Plextor M6 Pro SSD Review

Plextor M6 Pro SSD Review

One of the more impressive SSDs in recent times was the Plextor M5 range. Regardless of the form factor, SATA or mSATA, it performed very well. The Plextor M6 Pro SSD replaces the M5 series at the top end of their product range and today we have one to review.

plextor-m6-pro-ssd-box1 plextor-m6-pro-ssd-bundle

The Plextor M6 Pro arrives in a rather stylish box which features a brushed metal effect finish. We get limited info about the drive itself on the outside but there is plenty of other stuff to see inside. Bundled with the Plextor M6 Pro we get a  set of screws, a bracket to assist with installs in 3.5″ bays, some product documentation and a software CD. On that CD is software to assist us in moving our existing data/OS to the Plextor M6 Pro along with Plextool.

Plextool

Plextool allows us to monitor and maintain our Plextor M6 Pro as well as taking advantage of a number of advanced features. The first is Secure Format (Secure Erase) which returns the drive to a clean state with no option to recover data. Firmware update allows us to flash the drive with the latest firmware which could include bug fixes and performance enhancements. Finally we have PlexTurbo, a technology which allows us to use our system memory as a high speed cache to maximise the performance of the Plextor M6 Pro. PlexTools can also be downloaded from the Plextor site, and we will look at PlexTurbo performance at the end of this article.

Plextor M6 Pro SSD

plextor-m6-pro-ssd-topplextor-m6-pro-ssd-base

The Plextor M6 Pro is shown above and our first impression when unboxing the drive was that it really stands out from the competition. The brushed aluminium “rose gold” effect casing looks great and the minimal branding really helps. An information sticker is applied to the bottom of the Plextor M6 Pro and we get a warranty sticker also. The only other point of note for the basic design is that this is a 7mm drive weighing 70g (without case) which has standard SATA3 power and data connectors.

Inside the drive we find a multi-core Marvell 9187 controller and on Plextor M6 Pro that is combined with Toshibas new A19nm toggle NAND. Cache levels on this drive are 512MB (Micron DDR3) and as is common for Plextor drives they have their own custom firmware. In terms of reliability their drives go through “ultra-strict, enterprise grade, zero error testing” for 1008 hours and this gives Plextor the confidence to give the drive a 5-year warranty  with MTBF rated at 2.4m hours. Plextor also include technology to protect against loss of DATA from the RAM cache in the event of power failure and employ smart algorithms to eliminate unnecessary writes to the drive, enhancing its lifespan. That combines with Plextors other firmware features which help maintain the speed of the NAND.

Other features of note are support for TRIM, ECC, SMART and AES-256.

For the Plextor M6 Pro we have rated speeds of 545MB/s read, 490MB/s write  and IOPS figures of 100k/86-88k. Capacities up to 1TB will be available with all having the same speed rating (other than the 128GB which writes at 330MB/s/82k) and our low power state draws just 0.2mW.

plextor-m6-pro-capacity

User experience and Conclusion

Full performance figures after the conclusion

Looking first at the build quality of the Plextor M6 Pro we have a drive which is hard to fault. The metal casing offers protection for the internal components and we get quality branded parts as far as those are concerned. This is just the third drive we have seen which uses Toshiba’s new A19nm Toggle NAND and so it is also right on the leading edge component wise while also being generous with the likes of cache volume.

It is also worth noting that the Plextor M6 Pro is a lovely looking drive. In the flesh the brushed aluminium “rose gold” effect finish looks fantastic and while it might be hard to find components to match, anyone who does will have a nice looking system.

In terms of value, we are still waiting for retail links however the inclusion of backup/migration software, Plextool, the SATA cable and drive caddy all add value to a drive which already has a decent 5-year warranty (and the excellent quality testing at the factory).

So that brings us to performance. Overall the Plextor M6 Pro performs well. We put it up against the two other drives we have access to with Toshiba A19 chips and it regularly exceeded the performance of OCZ’s value orientated ARC 100 while competing well with the AMD (OCZ) Radeon R7 series drive which is more towards the high end of the market. It will be interesting to see if Plextor can squeeze a little Extra performance out of this controller/NAND combination over time as it is a brand new configuration but really our main limit is the SATA interface so it wouldn’t be much of a boost… which is where PlexTurbo comes in.

In basic terms, PlexTurbo passes our data through RAM before it hits the Plextor M6 Pro (while also ensuring data is passed to the drive for data protection). The technology identifies hot (frequently used) and cold (rarely used) data and applies the best caching patters to each. The command data is merged into one buffer to accelerate write response speed. This tech also compares the data on the drive to the incoming write and if it is already on the drive, will remove the write command to extend the drives lifespan. In a way PlexTurbo is a feature which cannot be thoroughly reviewed, every system will have different specifications and therefore different results and as the performance changes over time, through varied unique data use, it is even harder to quantify.

What we can do is show you some crazy Atto benchmarks (see further down this page) and let you know that real world use does show performance gains, though they are much more subtle. We also note that there were no scenarios we found where PlexTurbo had a negative effect on the performance of the Plextor M6 Pro. Therefore, turn it on… you have nothing to loose and some performance to gain.

Summary:
A well built drive which has some impressive performance mixed with interesting features. Like every other high end drive in using SATA 3 it is somewhat limited by the interface so we look forward to seeing what the M.2 edition (if there is one) does. A worthy winner of our recommended award.

Recommended Award

Test Configuration and Performance

Plextor M6 Pro SSD 240GB
OCZ Storage Solutions ARC 100 240GB
Samsung 840Evo 250GB
OCZ Storage Solutions Vector 150 240GB
AMD Radeon R7 SSD 240GB

*All drives using their latest firmware at the time of writing.

Intel Core i7-4790K
Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 5
4x4GB Corsair DDR3-2666
Samsung 850Pro SSD
Corsair AX1500i PSU

Installed on a DimasTech Easy XL Test Bench

Roccat Kone Mouse
Razer Black Widow Keyboard
Audio-Technica ATH-AG1 Headset
ASUS HD/3D 120Hz Screen

Windows 8.1
Catalyst 14.7
NVIDA Driver 340.52

Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
Crystal DiskMark
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test
ATTO Benchmark
Battlefield 4/Origin
PCMark 8

The test system was built from scratch, a format of the hard drives was performed (NTFS) and then Windows 8 was installed. Following the completion of the installation, the chipset and video drivers were installed. All windows updates were then installed as were the latest builds of the benchmarking tools. Finally, where appropriate, the hard drives were de-fragmented. For each test, the video drivers were set to default quality/optimizations (unless otherwise stated) and each drive was Sanitary/secure Erased between tests.

Good Benchmarking Practice

Where possible, each benchmark was performed three times and the median result for each resolution/setting is shown in the tables that will follow. All applications had their latest patches applied and all hardware features the latest BIOS/Firmware.

Atto:

plextor-m6-pro-ssd-atto

CrystalDiskMark:

plextor-m6-pro-ssd-crystal

BlackMagic HD Video Benchmark:

plextor-m6-pro-ssd-blackmagic1 plextor-m6-pro-ssd-blackmagic2

File Copy Tests:

plextor-m6-pro-ssd-file-copy

Windows Load Time:

plextor-m6-pro-ssd-windows-load

Battlefield 4 Map Load:

plextor-m6-pro-ssd-bf4-load

Results with PlexTurbo Enabled

Atto PlexTurbo:

plextor-m6-pro-ssd-attot

File Copy Tests PlexTurbo:

plextor-m6-pro-ssd-file-copyt

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