Model: Plextor PX-256M2P 256GB Solid State Drive
Provided By: Plextor LLC
As one of the biggest names in the storage industry, Plextor doesn't need much of an introduction. For more than a decade, they've produced some of the best optical drives the industry has seen. Known the world over for their quality, performance and features, these drives have become favorites among consumers and professionals alike. Today, Plextor continues to lead the way by bringing cutting edge storage technologies to market. Along with a vast assortment of high-performance DVD and Blu-ray drives, the company offers a growing number of NAS devices, external hard drives and solid state drives.
Like many other manufacturers, Plextor has set its sights on the growing solid-state drive (SSD) market. This fall, the company launched its new M2P series SSD. Powered by Plextor's new True Speed technology, this limited-edition SSD leverages high quality components like Marvell's server-grade 88SS9174 controller chip and Toshiba's 32nm Toggle NAND flash to deliver up to 500MB/s read and 440MB/s write transfer rates. The M2P series also features exclusive firmware with Instant Restore, Global Wear Leveling, and Bad Block Management to maintain original performance levels, even after intensive use and long periods of operation.
For this review, Plextor sent us the PX-256M2P. This 256GB SSD comes equipped with 512MB of on-board cache and is capable of delivering up to 500MB/s sequential read and 440MB/s sequential write speeds as well as up to 70,000 random read and 65,000 random write IOPS.
|Plextor PX-256M2P 256GB Solid State Drive|
Dimensions and Weight
Needless to say, this is only a taste of what the PX-256M2P has to offer. To give you an idea of what to expect, we'll take a closer look at Plextor's new 256GB SSD and then see how well it performs. Does the PX-256M2P have what it takes? Can it deliver the performance and features that we've come to expect from Plextor? Keep reading as we find out.
The PX-256M2P comes in a small, blue and grey box. The front advertises many of its key features including its 256GB capacity, SATA 6Gbps interface and True Speed technology. The back of the box has a small picture of the SSD as well as some information regarding its features, specifications and box contents. Inside, you'll find the SSD, a 3.5" adapter bracket, mounting screws, quick installation guide, warranty card and a CD containing Acronis True Image.
At first glance, the PX-256M2P looks a lot like Plextor's previous SSDs. While a bit darker in color, their new drive shares the same basic design and brushed metal finish.But, instead of cast aluminum, the casing is made out of a metal alloy that is thinner, lighter weight and probably cheaper to manufacture. That being said, it's still quite strong and durable.
For the PX-256M2P, Plextor has gone back to using a 2.5" form factor PCB. The company has also placed thermal pads on the controller, NAND flash and DDR3 cache chips. These pads transfer heat away from the components to the outer casing, which then acts like a large heat spreader.
As I mentioned earlier, the PX-256M2P uses Marvell's 88SS9174-BKK2 controller chip. The 88SS9174-BKK2 can be found in a number of other high-performance SSD's including the Corsair Performance 3 Series and Intel SSD 510 Series as well as Plextor's own M2S Series.
For the PX-256M2P, Plextor has opted to use Toshiba's 32nm TH58TV68D2FDA88 Toggle Mode NAND flash chips. Looking at the picture above, you can see that there are eight of these chips on the top of the PCB. The drive also has two 256MB Nanya DDR3 memory chips that are used for caching and garbage collection.
The test system used in this review was an HP 8200 Elite. The computer came equipped with an Intel Core i5-2400 CPU, 4GB of DDR3 1333MHz memory, Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3250312AS 250GB SATA 6 Gb/s hard drive, NVIDIA Quadro FX580 512MB PCIe graphics card and an Intel 82579-LM gigabit network card. For the operating system, I installed a fresh copy of Windows 7 Enterprise.
To test the performance of the PX-256M2P, I ran a series of benchmarks using CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1, HD Tach RW 220.127.116.11, ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46, AS SSD, HD Tune Pro 4.61 and Iometer. For comparison, I've also included test results from the Kingston HyperX, OCZ Vertex 3, OCZ Agility 3 and Plextor PX-128M2S.
As I mentioned earlier, the PX-256M2P is based on Marvel's 88SS9174 controller chip. While not as popular as some of the newer SandForce controllers, the 88SS9174 does have one major advantage in that it performs equally well with both incompressible (0%) and compressible (100%) data.
First, I ran a few quick tests using CrystalDiskMark. This benchmark tool measures the performance of a storage device by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its random read and write speeds using blocks 512K and 4K in size.
According to Plextor, the PX-256M2P is capable of reading at 500MB/s and writing at 440MB/s when connected to a SATA 6 Gb/s port. While the drive performed well, it came up a bit short of these numbers in CrystalDiskMark's sequential read and write speed tests.
And yes, the PX-256M2P performs equally well when using highly compressible 0x00 (0 Fill) data.
HD Tach RW 18.104.22.168:
Next, I used HD Tach to test the PX-256M2P's read, write and burst speeds as well as its seek times and CPU usage.
Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that the PX-256M2P had average read and write speeds of 331.7 MB/s and 275.9 MB/s respectively, as well as a burst speed of 347.9 MB/s.
ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46:
I also used ATTO Disk Benchmark to test the PX-256M2P's sequential read and write speeds. The tests are run using blocks ranging in size from 0.5KB to 8192KB and the total length set to 256MB.
When tested with ATTO, the PX-256M2P's read speeds topped out at about 506 MB/s and its write speeds at 422 MB/s.
AS SSD is a relatively new benchmark designed specifically for solid state drives. The application contains five synthetic tests used to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of a drive.
AS SSD also includes a copy benchmark. This test copies an ISO (two large files), program (many small files) and game (small and large files), returning the speed and duration of each.
HD Tune Pro 4.61:
Next, I ran a series of tests using HD Tune Pro. This hard disk utility measures a drive's performance by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its access time, burst rate and CPU usage. For this review, I'm also going to use it to benchmark the PX-256M2P's random read and write speeds, random access times and the number of operations per second.
The PX-256M2P performed fairly well when benchmarked with HD Tune. The drive had average read and write speeds of 494.0 MB/s and 358.3 MB/s, respectively, and a burst rate of 322 MB/s.
The PX-256M2P didn't perform as well as the Vertex 3 when doing random reads and writes. Nevertheless, when writing 4KB blocks, the drive reached 13488 IOPS and had an average speed of 52.690 MB/s.
Lastly, I ran a series of tests using Iometer. This tool can be configured to benchmark a number of things. In this case, I used it to measure the PX-256M2P's read and write speeds and the number of operations per second. The tests were run using random bytes and a queue depth of 3.
The PX-256M2P's performance was very similar to what we saw in our other tests. The drive was able to read at 482.61 MB/s and write at 401.49 MB/s. This wasn't enough to top the SandForce-based drives when reading and writing highly compressible, repeating data. However, the PX-256M2P had a clear advantage when writing incompressible, random data.
The PX-256M2P performed surprisingly well when doing random reads and writes. In our tests, the drive was able to write at 200.21 MB/s and read at a blazing 120.02 MB/s. Once again, this wasn't enough to top the SandForce-based drives when doing random writes with highly compressible, repeating data. However, the PX-256M2P was about 45 MB/s faster than the Kingston HyperX and OCZ Vertex 3 when writing random data.
According to Plextor, the PX-256M2P is capable of 70,000 IOPS when reading and 65,000 IOPS when writing 4K blocks. In our tests, the drive reached 30,727 IOPS when doing a random read and 51,256 IOPS when doing a random write.
TRIM and True Speed:
While SSD's offer many benefits, there are some downsides to using flash memory. One of the biggest issues people run into is performance degradation. Over time, an SSD will run out of fresh blocks and will have to write over data the file system has marked as deleted. This procedure is very complicated and can slow an SSD's write speeds considerably.
To fix this problem, most manufacturers have added TRIM support to their SSDs. The TRIM command allows an operating system, such as Windows 7, to tell an SSD which data blocks are no longer in use. Using this information, the drive pro-actively erases these blocks and adds them to the free block pool.
The PX-256M2P is one of the first drives to ship with Plextor's exclusive True Speed technology. By leveraging the power of advanced firmware, True Speed ensures that the SSD works at its full potential even after extensive use and long periods of operation. Along with support for TRIM, the PX-256M2P's firmware incorporates Plextor's Bad Block Management, Global Wear Leveling and Instant Restore technologies. Where Bad Block Management and Global Wear Leveling optimize the way data is written on the drive, Instant Restore maintains "like new" performance by reorganizing data to maximize the number of free cells.
Plextor's True Speed technology works very well as I saw very little performance degradation, even after hours of testing. I was finally able to overwhelm it by using Iometer to fill the entire drive and then running a random write test for 20 minutes. Looking at the screenshot below, you can see that the PX-256M2P's average write speed dropped to 142.2 MB/s when in this "dirty" state.
Plextor PX-256M2P - Dirty
To see how well the PX-256M2P could recover, I let the computer sit for a few hours and then reran the test. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that Instant Restore had reorganized data on about a quarter of the drive and the average writing speed had increased to 212.3 MB/s.
Plextor PX-256M2P - Instant Restore and TRIM in Progress
By the next morning, the entire process was complete. While the PX-256M2P wasn't able to reach the factory fresh performance shown in our earlier tests, its average write speed jumped up to 274.2 MB/s.
Plextor PX-256M2P - After Instant Restore and TRIM
Lastly, I used LtnSSD to pre-format the PX-256M2P. With the drive wiped clean, its read speed jumped back up to 303.0 MB/s.
Plextor PX-256M2P - Wiped
If the PX-256M2P is any indication, Plextor is looking to be a serious contender in the SSD market. Targeted at power users and gamers, this limited edition SSD combines Marvell's 88SS9174 controller with Toshiba's Toggle Mode NAND flash. Add in 512MB of on-board cache and Plextor's exclusive True Speed technology and you have a drive capable of some pretty impressive performance. In our sequential read and write tests, the PX-256M2P was able to read at speeds as high as 506 MB/s and write at speeds in excess of 400 MB/s. These numbers aren't as high as what we've seen with some of the newer SandForce-based drives. However, the PX-256M2P performs equally well with compressible and incompressible data and, thanks to True Speed, is able to sustain these speeds, even after intensive use.
What's really going to make or break Plextor's M2P series SSDs is the price. This is something that Plextor has had a hard time with in the past. However, if the suggested retail prices of the PX-128M2P ($249) and PX-256M2P ($449) are any indication, the M2P series will probably end up costing less than most of the SandForce-based drives currently on the market. Of course, we'll have to wait and see what retailers are asking when they ship at the end of this month.
- True Speed technology
- Available in 128GB and 256GB capacities
- Excellent sequential read and write speeds
- Performs equally well with compressible and incompressible data
- Consistent speeds, even after intensive usage
- SATA 6Gb/s interface
- Toggle NAND flash
- Massive 512MB cache on PX-256M2P
- Exclusive firmware with Instant Restore, Global Wear Leveling and Bad Block Management
- Supports TRIM, SMART and NCQ
- Includes a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter bracket
- Includes Acronis True Image
- 3 year warranty
- Not as fast as SandForce-based SSDs when reading and writing compressible data