Introduction

If you are an active reader, you might remember our Plextor M3 review from a few months back. As I noted in the review, I wasn't expecting much when I received the SSD; a Marvell based SSD from a relatively unknown brand when it comes to the SSD market isn't all that promising. We had not reviewed any Plextor SSDs before the M3, so I had no idea what to expect. Obviously, I prepared for the worst.

Luckily, my expectations turned out to be very wrong. Plextor's M3 came out as one of the highest performing drives we have tested. Today we are back with M3's big brother: the M3 Pro. Based on the same Marvell 88SS9174 controller and 24nm Toshiba Toggle-Mode MLC NAND, the M3 Pro offers even higher performance according to Plextor. The differences lie exclusively in the firmware, as hardware wise the M3 and M3 Pro are exactly the same. Let's start with the official specs:

Plextor M3 Pro Specifications
Model PX-128M3P PX-256M3P PX-512M3P
Raw NAND Capacity 128GiB 256GiB 512GiB
Usable Capacity 119.2GiB 238.5GiB 476.9GiB
Number of NAND Packages 8 8 8
Number of Die per Package 2 4 8
Sequential Read 535MB/s 540MB/s 535MB/s
Sequential Write 350MB/s 420MB/s 450MB/s
4K Random Read 75K IOPS 75K IOPS 56K IOPS
4K Random Write 69K IOPS 68K IOPS 34K IOPS
Cache (DDR3) 256MB 512MB 512MB

The biggest difference (other than firmware) between the M3 and M3 Pro lineup is the fact that M3 Pro lacks a 64GB model. This is logical since 64GB SSDs offer lower performance due to the reduced number of NAND die per package, so it makes sense to not offer a 64GB capacity in the performance-oriented M3 Pro lineup. Besides, it's possible that Plextor has already squeezed out every bit of juice they can for the 64GB M3—a 64GB M3 Pro might not be fast enough to differentiate itself from a 64GB M3. In general, 64GB SSDs are more about price than performance anyway because you are already making a compromise on performance by getting such a small capacity.

In terms of performance, the M3 Pro is rated as being noticeably faster than the regular M3. Especially sequential and random write performance are up significantly. For comparison, the 128GB M3 offers sequential write speeds of 210MB/s and random write of 50K IOPS, so sequential write is up by nearly 70% and random write is also up by a good 36% at that specific capacity. The difference at 256GB isn't as big, but the M3 Pro does offer 60MB/s greater sequential write speed. Our review unit is 256GB, so we'll see how it compares with the 256GB M3.

NewEgg Price Comparison (7/1/2012)
  64GB 128GB 256GB 512GB
Plextor M3 Pro N/A $180 $300 $680
Plextor M3 N/A $200 $240 $650
Corsair Performance Series Pro N/A $190 $330 N/A
Crucial m4 $78 $130 $210 $400
Intel 520 Series $115 $190 $335 $790
Samsung 830 Series $84 $128 $300 $700
OCZ Vertex 3 $70 $200 $300 $650
OCZ Vertex 4 $95 $180 $240 $700

It should not come as a surprise that the M3 Pro is more expensive than the regular M3. However, the good news is that Plextor has lowered the price of M3 compared to what it cost a few months ago when we reviewed it. The 128GB M3 was recently on sale for $130 (back to $200 for now), while the M3 Pro has taken the $180 price spot. The 256GB M3 has come down $100 in price, making it one of the more affordable SSDs, though pricing on the Vertex 3 and 4 and several other drives has also dropped quite a bit. As for the M3 Pro, it's more along the lines of Intel's 520 Series—you have to pay more for extra performance and quality. Anyway, I wouldn't say the M3 Pro is overpriced, at least not when compared with Corsair's Performance Series Pro. We'll soon find out if the M3 Pro is worth the extra money.

Once again, I would like to emphasize that SSD prices are not stable. There are sales every week so in case you're in the market for an SSD, keep your eye on the prices for at least a few days. You may be able to catch a hot sale and easily save over $20.

The Plextor M3 Pro
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  • tjoynt - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    OT: another +1 Internet for the Lexx reference in your name. :) Reply
  • plext0r - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    You guys remember MITSUMI drives? I remember they were the most sought after for a long time. I still have a Plextor SCSI CD-RW drive sitting in my parts bin. :-) Reply
  • Belard - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Yep... but it was more than JUST about speed back in THOSE days... it was about reliability of the drive and its burns.

    My first optical burner was from HP, it was $600 *USED!* and each blank disc was $10 each. Since I already had a SCSI controller for my $1000 HP scanner (snif - it was bad-ass) it was easy to plug and go.

    The failure rates of burns on a 166mhz Pentium was about 60%... very EXPENSIVE. Doing burns required making sure NOTHING was going on in the back ground, no internet, no screen saver. A full disc burn took about 30 minutes... and yes, the drive and discs were hot.

    It was years before good IDE burners came out and they were priced at about $200. Even around 2000, it made a difference to buy a $120 SONY burner vs a $75 no-name brands some of my friends would buy. ie: my burners lasted until I upgraded, vs their drives lasting months.

    Nowadays, only 3-4 companies actually make burners. They have various labels on them... all of them costs about $15~24.

    And yes, optical drives are STILL important and useful.
    A REAL WindowsOS DVD is better than a DL version... And this is especially true with MS-Office. A disc version allows 2-3 system installs. The online version at about the same price only installs onto the PC you download it to. When that PC dies or you upgrade... well, that Office is STUCK on that computer.
    Reply
  • rarson - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Optical drives are an order of magnitude cheaper than they used to be, and for the most part, far less finicky and more reliable. If you buy decent media, you're pretty much guaranteed a perfect burn even at the highest speed setting (which is also an order of magnitude faster). Capacity has greatly increased. Heck, I was just thinking about how disappointing it is that I can't fit more data on a DVD when I realized that 12X+ Blu-Ray burners are less than a hundred bucks. That's cheaper than the first CD-R and DVD-ROM drives I owned... and they read and write over a dozen different optical formats.

    Forgive me if I don't wax nostalgic about "the good old days." Technologically, there is no better time than the present.
    Reply
  • Sufo - Tuesday, July 03, 2012 - link

    Hah, agreed. Add to that people reminiscing about when it was still "difficult" to build PCs. It didn't require more skill, just more patience and time. I get it, you want to feel like you're actually creating your PC, not just fitting the parts together, but honestly, that all you were ever doing. There are still great hardware challenges - if anything there are more now than ever with the lowered cost of FPGAs and other integrated circuits.

    I'm glad that I no longer have to take risks with my expensive PC hardware - I want it to be as trouble-free and reliable as possible and I can't wait for the day when I can look back at this current gen of hardware and laugh at how slow SSDs were.
    Reply
  • davepermen - Thursday, July 05, 2012 - link

    There was a time where you could not have pc's without them. Software delivery was only trough cds, os installation, again cds. music: cds.

    Nowadays, you can life without them. Which i do since years. And as we go more and more mobile, they will get even less "the default source to get data from".

    There was a time when 650MB was considered huge, and one could store and share everything on cds. Nowadays, not really.

    Windows installs much faster from usb stick.
    Software typically, when fitting on cds, gets downloaded. If it doesn't, well, still dowdnloading is the way to go, as cds don't matter then anymore anyways.

    So no, they are not relevant at all anymore. They where the nr1 way to distribute data at some point in history. That point is gone.
    Reply
  • iceman98343 - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    kristian:

    when are you guys going to re-review ocz vertex 4? FW 1.5 is out.
    Reply
  • jwilliams4200 - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    Finally the M3P review is posted! Thanks for the review, but hopefully Anand can get reviews posted in a more timely manner in the future (I understand that Kristian had the review done weeks ago, but Anand's policies or whatever delayed the posting of it)

    By the way, rumor has it that the soon to be released Plextor M5S will use the same Marvell 9174 controller, but will change to IMFT ONFi flash so it will be slower than the M3P (but presumably much cheaper).

    I am hoping that Plextor is working on an M5P that will use Toshiba toggle flash and the new Marvell 9187 controller, but that is just a hope on my part. I have NOT even heard a rumor whether that is true.
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    M5S is no longer a rumor: http://www.plextoramericas.com/index.php/ssd/px-m5...

    ONFi seems likely as sequential speeds are lower (due to less bandwidth between the NAND and controller) but random speeds are slightly higher. There is no press release about the M5S so I'm not sure if the product page has just slipped or something. I'll contact Plextor and ask what's the deal and what is the difference between M3(P) and M5S. Keep your eye on Pipeline for updates ;-)
    Reply
  • magreen - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    There are only two Toolbox features I ever use for my Intel SSDs: Manual TRIM, b/c I use XP and Vista, and secure erase.

    Plextool doesn't do manual TRIM at all. And its secure erase is almost nonexistent b/c you need an external enclosure.

    That defeats the whole point of having a toolbox, in my mind.
    Reply

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