We’ve reviewed a number of SSDs in the past, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get my hands on Sandisk’s latest drive – the Sandisk Extreme SSD. It’s the fastest SSD we’ve ever tested, and is surprisingly affordable compared to the competition!
Sandisk’s Extreme series of SATA III SSDs is based on the latest SandForce SSD chips, promising write 520MB/s and read speeds of up to 550MB/s. It’s attractive red-on-black color scheme and solid metal casing make it both a durable and attractive option for customers seeking faster storage for their machines.
As usual when I review an SSD, I installed the Sandisk Extreme in the main hard drive bay in my MacBook Pro, with a larger standard HDD in a caddy where the optical drive would usually be. I used several different methods to test the drive, including “common” benchmarks such as testing boot, program loading, and file transfer times, as well as formal benchmarks, which I performed using DigLloydTools amd BlackMagic Disk Speed Test (Free, Mac App Store Link). The formal benchmarks were performed with the drive completely empty, while the “common” benchmarks were performed with a fresh install of OS X Lion, as well as the necessary programs for testing.
- Common Benchmarks
While I always perform common benchmarks very last, they’re usually the first results most non-technical users want to hear about. The common benchmarks I used included converting a large video file (the exact same video file I use in all my SSD reviews) using Handbrake (10 minutes, 59 seconds), timing how long it takes the machine to fully boot into a fresh install of OS X Lion (7.6 seconds), and timing how long it takes the machine to boot into a fresh install of Adobe Photoshop CS5 (1.2 seconds).
In general, the common benchmarks showed the Sandisk Extreme SSD to perform faster overall than any previous SSD I’ve ever tested, including the OCZ Vertex 3 (review).
- Formal Benchmarks
As with the common benchmarks, the formal benchmark results demonstrated extremely fast performance. Using DiskTester, I was able to measure write speeds of up to 514MB/s and read speeds of up to 545MB/s, showing the Sandisk Extreme as having a slight performance edge over other models I have tested.
As my final benchmark, I performed a speed analysis using BlackMagic’s DiskSpeedTest, which provided similar results (a max write speed of 515.6MB/s and a max read speed of 547.1MB/s), confirming the numbers I was able to gather using DiskTester.
Both the real-world and benchmarked speeds I was able to achieve with the Sandisk Extreme were faster than any previous model I have tested, although the differences were slight enough that there would be no discernable difference to the vast majority of users.
Besides its “laboratory” performance, however, there are two main ways that the Sandisk Extreme would be able to demonstrate a very noticeable difference: build quality and price. With its solid metal casing and its extremely strong performance, it’s quite surprising that the Sandisk Extreme SSD actually ends up being cheaper than its competitors.
A 240GB Sandisk Extreme retails for $399.95 ($326.95 lowest retail), whereas the Vertex 3 retails for $549 ($349.99 lowest retail) and the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G retails for $459.99. What’s more, that price includes a full 3-year warranty.
Installing an SSD is the single most effective way to seriously boost the speed and performance of your Mac. Most SATA III SSDs are around 5 times as traditional hard drives (and may seem even faster than that for common tasks). In comparison to the benchmark speeds above, I’ve never benchmarked a traditional hard drive with speeds faster than 105MB/s.
Rating & Conclusion
Not only is the Sandisk Extreme SSD a great deal faster than a traditional hard drive (which benchmark at around one fifth the speed of a SATA III SSD at best), it also modestly outperforms its peers, all while maintaining an extremely competitive price.
The Sandisk Extreme SSD is hands-down the very best consumer SSD I’ve ever tested, and the fact that it also happens to be one of the most affordable SSDs on the market makes it a no brainer for anyone considering purchasing an SSD. If you’re looking for an ultra-fast SSD for as affordable a price as possible, I highly recommend the Sandisk Extreme.
For more information on the Sandisk Extreme, head on over to Sandisk’s official product page. The Sandisk Extreme SSD can be purchased for as little as $169.95 for a 120GB drive, or $326.95 for a 240GB drive.