Introduction and Testing Methodology

The last few years have seen rapid advancements in flash technology and the rise of USB 3.0 as an ubiquitous high-speed interface on computers. These have led to the appearance of small and affordable direct attached storage units with very high performance for day-to-day data transfer applications. We have already looked at some flash drives with SSD controllers and a USB 3.0 - SATA bridge over the last couple of months. These include the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 256GB using the Phison S9 controller and the Mushkin Ventura Ultra using the SandForce SF2281 controller respectively.

Today, we will be looking at what SanDisk brings to the market with the Extreme and Extreme PRO lineups. Unlike the other units we have looked at previously, these two don't use a USB 3.0 - SATA bridge, since the internal controller is native USB 3.0 and not a repurposed SATA SSD controller. CrystalDiskInfo gives us some insights into the units.

The SanDisk Extreme 64GB seems to be based on the U100 SSD with a SATA - USB 3.0 bridge. Even though TRIM is reported as supported, we were unable to get it to work through the bridge configuration. The information provided for the Extreme PRO, however, seems to be a bit off. The unit is definitely not a pSSD. Both sets of information need to be takn with a pinch of salt.

The Extreme unit comes with a maximum capacity of 64 GB, while the Extreme PRO update which came in earlier this year has a maximum capacity of 128 GB.

Both lineups use a retractable USB 3.0 connector. They come with a 1-year license for LC Technology's RescuePRO Deluxe data recovery software. Another important differentiation aspect is SanDisk's SecureAccess software that allows for creation of encrypted folders within the flash drive. It uses AES and is quite secure, but forum posts suggest that it is not very reliable. Additionally, the encryption is done in software. Performance would vary with the capabilities of the host system. Given these aspects, we don't believe it is worth the trouble and/or risk to utilize this feature. Users requiring encrypted flash drives are advised to look for ones with hardware encryption (which cost quite a bit more for the same capacity, though).

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

Evaluation of DAS units on Windows is done with the testbed outlined in the table below. For devices with USB 3.0 connections (such as the SanDisk units we are considering today), we utilize the USB 3.0 port directly hanging off the PCH.

AnandTech DAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z97-PRO Wi-Fi ac ATX
CPU Intel Core i7-4790
Memory Corsair Vengeance Pro CMY32GX3M4A2133C11
32 GB (4x 8GB)
DDR3-2133 @ 11-11-11-27
OS Drive Seagate 600 Pro 400 GB
Optical Drive Asus BW-16D1HT 16x Blu-ray Write (w/ M-Disc Support)
Add-on Card Asus Thunderbolt EX II
Chassis Corsair Air 540
PSU Corsair AX760i 760 W
OS Windows 8.1 Pro
Thanks to Asus and Corsair for the build components

The full details of the reasoning behind choosing the above build components can be found here.

The list of DAS units used for comparison purposes in the rest of the review is provided below.

  • SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB
  • SanDisk Extreme 64GB
  • Corsair Voyager GTX 256GB
  • LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt 500GB
  • Mushkin Atom 64GB
  • Mushkin Ventura Ultra 120GB
  • VisionTek Pocket SSD 240GB
Storage Benchmarks
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  • Beany2013 - Thursday, November 27, 2014 - link

    I've been using a Sandisk Extrem 32gb for a while now, and it's a perfectly usable USB drive that performs perfectly well (anything over 100MB/sec is fine for most portable storage needs IMHO), is nicely made, a good size so it doesn't bulk up your pocket, and I thought it was a good price when I bought it for about £35 ($50 or thereabouts?).

    The fact that the 64gb one is now $28 (probably £28 here...) these days pleases me - there's really nowt wrong with them if you're shuffling around file collections large enough to justify a fast USB drive, but not so much as to justify a portable HDD/SSD.

    Best USB drive I've owned in over ten years, I'd say. And a bargain for the price.
  • basroil - Thursday, November 27, 2014 - link

    The regular Extreme (not pro) really is a steal, especially for software development, where you might have tens of thousands of tiny files.
  • hughlle - Friday, November 28, 2014 - link

    Have to agree. I can't recall what I paid, must have been about the same price as you, i'm too cheap to go higher for a usb stick, but i have to say i am overwhelmingly impressed. Although granted, any drive i've used before this was over usb 2.0. Connected to my surface, it's absurdly fast, I have absolutely no complaints with it and would highly recommend to others.
  • mkozakewich - Friday, November 28, 2014 - link

    Okay, so turns out it's a $110 drive. I don't know if there's some kind of Black Friday sale or they're on clearance, but you shouldn't act like this price somehow reflects the state of flash technology today. Do these kinds of sales usually last more than a few days? Or can I expect that product to disappear before something else near $100 comes out?
  • RussianSensation - Friday, November 28, 2014 - link

    Right, so if you need a fast flash drive today, why would you wait until the sale ends instead of buying now? If you don't need a flash drive today, then something faster and larger capacity will come out in the next 1-2 years for a similar price. That's how flash technology generally works.
  • thudo - Friday, November 28, 2014 - link

    Where is the mention of a PNY 128GB Turbo 3.0 USB Flash Drive P-FD128TBOP-GE in the testing? I just bought TWO for $87 CDN all in and owned a couple of these in the last year and they are VERY rock solid and incredibly cheap and FAST!!

    You are a fool to buy high-end USB 3.0 when 3.1 is gonna revolutionize the interface in less than a few months.
  • DanNeely - Friday, November 28, 2014 - link

    When very few current generation USB flash drives can max out a USB3 link; I don't expect any major near term gain from 3.1.

    As for the PNY drive; convince PNY to send anandtech one for testing.
  • Lezmaka - Friday, November 28, 2014 - link

    So Anandtech seriously only reviews something if the manufacturer sends it to them?
  • deontologist - Friday, November 28, 2014 - link

    What do you expect? AT lost all journalistic integrity after Anand bailed with his golden parachute.
  • DanNeely - Saturday, November 29, 2014 - link

    Review samples have been largely limited to what vendors have sent for years. The only exceptions being things the editors bought for personal use and then reviewed. The banner ads don't generate enough money for an extra $50-100k/year of hardware purchases on top of running the servers and paying everyone.

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