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    Categories: Storage

Plextor M5 Pro SSD


Introduction

It was less than two weeks ago that our review of the Plextor M3 Pro was published, and already we have in our hands its successor, the Plextor M5 Pro. This new solid state drive comes packing Marvell’s latest 88SS9187 controller and Toshiba’s 19 nm NAND – both of which are firsts. With new controllers and memory comes the potential for incredible performance, but also the potential for new problems. Have Plextor rushed the M5 Pro to market or is this an SSD on the bleeding edge? Let’s find out!

Specifications & Features

  • Capacity: 128 GB (our sample), 256 GB, 512 GB
  • Controller: Marvell 88SS9187
  • NAND: Toshiba 19nm Toggle-Mode MLC Nand
  • Sequential Read: 540 MB/s
  • Sequential Write: 340 MB/s
  • 4K Random Read: 91K IOPS
  • 4K Random Write: 82K IOPS
  • Cache: 256 MB DDR3
  • Warranty: 5 years
  • Availability: September (UK & EU)
 

Packaging

The M5 Pro comes in sparkly blue box. Like its predecessor, it shows off the drive itself at a jaunty angle, its capacity and useful features to shout about like the five year warranty, included extras and True Speed technology.

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On the back, we see more extensive specifications in European and East Asian languages. Performance numbers are listed here, too: 540 MB/s reading and 340 MB/s writing for the 128 GB version. The 256 and 512 GB models offer faster 450 MB/s writing speeds.

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Immediately upon taking the inner box out, we see the drive adapter plate wrapped in plastic. This’ll allow you to mount the drive in a 3.5″ bay if your case doesn’t included dedicated 2.5″ units.

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Breaking the seal and opening the book-like inner structure reveals screws and the drive itself on the left side…

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…and the installation instructions, warranty and CD on the right.

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Here’s how these riveting documents look.

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There are two sets of four screws for securing the drive to the adapter plate and securing that inside your PC.

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Physical Features

The drive itself is fairly standard, with a clean brushed aluminium look. On the one side we see the SATA and power ports, along with the drive’s serial and model numbers.

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On the front, there’s just the company logo and brushed aluminium. Nice.

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This drive is thin – 7 mm is enough to fit inside Ultrabooks, if you’d like to do that.

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Testing

Test Rig

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 2600k @ 3.8 GHz
  • Motherboard: Asus P8Z68-V Pro
  • RAM: 16 GB Geil Evo Veloce @ 2133 MHz
  • GPU: 2 x AMD Radeon HD 6950 2 GB in Crossfire
  • Storage: Plextor M3 Pro 128 GB, Crucial M4 128 GB
  • Case: NZXT Phantom White

Methodology

As always, with SSDs there are plenty of fun benchmarks to run that will measure the drive’s read and write performance. I’ll be comparing the results of these benchmarks to those I’ve run on the Plextor M3 Pro and the Crucial M4.

Synthetic Benchmarks:

  • CrystalDiskMark
  • AS SSD
  • ATTO Disk Benchmark
  • SiSoft Sandra Physical Disks Benchmark
  • HD Tune Pro
  • PCMark 7 Professional System Storage

Real World Benchmarks:

  • Windows 8 Install Time
  • Bootracer Windows 8 Boot Time
 

Results

Crystal Disk Benchmark

In this first benchmark, the M5 Pro trounces its two competitors, with higher scores in every read test. The advantages are particularly large in the 4K Queue Depth 32 test, where the drive’s controller really sings to produce a read speed that’s almost 30% faster than the M3 Pro.

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In the writing tests, we see that it’s less clear cut. While again the M5 Pro excels at the 4K level, outside of this scenario it is ever so slightly beaten by the M3 Pro. Still, 328 MB/s isn’t a poor result by any means.

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AS SSD

In AS SSD, we’d expect to see fairly similar results as to Crystal Disk Benchmark and we’re not disappointed. In the reading results the M5 Pro is ahead, particularly at smaller fragment sizes. Read access time is also impressive, at just 0.07 ms compared to the 0.077 of the M3 Pro and 0.152 of the M4.

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The writing tests again follow the same trend, with the M3 outperforming the M5 Pro slightly at bigger data sizes and the M5 coming ahead with a better access time – just 0.06 ms compared to 0.065 of the M3 Pro and 0.392 of the M4.

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The AS SSD score sums it up – this drive is a bit better than the M3 Pro, and way better than the M4 thus far.

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Atto

Atto is a very comprehensive benchmark that looks at read and write speeds across a wide range of chunk sizes, from 8 MB to 512 B. Here we had some minorly unexpected results – the M4 outperformed both Plextor drives at the 64 KB, 4 KB and 1 KB levels. Apart from this the M5 Pro narrowly edged the other drives from 256 KB all the way up to 8 MB, where the drive got an impressive 532.27 MB/s – very close to the specification.

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The M4 also outperformed the Plextor drives at the 1 KB to 4KB levels in the write tests, but then got roundly beaten after this. As we expect by now, the M3 Pro writes slightly faster than the M5 Pro.

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SiSoft Sandra Physical Disk Benchmark

SiSoft Sandra is a convenient benchmarking tool as it actually does all the weighing for you, giving you a one touch look at the relative ‘goodness’ of a drive. Here we see that Sandra likes the M5 Pro quite a lot (no doubt due to that dreamy read speed and low access time). The M5 Pro scores 17% higher than the M3 Pro, and 18% higher than the M4.

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In the access time index, we see that the M5 Pro is considerably favoured, with a 9 ns access time compared to the 10 ns of the M3 Pro and 17 ns of the M4.

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HD Tune Pro

Here once more we see that the M5 Pro beats out the fairly closed matched M3 Pro and M4, with an 25 MB/s advantage in read speed. That might not sound like a lot, but that’s about a third of the *total speed* of some of the fastest ever mechanical hard drives.

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In access times the M5 Pro continues to excel, with a blisteringly fast score of 0.052 ms compared to the 0.072 of the M3 Pro and languid 0.129 of the M4.

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Finally, we see that the M5 Pro has a higher burst read rate than its cousin (about 30 MB/s faster) and way higher than the M4 (about 210 MB/s faster). Damn.

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PCMark 7

PCMark7 is another of those convenient benchmarks that just gives you one nice score. It’s based on real-world use as well, with tasks like reading applications, video editing, adding music to a library and gaming. It’s a good cap to our benchmarking run, with the M5 Pro scoring 150 points higher than the M3 Pro and 190 points higher than the M4.

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Windows 8 Install Time

Windows 8 takes longer to install than its predecessor, particularly due to its requirement of a long Microsoft password and the tutorial at the beginning. All in all, it took 9 minutes and 5 seconds to install Windows 8 to the M5 Pro, more than double the time it took to install Windows 7 SP1 to the M3 Pro. Still, it’s way faster than a mechanical hard drive!

Windows 8 Boot Time

I feel Boot Racer is a bit broken on Windows 8, so I wouldn’t hold this result in too much regard: I got a time of 23 seconds with the software, but it kept launching the Metro (cough, sorry, Windows 8) start screen and then switching back to the desktop. We’ll update this with a final score when and if Bootracer is updated to play nicely with Windows 8. From my own observation, it seemed about the same speed as the M3 Pro in actuality (which scored 16 seconds).

 

Conclusion

The M5 Pro overtakes its older brother and shows that the new Marvell controller is indeed capable of some good things. While the 128 GB suffers from diminished write speed compared the M3 Pro, the improved read speed and access times make this a better drive overall. The margin isn’t massive, but it’s certainly there. While we don’t yet know pricing information for the M5 Pro, I’d expect it to be similar to the M3 Pro. If the M3 Pro goes down in price I’d suggest picking up that; otherwise the M5 Pro is a fine choice that rivals anything else on the market today.

Pros:

  • Excellent read and access time performance
  • Excellent write performance on larger capacities (256 or 512 GB)
  • Competitive five year warranty

Cons:

  • Not a generational leap in performance, just a small iteration
  • Decreased write performance compared to the previous generation
William Judd: Editor-in-Chief for XSReviews. Find me @wsjudd or on G+.

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