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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  • NCM - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Three things I forgot to include in my post above:
    - The Plextor needs to be reformatted for the Mac. You use Apple's Disk Utility to handle that, as with any other drive.
    - Cloning the original drive using DU's Restore function will also automatically clone Lion's hidden Recovery partition.
    - Absolute SSD performance is limited by my 2010 MBP's 3 Gb/s SATA interface, so I could have bought a cheaper last generation drive. However I hope to be keeping this pricey SSD long enough for it to see at least one more host computer, and that will support faster transfers.
    Reply
  • Belard - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Pretty much ALL new SSDs are SATA3.0 / 6GB/s... so its not really an issue.

    Its older tech or mix tech models that are SATA2.
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Not with the regular updater at least. In theory, someone could modify the installer and make it possible though. Reply
  • Kyanzes - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    "relatively unknown brand" :)

    Okay.
    Reply
  • bobsmith1492 - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Yes they are relatively unknown. Yes they used to be more well-known but only for optical drives. Reply
  • eanazag - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    I would like to see a 2.5" HDD at 5400 rpm and 7200 rpm sample data for a baseline included in the reviews. I don't care if they ever get updated after that. I would just like to be able to quickly see where the mechanical drives chime in.

    Performance would data would be icing, but power data is nice.

    If I upgrade my users to a drive off this list, which is very likely. I'd like to be able to tell them if they are going to take a hit on battery life or a boost.
    Reply
  • Belard - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    They stopped doing that some time ago because it messes up the charts somewhat. Basically, they just don't compare... and that was before the SATA 6Gbps drives came out.

    Here is a early 2011 review with a WD VelociRaptor (The fastest HD money can buy for a consumer drive). And yet, its a sliver. Only SSDs that perform almost as slow are the bottom end SSD. And keep in mind, the Raptors are 2-3 times faster than a 5400RPM drive.
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/4346/ocz-agility-3-2...

    RANDOM READ (MB/s)
    00.68 = Raptor
    58.10 = Intel X25-M G2 (still a very good drive)
    93.50 = Crucial C300 (early 6Gbps drives)

    Sequential READ (MB/s)
    145.30 = Raptor
    226.30 = Intel X25-M G2 (still a very good drive)
    307.20 = Crucial C300 (early 6Gbps drives)
    392.20 = Intel 510 SSD (6Gbps)

    A modern high end SSD is about 100x faster in random R / W operations over any HD.

    Oh, here is a GOOD older 2010 review which includes a Seagate 5400 RPM 2.5" drive. OUCH!
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3690/the-impact-of-s...

    See how the chart becomes somewhat meaningless? And thats with 3Gbps drives!

    Imagine looking at a chart comparing a 16mhz 286 to a quad core 3400mhz i5 CPU.
    Reply
  • hechacker1 - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Probably, assuming there isn't some checksum that can't be cracked to flash the drive.

    In my experience, almost all drive firmwares can be flashed.
    Reply
  • sulu1977 - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Speed and performance of such a device is important, but not as important as reliability. Reliability is hands down my top priority. Just wanted to mention this. Reply
  • octoploid - Tuesday, July 03, 2012 - link

    There is already an unofficial tool available that can transform a normal M3 into an M3-Pro:
    http://bbs.pceva.com.cn/thread-47279-1-1.html
    Reply

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