pro
6.21 
11.1 
SanDisk Ultra Plus
5.4 
11.2 
Corsair Neutron
6.2 
12 
OCZ Vertex 4
6.8 
12 
OCZ Octane
6.3 
12 
OCZ Vector
4.95 
13 
SanDisk Ultra
7.2 
13.5 

CNET Labs' data transfer scores (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
As Secondary Drive  
As OS Drive  
OCZ Vector
286.77 
173.78 
Samsung 830 Series
261.63 
172.88 
OCZ Vertex 4
246.55 
168.36 
Samsung 840 Pro
256.63 
168.18 
Corsair Neutron GTX
273.62 
161.38 
Plextor M5 Pro
251.19 
155.65 
Corsair Neutron
237.69 
138.44 
OCZ Octane
183.41 
135.43 
Monster Digital Le Mans
177.56 
121.11 
Sandisk Extreme
234.15 
117.66 
Plextor M3
221.98 
110.4 
SanDisk Ultra Plus
167.55 
107.36 
Samsung 840 Series
230.69 
103.12 
RunCore Pro V Max
186.78 
92.55 
WD VelociRaptor 1TB
149.73 
62.21 
WD VelociRaptor 600GB
126.33 
58.05 
Seagate Barracuda XT
115.71 
51.1 
WD VelociRaptor 300GB
112.59 
47.12 

Conclusion
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.

The new 7mm SanDisk Ultra Plus is much different from the 9.5-mm predecessor, the SanDisk Ultra.
7.6

SanDisk Ultra Plus SSD

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7Support 8