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SanDisk Extreme 120GB SSD Review – Performance at a bargain price

Posted 25 May 2012 22:33 CET by Wendy Robertson

I/O Performance

There is little point of having an SSD drive that has blazing sustained reading and writing speeds, if the drive can't handle reading and writing of small random files. If you intend to use your new SSD drive to store and run your operating system, then the drive must be able to cope with the many small random files that Windows will write to the drive continually. So I feel it is very important to test how many of these random files that a drive can handle in one second. I believe that anything over 1,000 I/O’s per second would be enough for most users running a consumer grade mainstream PC, and should provide a smooth running system. But obviously, the more I/O's that a drive can handle, the faster the drive will feel and leave more headroom for those huge multitasking sessions that users sometimes engage in.

The things that I will look at are the total I/O per second and total MB/s.

Partition alignment and sector boundaries

Windows 7 and Vista will automatically align a partition to 4k boundaries during partition creation, Windows XP won’t. It is imperative that an SSD’s partition is aligned. Windows XP is also restricted to sector boundaries, while Windows 7 will use 4k boundaries if it can. The SanDisk Extreme is 4k boundary aware, and will use these boundaries if possible. Of course it will also remap LBAs for compatibility with the sector boundaries so that the drive can be used with Windows XP.

IOMeter allows us to set the sector boundaries for conducting the tests, and I have therefore set the sector boundaries at 4K, which means the IOMeter tests are valid for Windows 7 and Windows Vista users. XP users will not be able to obtain such results.

I will provide a screenshot of the tests on the review drive for those of you who like to see the actual test result. All the comparison drive results are represented in the form of graphs.

If any of you would like to see a screenshot from any IOMeter test on a particular drive, please feel free to request one, and I’ll post the screenshot in the forum thread.

All the IOMeter tests create a 10GB data set on the target drive, and each test is run for a duration of 3 minutes.


IOMeter 4K random write test with repeating data.

The first test involves creating continual 4KB random files on the target drive with IOMeter. I use a 4KB file size, as it is believed that Windows will create and modify many of this size of file constantly in the background during a typical Windows session. It is said that most 4K random writes take place at a queue depth of only one, and I have been requested to include this test in my reviews.

Queue depth 1

SanDisk Extreme SSD – 4K random write (QD1)

At 67.39 MB/s the SanDisk Extreme is showing very good performance at this queue depth, and is about neck and neck with the other SF-2281 based SSDs.

Our next test involves creating continual 4KB random files on the target drive with IOMeter. I use a 4KB file size, as it is believed that Windows will create and modify many of this size of file constantly in the background during a typical Windows session. I will use queue depths of 4 and 32 for these tests.

Queue depth 4

SanDisk Extreme (Queue depth 4)

At a queue depth of 4, the SanDisk Extreme performance is very strong indeed, and is the second fastest SandForce SF-2281 based SSD.

Queue depth 32

SanDisk Extreme (Queue depth 32)

The SandForce SF-2281 SSD processor is known to scale very well with increasing queue depths, so it’s no surprise to see the four SF-2281 based SSDs doing very well in this test, and in fact the SanDisk Extreme is the fastest SSD in this test.


IOMeter 4K random write test with fully random data.

This test is exactly the same as the test above except that the test data is fully random and is therefore much more difficult to compress. This test was requested as SandForce based SSDs gain a lot of performance by being able to compress data on the fly. While the above test shows the SandForce based SSDs in a best case scenario, the following test will show the SandForce based SSDs in a much more realistic scenario.

Queue depth 4

SanDisk Extreme SSD – 4K random write (QD4 with fully random data)

The SandForce SF-2281 based SSDs pays a big penalty when having to deal with data that isn't so easy to compress, and to compound matters even further, the small capacity SanDisk Extreme 120GB SSD pays a bigger penalty than the larger SF-2281 based SSDs, with largely incompressible data.


4K random write queue depth profile

For this test I used various queue depths from 1 – 32 to give you an idea how this SSD performs at different queue depths. For a normal desktop user for lightweight multitasking, the queue depth will rarely rise above 2. For heavy multitasking, the queue depth is unlikely to rise above a value of 8.

The result is below.

The SanDisk Extreme 120GB SSD has the highest peak performance of all the SSDs in this test, reaching 341.74 MB/s at a queue depth of 32. However, it is no match for the Everest 2 based Vertex 4 at lower queue depths.

Below I present a table of the results in more detail.


IOMeter 4K random read test.

If there are many 4k files created, then that must also mean that many 4k files need to be read. This test measures 4k reading performance.

It is said that most 4K random reads take place at a queue depth of only one, and readers have requested that I include this test in my reviews.

Queue depth 1

SanDisk Extreme SSD (Queue depth 1)

The SanDisk Extreme is quite a bit behind most of the other SSDs in this test.

Queue depth 4

SanDisk Extreme SSD (Queue depth 4)

Once again the SanDisk Extreme is being outgunned by most of the other SSDs in this test.

Queue depth 32

SanDisk Extreme SSD (Queue depth 32)

There are no surprises here, and once again the SanDisk Extreme is outgunned, although with 23,909 IOPS, it has surpassed the figures that SanDisk claim for the 120GB model.

4K random read queue depth profile.

This test shows how the review drive scales with increasing queue depths.

Below I present a table of the results in more detail.

If we look at the SanDisk Extreme 4K random read performance in detail, it is not that far behind the larger capacity SandForce SF-2281 based SSDs at lower queue depths, but it doesn't scale very well with increasing queue depths.


IOMeter 512KB write test with repeating data.

Sequential writing performance is also very important; in this test sequential writing performance is measured.

SanDisk Extreme 512K Sequential write with repeating data

The SanDisk Extreme has excellent sequential writing performance when the data is easily compressed, and is well up to the performance level of the three larger SF-2281 based SSDs.

IOMeter 512KB write test with fully random data.

This test is exactly the same as the test above except that the test data is fully random in nature. This test was requested as SandForce based SSDs gain a lot of performance by being able to compress data on the fly. While the above test shows the SandForce based SSDs in a best case scenario, the following test will show the SandForce based SSDs in a more realistic light. In the real world, the data is neither 100% incompressible nor 100% compressible, it is somewhere in between. So please keep this in mind.

 

  SanDisk Extreme SSD – 512K sequential write with fully random data

With data that is not so easy to compress, the SandForce SF-2281 based SSDs take a big hit in performance, and once again the lower capacity SanDisk Extreme pays a big penalty.


IOMeter 512KB sequential read test QD1.

This test measures 512k sequential reading performance at very low queue depths.

SanDisk Extreme SSD – 512K sequential reading test QD1

The SanDisk Extreme 120GB SSD has excellent sequential reading performance at low queue depths, and is the fastest SSD in this test.

IOMeter 512KB sequential read test (dual threaded).

This test measures 512k sequential reading performance QD2.

SanDisk Extreme SSD – 512K sequential reading test QD2

There isn't a huge difference in performance between most of these SSDs in this test, but for the record the SanDisk Extreme 120GB SSD finishes this test in sixth place.


IOMeter Workstation simulation (outstanding I/Os = 64).

When running applications you will find that there is a mixture of small random files, and larger sequential files, being created and read. Not only that, it isn’t just one file at a time. In this test I measure a simulated workstation pattern, with a queue depth of 64 (threaded).

SanDisk Extreme SSD – Workstation simulation

Once again the lower capacity SanDisk Extreme 120GB SSD can't keep pace with the higher capacity SandForce based SSDs, or the mighty Everest 2 based Vertex 4, although it has done better than the Crucial M4 256GB, and the OCZ Octane 512GB SSDs. Overall, I'd say the SanDisk Extreme has done fairly well in this test.


Summary

Overall the SanDisk Extreme 120GB SSD has done well in the IOMeter tests. It has been outgunned in many situations by the larger capacity SandForce based SSDs, and not even its very fast toggle mode NAND can overcome the performance hits associated with not being able to access all the eight channels of the SandForce SF-2281 SSD processor.

Now let’s head to the next page where we will look at how the SanDisk Extreme SSD performs using a brand new benchmarking application....

 

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