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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  • Chaitanya - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    I associate names like plextor and lite-on with optical discs. now they are into solid state media as well. wondering whats next. Reply
  • DaFox - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    Plextor was amazing back when optical drives were relevant. Reply
  • iamkyle - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    You mean, before they stopped manufacturing their own drives Reply
  • lexluthermiester - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    Quote; "back when optical drives were relevant."

    Last time I checked, optical drives are still in very common use for a wide variety of purposes. How are they not still relevant?
    Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    There was a time when a new CD-ROM or DVD-ROM would have people scouring the web for reviews because the new drive would offer greater and greater speeds.

    Nowadays, people just buy whatever's cheapest or goes good with their case. They MAY look at compatibility with discs beforehand, but often don't if they're looking at a $20 DVD-/+RW. If they do, that's a few user reviews and then bam, bought. If it's crap, they throw it away and buy another.

    This is far from the ancient times when a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM would warrant a full-on review with technical read-outs, minor speed differences against other models, etc. There's no point now because they're so cheap and there are no new advances being done in the field because USB storage (flash and hard drives) became so damn cheap along with the proliferation of online with digital storage.

    There's a new hotness in town and we should all queue up the Toy Story sad music for ODD's. I imagine all my ODD's talking in the dusty, plastic bin of forgotten tech. They scramble out and reminisce about the times I used to have with them. The old Lite-On DVD-RW chatting with a Plextor CD-RW. A 2x DVD-ROM by Creative talking to a Pioneer DVD-slot. Every now and then, a Zip drive crying, "Hai guyz! Im hear two!"

    And them all looking at him, patting him on the head, and saying, "Adults are speaking." Then lil' Zip drive'll look down and mumble something about how he used to be awesome. Meanwhile, my Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster 16, Sound Blaster AWE, Audigy, Audigy 2ZS, Aureal, Diamond 3dFX Voodoo, Voodoo 2 SLI, Matrox G200, they all chat amongst themselves about the days back when PC's were actually hard to build, compatibility was a shot in the dark and a prayer bound by McGuyver's chewing gum, and when installing Windows involved starting it and wandering away for 10 minutes (or less).

    The best days are behind us, I think. Strange how the easier things get, the less awesome they feel.
    Reply
  • erple2 - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    If these posts were rated, you sir, would receive a +1 from me. Trips down memory lane are always fun to do now and again. I remember amber buying my first Texel drive in the very early 90s because they were so Mich more reliable, and faster.

    Those were truly the halcyon days...
    Reply
  • speculatrix - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    +1

    So much of what used to be hard is now trivial, and the young generation really don't need to understand how computers work. Sure that's no bad thing for productivity, but means we're raising new generations who are unable to design the next generation of hardware.

    Here is Cambridge England I see the average age of engineers rising all the time. Companies struggle to find truly gifted embedded skills.
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Ah, the good old days of setting individual jumpers for a CPU's FSB, multiplier and voltage... Needing a dedicated cable that goes from your optical disk drive to your sound card JUST so you can play Audio...
    Setting IRQ's in the bios/windows... Fun days for the tinkerer.
    Now everything is just plug and play pretty much.
    Reply
  • versesuvius - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Let's see an Apple (McIntosh) user go down the memory lane. I suppose theirs turns out to be 1 centimeter in length. Something like:

    "It was always like this. We paid triple the amount a Windows user did. Then again we were always better than them. Steve Jobs may be gone, but we are still better than them. We are just better. Long live Steve."

    Just joking, of course.
    Reply
  • tjoynt - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    +1 Internets to you Sir or Mam! Thank you for bringing me down memory lane and reminding me how difficult and exciting it used to be. :) Now that everything pretty much Just Works, much of the fun and mystery is gone.

    Sure I follow the next hotness too, but building a computer today is like building with legos: just follow the pictures and snap it together. No more IRQ conflicts or DMA errors. RAM incompatibility is still a source of "fun" but that has always been annoying rather than interesting.

    Sure, we can focus on actually Getting Things Done now, but so can everyone else. Being a hardware geek is not as special anymore. Of course the complexity and flakiness of software will keep us well-rounded geeks well entertained (and employed) for quite a while to come. :)
    Reply

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