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SanDisk X210 256 And 512 GB: Enthusiast Speed; OEM Reliability

SanDisk X210 256 And 512 GB: Enthusiast Speed; OEM Reliability
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SanDisk's X210 SSD is both an OEM drive for major vendors and an aftermarket product for the enthusiast world. Having passed a gauntlet of validation tests, can it break into the consumer space as a true alternative to the quickest power user products?

In some ways, SSDs are mysterious little devices. Filled with closely guarded secrets, there are inner workings we'd like to understand better, but probably never will. For instance, much of the validation process is privileged, particularly when it comes to the OEM units supplied to companies like Dell and Lenovo. Nevertheless, it remains a critical step, if only because it affects an end user's confidence in a (relatively) new storage technology. When SSDs start failing, people start losing faith in them. And that's notoriety that can't be made up quickly.

SanDisk's new X210 series is much like the Extreme II with reform school training to get it through a stricter validation process. Aimed at higher-end mobile users and entry-level server environments, most X210s will start life in a system where only carefully-chosen SSDs are allowed to operate. That's not an easy position to achieve. OEMs have their own standards for reliability, and if you're going to guarantee that a drive works in multiple makes of multiple vendors' machines, you want to be darned sure all of those sales aren't coming back as returns.

And that's the big impetus behind SanDisk's X210. The platform is incredibly similar to the company's other offerings, pairing 19 nm eX2 Toggle-mode flash with Marvell's highly-regarded flash controllers. Where this SSD sets itself apart is in its firmware. Having passed through a gauntlet of eight different OEMs' validation processes, the X210 reaps the benefit of that torture testing in the form of distinctive software.

We've spent quite a bit of time looking at SanDisk's products lately in SanDisk A110 PCIe SSD: Armed With The New M.2 Edge Connector, SanDisk Ultra Plus SSD Reviewed At 64, 128, And 256 GB, and SanDisk Extreme II SSD Review: Striking At The Heavy-Hitters. The former is also subject to strict OEM validation processes, while the latter have to pass SanDisk's in-house procedures for the aftermarket. Like its enthusiast-oriented Extreme II, SanDisk's X210 also relies on Marvell 88SS9187 silicon. Unlike the Extreme, it eschews the over-provisioned firmware for something more appropriate on the business scene.

SanDisk X210
128 GB
256 GB
512 GB
Form Factor
2.5", 7 mm Z-height
SATA
Revision 3.1
Controller
Marvell 88SS9187
Flash
19 nm SanDisk eX2 ABL Toggle-mode
Special Features
nCache, DevSleep, Thermal Throttling, 80+ TBW Endurance
DRAM Cache
128 MB Micron DDR3
256 MB Micron DDR3512 MB Micron DDR3
Sequential Read/Write MB/s
505/330
505/470
505/470
Random 4 KB Read/Write IOPS
86,000/55,000
88,000/60,000
89,000/58,000
Price
$124
$200
$320
Warranty
5 Years
5 Years
5 Years

The X210 joins SanDisk's X110, an OEM-oriented variant of the quad-channel Ultra Plus. Both drives are positioned above the U110, which uses a low-power proprietary SanDisk controller. With the X210 in its portfolio, SanDisk's OEM SATA-based offerings now encompass three separate lines.

Inside The SanDisk X210

We aren't going to spend too much time digging around under the X210's lid. It's very similar to the Extreme II we reviewed last summer, and there isn't much new to report. Do note the metal chassis cover though, which includes thermal pads to transfer heat away from the SSD's warmest components.

Four screws secure that metal cover to the plastic base, sandwiching the PCB in between. The 256 GB model we're reviewing uses all of one side for DRAM, the controller, and eight NAND packages. Each die is 64 Gb, so every package necessarily hosts eight dies.

Marvell's 88SS9187 is the same processor used in the Extreme II. You'll also find it in Plextor's M5P, Crucial's M500, and a few other mid- and high-end client SSDs. The eight-channel design supports SATA 3.1, along with optional parity-based redundancy and DevSleep. Enabling those feature depends on compliant firmware though, and Marvell doesn't provide its partners with reference software. As a result, each Marvell-based solution is different, sporting a range of capabilities. Crucial exposes partial-die redundancy in the M500, while SanDisk doesn't.

Unlike the Extreme II we reviewed last year, the X210 swaps in DDR3 memory from Micron in place of Hynix's modules. Each capacity point gets 1 MB of cache per gigabyte of on-board flash. So, the 128 GB model gets a 128 MB DDR3-1600 package.

And of course, the defining feature of SanDisk's latest drives not based on SandForce's controllers is nCache. This feature has been around in SanDisk literature for years, but its present implementation is essentially an SLC emulation and caching system. The first tier consists of volatile DRAM. The second tier is a variable MLC cache that behaves like single-level cell NAND. And the third on-drive tier includes the remainder of SanDisk's Toggle-mode flash. The benefits of nCache are mostly seen in low-queue depth random workloads, where the speedy emulated SLC memory speeds up I/O.

Incidentally, Samsung is using a not-entirely dissimilar system in its 840 EVO, as are several other vendors. It's a great mechanism for caching writes as NAND lithography leads to higher-latency flash. SanDisk uses a variable cache for catching segments, while the EVO utilized a fixed amount of flash pinned to the same physical locations. They're certainly similar methods, if not identical. SanDisk's U100, X110, X210, Ultra Plus, and Extreme currently rely on nCache.

Display 22 Comments.
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  • 1 Hide
    vertexx , January 15, 2014 3:15 AM
    I logged onto Tom's this morning totally expecting a Kaveri review. What's up?
  • 2 Hide
    TeraMedia , January 15, 2014 9:00 AM
    Is the warranty 5 years or 3? Last page says one thing, an early page says another.Decent review, decent drives. Has THG considered doing something similar to what the car mags do, where they take certain products and use them for a year? It would be great to capture that kind of longer-term info on certain types of products, especially the kind that wear out (ODDs, fans, cases, HDDs, SSDs, etc.).
  • 1 Hide
    Quarkzquarkz , January 15, 2014 9:05 AM
    What about Samsung SSD pro 512GB? I bought 2 of these and on that chart is only 128 and 256GB
  • -1 Hide
    vmem , January 15, 2014 9:07 AM
    @vertexxthere isn't anything particularly exciting about Kaveri going by Anand's review. I shall want for the A10 version with higher clocks
  • 2 Hide
    smeezekitty , January 15, 2014 11:05 AM
    MLC with 5k write endurance!And affordable and fast?We may very well have a new solid contender in the SSD world
  • 1 Hide
    eklipz330 , January 15, 2014 3:47 PM
    anandtech has one? sweeeet, later tom's!
  • 3 Hide
    RedJaron , January 15, 2014 3:52 PM
    I agree with Chris. I don't need the fastest bench speeds in a SSD. Most models now are very fast and the user won't see the performance difference. I want reliability and longevity. Looks like this is a smart choice for any new builder.
  • 2 Hide
    Phillip Wager , January 15, 2014 9:54 PM
    sweet finally another company that can compete with intel's 5 year warrenty!
  • 2 Hide
    jake_westmorley , January 16, 2014 2:31 AM
    Can we PLEASE have some normal graphs for once? The graph on page 5 in stupid 3D is so bad it's comical. The "perspective" effect completely screws with the data. This has zero added value and is almost as bad as still using clipart.
  • -1 Hide
    Duff165 , January 16, 2014 2:35 AM
    I find it hard to believe that the author has had "literally dozens of SSd's die" on him over the years. This would suggest that many systems have contributed to the demise of many of the SSD's being used, which seems somewhat outlandish. Just the cost factor involved in the purchase of so many SSD's and then having over a dozen of them fail, supposedly also from various companies, since if they were all from the same company it would not really be conducive to good sales. One, or maybe two I could live with, but dozens? No.
  • 1 Hide
    jabliese , January 16, 2014 9:18 AM
    @Duff165 I would respond to your ignorance, but I really, really dislike this "new" comment system that Tom's has foisted on us.
  • 0 Hide
    smeezekitty , January 16, 2014 11:02 AM
    Quote:
    @Duff165 I would respond to your ignorance, but I really, really dislike this "new" comment system that Tom's has foisted on us.


    Agreed. Now it is truly screwed more than ever.
    WTH is will the continuously scrolled unrelated articles, dropped newlines and just plain broken comments.
  • 2 Hide
    RedJaron , January 16, 2014 11:23 AM
    Quote:
    I find it hard to believe that the author has had "literally dozens of SSd's die" on him over the years. ... One, or maybe two I could live with, but dozens? No.

    For the typical user that only has a few systems at the same time, yes. For someone who works with dozens of systems, the chance for one of them to fail goes up. Constantly building, testing, and reconfiguring machines means you're constantly imaging and re-imaging drives, which wears them out much faster than normal. Perhaps it was a little exaggerated, but it's definitely possible
  • 0 Hide
    tripleX , January 16, 2014 7:05 PM
    Lol. All of the work that went into making page 5 seem like some super-complicated test. That is just HDTune, which can be ran with the click of a button and hardly requires and entire page and horrible graph for explanation.
  • 1 Hide
    stewieco , January 17, 2014 9:08 AM
    Question: Can this drive be used on a personal laptop??
  • 2 Hide
    smeezekitty , January 18, 2014 2:53 PM
    Quote:
    Question: Can this drive be used on a personal laptop??


    I don't see why not
  • 0 Hide
    LFDRTechPro , January 20, 2014 5:14 PM
    There's actually a pretty huge difference between MLC-SLC translator based emulation and the way that tlc can behave electronically(physically) as SLC independently at the bottom of the translation layer. MLC-emulation has a partially positive and partially negative effect on translator stability, but with a robust controller(Marvell), the net effect on reliability is positive.With TLC as SLC, the effect is nearly perfectly proportionate to having SLC physically present.In fact, it is possible(with manufacturer tools) to take just about any TLC device like a 64GB usb flash drive and make it electronically indistinguishable(nearly) to a ~22Gb TLC flash drive in respect to performance, endurance, etc...MLC emulation is much more nuanced.
  • -1 Hide
    mwearl , January 20, 2014 6:52 PM
    @Duff165. It's very believable that the author could have had dozens of SSD failures, especially if he used some brands like Mushkin. We were building systems using their 120GB SSDs and had nearly 75% failure rate within the first 6 months. Since then, we have used primarily Kingston with a few Intel and Crucial SSDs and haven't had a single failure since.
  • -1 Hide
    mwearl , January 20, 2014 6:54 PM
    @Duff165. It's very believable that the author could have had dozens of SSD failures, especially if he used some brands like Mushkin. We were building systems using their 120GB SSDs and had nearly 75% failure rate within the first 6 months. Since then, we have used primarily Kingston with a few Intel and Crucial SSDs and haven't had a single failure since.
  • 2 Hide
    gwolfman , January 21, 2014 10:31 AM
    Since the major difference between the X210 and the Extreme II is the firmware, can you please test the Extreme II on the new DriveMaster TRIM test and see if they behave the same? SanDisk just turned into a new favorable option for me for my next drive.
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