📅 January 6, 2016
There is nothing like the joy of having the chance to try a new Solid State Drive (SSD) with Linux! After all, Linux runs so well, that if anything goes wrong, it must be the drive’s fault.
Having acquired a brand new SanDisk Ultra II 120G SSD, I was eager to see how it would perform with Linux Mint 17.3. Since this drive is one of the newer models, I was pleased to see that it exceeded all expectations by meeting the claims on the box and *almost* reaching speeds of the legendary Samsung 840 EVO SSD.
The drive arrives with minimal packaging enclosed in a plastic container inside a cardboard box that proudly proclaims “up to” 550/500 MB/s read and write speeds. This is no lie. Apparently, “up to” means “up there and beyond.” During some synthetic benchmarks, the drive truly meets or exceeds those numbers.
Will this drive work with Linux? Yes. I experienced absolutely no issues with Linux. Just plug and go. It works out of the box.
Linux Mint 17.3 Installation
My new favorite Linux distribution is Linux Mint 17.3, so I installed the 64-bit Cinnamon version on a clean system using the SanDisk Ultra II as the system drive. Installation took about three minutes (estimation since I did not bother to time the process) from a USB 3.0 stick.
Linux Mint offers the most hassle-free and the quickest system installation I have experienced, so there was no difference here.
Upon reboot, I had a fully working Linux system. No system incompatibilities. No driver issues. No motherboard incompatibilities. It just works. From menus to loading programs, using Linux felt fast and snappy.
111 GB Formatted Capacity
Keep in mind that the formatted capacity of a 120 GB SSD leaves about 111 GB of usable space. This is how hard drive marketing works. Your usable capacity will always be about 7% less than the capacity quoted on the box. On top of that, hard drive capacity is calculated on base 10, not base 2 like RAM (which would give you more capacity for your money).
So, if you see 111 GB in your drive properties even though you purchased an installed a 120 GB SSD, the drive is not faulty. This is “normal.”
Before installing Linux onto this drive, I ran three benchmark programs to get an idea of how well the SanDisk Ultra II performs: CrystalDiskMark (Windows 7), AS SSD (Windows 7), and Disks Benchmark (on a different Linux system because you cannot benchmark your system drive without unmounting it first).
I then compared the numbers with SSD drives I have used in the past: Samsung 840 EVO and the Silicon Power S60.
Performance is practically on par with the Samsung 840 EVO SSD. Reads speeds are so close that they can be considered the same, with the SanDisk write speeds ~30MB/s lower. However, upon reaching the 500+ MB/s mark for reads or writes, does it really matter? The SanDisk SSD is fast. Real fast.
What matters most is that the SanDisk drive meets the claims it makes on the box. With ~560 MB/s read speeds and ~500 MB/s write speeds, I would say that this is a product that meets expectations.
AS SSD is a Windows benchmarking program that I am not too fond of, but I will include it anyway for an added perspective on performance.
AS SSD always returns low benchmark numbers, so I never use this program to verify box claims. However, when compared to other drives, we see that the SanDisk Ultra II does well keeping up with the Samsung 840 EVO.
The Disks program installed with Linux Mint offers a useful benchmarking program with a performance graph that shows details that CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD do not. Results can be interesting with Disks, so I tried NTFS and ext4 to see what would happen.
NTFS and ext4 offer similar performance behavior. With the 100 MB sample test, writes begin with promise, but they always dropped off to ~165 MB/s at the 30% mark. Reads remained constant.
NTFS is certainly a slower performer compared to ext4. Not by much, but the graph shows that ext4 is better suited for Linux.
This write drop-off was also noticeable with the 1000 MB sample test. However, the write speed remained constant at about 161 MB/s.
No idea why Disks shows such low write speeds in Linux but CrystalDiskMark shows higher numbers. Then again, I have never seen any two benchmarking programs produce the same results.
I encountered similar results with the Silicon Power S60 where speeds were slow on Windows, but much faster in Linux. During everyday usage, I cannot notice a difference. Linux feels smooth and responsive.
The SanDisk Ultra II SSD almost topples the reigning champion — the Samsung 840 EVO — from the podium. I am very happy with my purchase, and I would definitely recommend using the SanDisk for an upgrade or in a new build.
For the price, this is a product that meets the claims on the box and — so far — continues to offer reliable performance. Time will tell if the SanDisk will be as reliable as the Samsung, which I have used for far longer, but out of the box performance with Linux is stellar.
Highly recommended and a good buy.