Switching your desktop or laptop PC's old and tired mechanical spinning-disk hard drive may seem daunting, but changing to a solid state drive can simultaneously increase your PC's speed by a massive amount and reduce power consumption significantly. Sandisk's Ultra II SSD is, as you get into its larger capacity options, one of the cheapest high-speed solid state drives you can buy, and that makes it a great choice for upgraders.
What Is It?
- Read Speed: 550MBps
- Write Speed: 500MBps
- Capacity: 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, 960GB
- Warranty: 3 Years
- Accessories: 9.5mm spacer, RescuePRO software
The Ultra II, starting from a street price of less than $90 for the lowest capacity 120GB model and moving up to around $480 for the top 960GB version, is a solid-state drive boasting 550MBps read and 500MBps write speeds according to Sandisk. Those numbers put it on par with the AMD Radeon R7 and Crucial MX100, both of which are popular choices with system builders and anyone looking to get a bit of extra power out of an existing desktop PC or laptop.
With such an affordable price, it shouldn't surprise you that the Sandisk Ultra II is an extremely simple piece of technology on the outside. Just like any SSD you'll find these days the Ultra II is SATA3 compatible, and uses a standard SATA data and power connector. Apart from the usual internal four screw holes on its base and 7mm-thick sides — a standard layout that should mean you can find it a home in any regular non-Ultrabook laptop and certainly any desktop — there's really not that much to mention about its design. Black painted metal finish, Sandisk sticker on the front, barcodes on the base, and that's about it.
The Ultra II becomes interesting, though, when you realise that it's the first non-Samsung solid state drive to use the new triple-level-cell NAND memory process. TLC NAND flash offers some significant improvements in storage speeds and energy efficiency, as I saw in my review of the Samsung 850 Pro SSD. But the Ultra II is still a mainstream drive, not a performance model like Samsung's, so your expectations should still be metered somewhat.
Apart from the drive itself in Sandisk's one-time-use retail packaging, you get a 9.5mm spacer to fit the Ultra II in any thicker laptops where you're replacing an older spinning-disk hard drive, as well as a redeemable code for one year's use of Sandisk RescuePRO data recovery software.
What Is It Good At?
Price is probably the most important factor in most buyers' PC component purchasing, and that is where the Ultra II can outperform the rest — with a few caveats. The top 960GB version isn't incredibly good value at $480, and there is strong competition for both the 120GB and 240GB versions. The 480GB model, though, at $230 street price and probably cheaper if you can find a good sale somewhere, is an excellent choice and makes for a great compromise especially if you're in need of slightly more storage than usual users or if you are replacing a 500GB or 1TB mechanical drive.
And, of course, the Ultra II lives up to the expectations set of the numbers on the box. In my basic testing I easily clocked the 550MBps and 500MBps read and write speeds claimed across the entire product range in CrystalDiskMark's synthetic tests, and real-world transfers of large file sizes weren't far off that point either. This is a perfectly capable and really quite speedy SSD.
Sandisk Ultra II (240GB): Performance
Storage: CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Read): 540MBps CrystalDiskMark (Sequential Write): 495Mbps
As with previous models, Sandisk's SSD Dashboard is a simple and straightforward and reasonably powerful way to monitor your new drive's performance and make sure that everything is running as it should. You can check remaining storage, update firmware, and do more finicky things like enable TRIM trash collection in Windows 8 and newer operating systems to maintain the same high level of performance over timel.
What's It Not Good At?
The pricing for the Sandisk Ultra II is pretty consistently around the $0.50 per gigabyte point, but on the base 120GB model that price per GB balloons out to $0.75. Especially when the step up to the 240GB version is a mere $30, it seems like a pretty silly purchase to get the 120GB version, and that's because funnily enough for an affordable solid state drive it's not particularly good value in the context of its own siblings. Similarly, 3 years warranty is eclipsed by competitors.
Apart from the spacer and Sandisk's complimentary one year of data recovery software — which you should never need to use, let's be honest — there are no accessories included with the Ultra II. It would have been good to see a 3.5-inch mounting bracket for desktop PC use, or a SATA-to-USB 3.0 converter to help you get the drive initially formatted and set up and running, and to help with that first-time data backup or operating system ghosting from an existing machine.
Should You Buy It?
Sandisk's Ultra II SSD is a generally pretty reasonable performer, with good-enough write and read transfer speeds that are largely comparable with other entry-level and mid-range solid state drives. It, as you should expect, blows away any regular spinning-disk mechanical hard drive, and considering its price that's a worthwhile achievement.
Price is a very strong point of competition for SSDs, and the Ultra II distinguishes itself at the middle of its capacity range with a 480GB model that is a mere $230 average street price. That is one of the cheapest large capacity SSDs that I've seen in Australia, and the next cheapest drive in the Samsung 840 EVO is at least 10 per cent more expensive at around $250.
Although the cheaper 240GB and 120GB versions have even more competition at their sub-$120 and sub-$90 price points, and the 960GB version is still comparatively cheap, they don't seem like good value when compared to the mid-spec 480GB. I usually recommend the 240GB or 256GB version of consumer SSDs because they're the easy go-to to find the best price-performance-capacity compromise, but in this particular case I tend to think the 480GB is the best choice.
The Sandisk Ultra II is a cheap, reasonably fast SSD. Its warranty isn't as long as competitors' products, and it's not the absolute fastest you can buy, but if you're looking to give some easy extra speed to a laptop with an existing mechanical hard drive, but without sacrificing a massive amount of storage, it's a great choice.