Plextor M5S 256GB Reviewby Kristian Vättö on July 18, 2012 3:00 AM EST
Plextor is one of those OEMs who have quietly been making their way into the SSD market. They don't have an aggressive marketing engine like for example OCZ does. Their drives are not featured on NewEgg's front page or advertised on most technology sites. If you have read our Plextor M3 review, you might remember that I had not even heard of Plextor before they contacted me. Older users may remember the name Plextor from times when optical drives were relevant, but for years Plextor was out of the spotlight because optical drive performance stopped being relevant for the majority of people and Plextor didn't really have any other products. In 2010, Plextor's ship took a new destination and that was the SSD market.
SSD prices have been dropping significantly over the last couple of years. Especially in the last few months, there have been lots of discounts. For example, the 128GB Vertex 4 had suggested retail price of $179 when it was released in April. Right now it's selling for $120 at NewEgg. That's 33% reduction in price in less than four months. Even more extreme example would be Crucial's m4. When it was originally released in April 2011, the 512GB version had a suggested retail price of $1000. Currently the exactly same drive retails for $400 at NewEgg, and there have been sales bringing the price down as low as ~$350.
The drop in prices has also increased consumer interest in SSDs. You no longer need to spend half of your entire PC budget on an SSD large enough to hold more than just your OS. With more buyers looking for SSDs, there is room for more manufacturers as well. SandForce's licensing strategy has allowed pretty much any hardware company to enter the SSD market, the most recent entrant being MSI. While SandForce SSDs are good in performance and are usually competitively priced, they are all more or less the same (Intel's custom firmware enabled SF drives being the exception). In the end, there are very few SSD OEMs that have truly unique SSDs. Unique in this context means that you at least have your own firmware. Intel, Samsung, Micron/Crucial, OCZ, Toshiba, SanDisk and of course Plextor are probably the most known manufacturers with their own firmware and even controller in some cases. These OEMs also happen to be the largest in the channel SSD market, which is no coincidence.
While Plextor is still far away from gaining Intel or OCZ status in the SSD world, they are on the right path. We were very pleased with Plextor's M3 and M3 Pro when we reviewed them. Performance was great and both drives were backed by a 5-year warranty (more on reliability in a bit). The only real complaint we had was about pricing, which was not necessarily enough competitive to keep up with the constant price drops. Of course, there were sales that brought the M3's price down to the level of other SSDs, but in most cases you still had to pay premium if you wanted a Plextor SSD.
The M5S that we'll be looking at today is all about cutting costs while still providing the same performance and (hopefully) reliability that the M3 and M3 Pro provided. Without further delay, lets start off with a specification table:
|Plextor M5S Specifications|
|Raw NAND Capacity||64GiB||128GiB||256GiB|
|Number of NAND Packages||8||16||16|
|Number of Die per Package||1||1||2|
|NAND||Micron 25nm synchronous MLC NAND|
|Cache||128MB DDR3||256MB DDR3||512MB DDR3|
|4K Random Read||61K IOPS||71K IOPS||73K IOPS|
|4K Random Write||25K IOPS||51K IOPS||70K IOPS|
The 128GB and 256GB models are nearly identical to the M3 in terms of performance. There are some minor changes but the only notable one is a 30MB/s increase in sequential write speed for the 256GB model. The 64GB model, on the other hand, has gone through some serious performance reshuffling: sequential write has dropped from 175MB/s to 90MB/s and 4K random write from 40K IOPS to 25K IOPS.
|Comparison of NAND Interfaces|
|Manufacturers||IMFT (Intel, Micron, Spectec), Hynix||Toshiba/SanDisk, Samsung|
Plextor couldn't tell us why they switched NAND suppliers for the M5S but I believe it has to do with price and supply. Remember that the M5S is all about cutting costs. Often times compromises have to be made in order to cut costs sufficiently. In this case, the 64GB model has compromised performance while the bigger capacities continue to run at roughly the same speeds.