For gamers and PC enthusiasts, “every second that’s spent booting or loading is a waste of time,” said SanDisk’s Philippe Willams in an embargoed briefing last week. And so SanDisk is targeting this segment of the market with its all-new Extreme Pro SSD, a new series of fast solid-state drives with a very strong 10-year warranty. The company unveiled the drives—in 240-, 480-, and 960GB capacities—at the Computex tradeshow in on Tuesday (Taiwan time).
“PC gaming is outperforming gaming consoles on a global basis,” Willams said. “PC gaming enthusiasts are looking for power and speed, and media professionals are frequently entrepreneurs show work for themselves. The faster their apps load, the better their productivity. And they need a storage device that won’t fail. Reliability and durability are critical for them,” which is why SanDisk is backing the new Extreme Pro series with a very long 10-year warranty. Most SSD manufacturers back their consumer drives with three- to five-year warranties. SanDisk offers three-year warranties on the rest of its SSD lineup.
The Extreme Pro series is based on SanDisk’s own 1Y nm MLC (multi-level cell) NAND flash memory. The memory is manufactured using a second-generation 19nm process that reduces the size of each memory cell from 19x26 nanometers to 19x19.5nm. SanDisk declined to name which company is manufacturing the controller for these drives; the company has used Marvell controllers in the past.
I first thought SanDisk was reluctant to provide details about the new nCache Pro technology in its new drives. As it turns out, there was a communications mixup and I didn't receive the email that explained how it works.
The company introduced nCache in 2009, which caches write operations using non-volatile memory. nCache Pro, according to SanDisk, “uses DRAM and a two-tiered caching architecture to optimize the speed and endurance of the drive….” DRAM is most definitely volatile, so I wanted to know what happens if a computer loses power during a write operation (since DRAM depends on electrical power to store data). A SanDisk spokesperson informed me that "writes that resided in the DRAM cache that have not been flushed to nCache or MLC will result in data loss. The benefit of our two-tiered caching scheme, unlike conventional one-tiered caching schemes, is that the DRAM is mainly used for mapping. The nCache is used for more writes than the DRAM and as you know nCache is non-volatile memory."
SanDisk claims the new drives will be capable of sequential read speeds up to 550MBps and sequential write speeds up to 520MBps for its 240GB drive and 515MBps for its 480- and 960GB drives. It says the drives should endure more than 80TB of write operations over their lifetime. The drives with be equipped with standard SATA 6Gbps interfaces and will be 7mm high to fit in the thinnest, lightest laptops.
Willams said the 240GB SanDisk Extreme Pro will sell for $189, while the 480GB model will be priced at $369 and the 960GB drive will cost $599. The drives are available for sale now, but it might be two weeks before they actually reach buyers.
We'll post hands-on reviews as soon as we receive our evaluation samples.
Update: This story was updated with details about how SanDisk's nCache Pro technology functions that were received after the story was originally published.