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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  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Saturday, November 29, 2014 - link

    The Sandisk Extreme 64GB is PERFECTLY FINE for use as a Windows to Go Drive

    Even with Bitlocker Software Encryption Enabled, the Sandisk Extreme is more usable when playing Counterstrike on Steam than a Patriot Supersonic Boost 32GB running Linux Mint WITHOUT ENCRYPTION

    Actual Write Speeds tested on Sandisk with Bitlocker Enabled

    A single 5,693,912 KB Drive Backup copied to Encrypted Sandisk @ 7.23MB/sec (787 seconds)

    152 MP3's @ 607 MB copied to Sandisk @ 7.49 MB/sec (81 seconds)
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    Actual Read Speeds from Encrypted Sandisk
    A single file 5,693,912 KB copied to Samsung 840 Pro @ 154 MB/sec
    152 MP3's / 607 MB copied to Samsung 840 Pro @ 107 MB/sec

    The real problem is that you will have no idea whether you are getting the Fixed Disk version or the Removable Disk version of the Sandisk Extreme when you order from Amazon

    Both versions come in EXACTLY the same packaging but only the Fixed Disk works with Windows to Go
    Sandisk switched back to "removable disk" without providing any usable way to identify which is which but they will offer to swap disks with you if you received the wrong one and you complain enough
    Reply
  • digiguy - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    It would be interestinsting to know how these flash drives (I have the Sandisk extreme and the Corsair GTX 256) compare to the Diskgo Sonic (e.g. 240GB version http://us.edgememory.com/index.php/usb-flash-drive... ), which claims speeds that seem the best in the market, but looks like the throttled Ventura Ultra and Visiontek... Or to the slower but Windows to go certified Ironkey W700 (very expensive). Reply
  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Buying a rebranded Mushkin drives should give you the same results or worse than a Mushkin
    Check the warranty for a clue to them buying parts that diddnt meet the specs from mushkin or just read the mushkin reviews at newegg like this one>

    Claiming "Read: up to 445MB/s Write: up to 440MB/s" on a device that starts at around 120 MB/s (acceptable) but then will drop to 20MB/s when it warms up is unacceptable.

    Telling me that it was designed to do that is insulting.

    It will be snowing in hell before I buy a Mushkin product again.

    An utterly disappointing experience. Stay away from this thing.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Sandisk 64GB turned out to be the best buy/GB/quality/consistency of them all in my opinion
    Reply
  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    forget edge memory
    just "TRY" to find the warranty info from the warranty link at Tiger Direct

    If you enjoy hurting yourself, The mushkin branded version at newegg is $45 cheaper anyway
    Reply
  • Bullwinkle J Moose - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    Forget Mushkin as well

    Newegg has changed the content of complaints that were on the site just a few months ago for damage control

    Customers were complaining that their Mushkin drives were incredibly slow, registering 120MB/sec and lower when they received this response>
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Manufacturer Response:

    Hello, Unhappy!

    Is this USB being plugged into an USB 3.0 port? From our experience, these USB Drives will not function at listed speeds in an USB 2.0 port.

    If you continue to have issues, please contact us at Support@Mushkin.com so we can address your concerns.

    Thank you, and be well!
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Any Manufacturer that questions if you are using USB 2.0 to get the slow speeds of 120 MB/sec is not to be trusted with my money as USB 2.0 tops out around 45MB/sec
    Reply
  • digiguy - Sunday, November 30, 2014 - link

    So you are basically saying that Mushkin, Visiontek and Edge are basically the same product, like sold as different brands or very similar products made buy one manufacturer and sold by different companies. It could well be possible, especially as Anandtech has found that Mushkin and Visontek are comparable in terms of throttling. I was however not going to buy. I am already more than happy with my Sandisk Extreme and Corsair Voyager GTX 256 (the fastest flash drive on the market...) Reply
  • Chromatin1 - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    I'm not sure where you found the Sandisk 64 GB extreme for $28, as even the page link of the article come in at $68. The cheapest price I can see after a brief look on the internet is around $48. Maybe this was a black friday sale? A little pricey for me as a stocking stuffer. Reply
  • RyuDeshi - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    Yes, a couple stores had it for $28 for a few days before black Friday. Not sure why they are talking about it like that is the normal everyday price. Reply
  • McMillan24 - Friday, December 5, 2014 - link

    Anyway, I once used a SanDisk flash drive from which i lost all data out of the blue. However, I was lucky to recover back each and every file with the help of a recovery software that i found in this tutorial video - http://youtu.be/FYFyWUWn5Cg Reply
  • GadgetsRGrt4All - Saturday, December 6, 2014 - link

    I bought the Sandisk Extreme Pro 128 a couple months back for around $100. No complaints about the cost for the storage size, and I like the metal casing and retractability. Performance is top-notch, and my disk speed testing agrees with the manufacturer's top speed estimates. Love how fast it copies huge files, which was my main reason for the purchase. I primarily work on OSX10.10 platforms, with W7, W8, and CentOS Linux virtual machines. So I would want to see Anandtech demonstrate the effects of different operating systems, i.e. W7, W8, OSX10.9, OSX10.10, Linux, and their respective best disk formats, on the performance metrics. Until that is broken out, I'm not sure how much value to derive from what was presented here. Reply

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