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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  • fausto412 - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    I am almost settled on Samsung 830 but even the capacity becomes an issue.
    256gb is what I want but that price is more than I want to pay.

    Can someone explain how TRIM works?

    My windows drive is fine with Battlefield 3 and Bad Company 2 installed...it is the media files that need relocation. I have read I can change the my pictures and my videos system folder locations.
    Reply
  • jwilliams4200 - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    Can someone explain how to use google to find the answers to basic questions? Reply
  • Belard - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    go to your browser, type in G O O G L E . C O M (each letter is a key) and press enter key.

    Faustso: buy a smaller drive for your OS and work Apps (MS Office) and use a HD for your games and videos and porn. Also use the HD to store an image of the SSD in case of failure.
    Reply
  • iwod - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    Looks like we need 12Gbps ASAP. The Firmware design are starting to bring in less improvement %. And Idle / Active Power consumption needs to stay low as well. Reply
  • Belard - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    PCI-e Drives are for that. But its stupid that none or most are non-bootable. Reply
  • mayankleoboy1 - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    can you do a re-review of vertex4 120GB with the newly released 1.4 firmware? Reply
  • macuser2134 - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    +1. You absolutely need to do this ASAP. Vertex 4 with the latest firmware update needs to be re-tested and updated in the AnandTech storage bench. Reply
  • iceman98343 - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    you are late. vertex 4 1.5beta was released on Friday. Reply
  • casteve - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    "I find it to be more hassle to put the drive inside an enclosure than to simply secure erase the drive with other methods."

    Buy an eSATA bracket with power for $10 from your favorite e-tailer.
    Reply
  • NCM - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Based on the previous favourable review of the Plextor I bought and installed a 256GB M3 (plain) as the boot/app drive in a new Mac Pro workstation a couple of months ago, with TRIM turned on for this non-Apple drive via the Trim Enabler freeware utility. Most files are stored on our server, so capacity isn't really an issue. However I've found that our 128GB drives stand to run somewhat full, so 256GB gives plenty of storage headroom.

    It's been running very satisfactorily, with the responsiveness you'd expect of an SSD machine.

    Just last week I bit the bullet and bought a 512GB M3 Pro for my own 13" MacBook Pro. The slight extra cost of the M3 Pro isn't meaningful in an almost $700 drive, so I saw no reason not to get the better version. I preferred the Marvell controller over Sandforce due to the incompressible data performance, and chose Plextor over a Samsung 830 due to lower power consumption in the laptop application.

    My original 500GB conventional drive contains over 300GB, and while it might have been possible to prune that enough to squeeze into a 256GB, the SSD would then have run very full, affecting SSD garbage collection/TRIM. It's also necessary to leave enough free space for the hibernation RAM image, as well as for VM pages. So the 512GB version it was.

    The process is straightforward. I used Apple's Disk Utility to clone the existing drive to the Plextor mounted in a Newer Tech external FW800 dock, test booted, then installed it in the MBP. TRIM is enable as above.

    Performance improvement is as you'd hope, particularly since the original drive was only 5400 rpm. Another upside is the shock resistance of an SSD for mobile applications.

    The only real downside is the hole-in-the-wallet effect!
    Reply

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