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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  • Coup27 - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    I agree. I welcome another SSD toolbox into the mix, but with its current feature set, it is largely pointless. Manual TRIM for a toolbox utility is essential.

    I presume that Samsung make Toshiba's NAND for them? I did not know that.
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    Samsung and Toshiba both make their own NAND. Toshiba does have a joint venture with SanDisk though (similar to what Intel and Micron are doing). Reply
  • Coup27 - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    "The NAND is once again from Toshiba and there are a total of eight NAND packages on the PCB. These are 32GiB quad-die packages and are manufactured using Samsung's 24nm process"

    I don't understand this then?
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    That's a typo/error. Fixed now :-) Reply
  • csroc - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    At least the author knows who Plextor is this time! Reply
  • pheadland - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    OCZ also has an SSD toolbox, and it more functionality than the Plextor one. Reply
  • Belard - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Last time I checked... its just a ROM/FIRMWARE upgrade tool.

    Hence, I buy and tell friends to get Intel drives. I'll gladly pay the extra $20~30 for the reliability, support and upper-class performance. Sure its NOT #1, but I'll take a slight performance hit over BSODs and full out failures.

    I had to explain to a client his SSD that Dell installed in his high end Dell is a Samsung that doesn't support TRIM... its new enough to be SATA3/6Gbs - and yet its performance is already SLOWER than my own intel G2 M25 drive (SATA 2).

    The Intel tool box if full featured. 3.0x is quite nice.
    Reply
  • KAlmquist - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    I ask because the write performance of SSD's can vary a lot depending on how full the drive is. The Vertex 4 even uses a different block allocation algorithm if the drive is less than half full. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    Storage Bench is run on a clean drive. Reply
  • KAlmquist - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    So it measures how the drives perform when they have a lot of free space. Thanks. Reply

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