Model: Plextor S2C 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 nearly twenty years, 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 an assortment of high-performance DVD and Blu-ray drives, the company offers a growing number of solid state drives.
This fall, Plextor launched its latest 2.5-inch SATA SSD, the S2C. Targeted towards first time upgraders and do-it-yourselfers, this successor to the M7V is powered by SMI's SM2258 controller and is available with up to 512GB of SK Hynix's 16nm TLC NAND flash. To compensate for the slow write speeds typically associated with TLC NAND, the S2C is equipped with Plextor's PlexNitro cache acceleration technology, which optimizes performance without taking up any space on the drive. The S2C also has many of the same features found on Plextor's higher end SSDs. In addition to the company's PlexTurbo intelligent RAM caching solution, the drive offers support for its PlexCompressor and PlexVault technologies.
The S2C is available in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities. For this review, Plextor sent us the 256GB version of the drive which is capable of delivering up to 520 MB/s sequential read and 480 MB/s sequential write speeds as well as up to 98,000 random read and 72,000 random write IOPS.
|Plextor S2C 256GB Solid State Drive|
Environment and Reliability
Dimensions and Weight
Needless to say, this is only a taste of what the S2C has to offer. To give you an idea of what to expect, we'll take a closer look at Plextor's new SSD and then see how well it performs. Does the S2C have what it takes? More importantly, is it the best bang for your buck? Keep reading as we find out.
The S2C comes in a simple, yet attractive, white box. In addition to the large "S2" series logo, the front advertises many of the drive's key features including its 256GB capacity, SATA 6Gbps interface, 3 year warranty and support for Plextor's PlexTurbo, PlexCompressor and PlexVault technologies. The back of the box provides a bit more information regarding the S2C's features, specifications and box contents.
Plextor doesn't include a lot of extras with the S2C. Aside from the SSD, the only other thing in the box is a small, fold out guide containing warranty information as well as some brief installation instructions for both desktop and notebook computers in a number of different languages.
Like Plextor's previous SSDs, the S2C is very well constructed. The drive's outer casing is made entirely out of metal. Along with it being strong and durable, it is very lightweight. On top of that, its brushed aluminum finish looks great.
Upon opening the case, I was a bit surprised to see how small the S2C's PCB was. Instead of a full size PCB, Plextor has placed what is essentially a half-slim (MO-297) SATA SSD inside of a 2.5-inch case.
The S2C is one of the first drives to use SMI's new SM2258 controller. This customizable turnkey controller solution is powered by a 32-bit RISC CPU and offers support for 2D/3D MLC and TLC NAND flash from all the major NAND flash vendors. The SM2258 also employs SMI's proprietary NANDXtend error-correcting and data protection technology to triple the P/E cycles of TLC NAND. In addition, the controller features advanced Direct-to-TLC and SLC caching algorithms for optimal sustained read and write performance.
For the 256GB version of the S2C, Plextor has opted to use SK Hynix's 16nm TLC NAND flash. Looking at the pictures above, you can see that there are two 64GB NAND flash packages on either side of the PCB. The drive also has a single 512MB NANYA DDR3L memory chip that is used for caching.
Like Plextor's other SATA SSDs, the new S2C works with Plextor's Plextool software. Designed exclusively for Plextor drives, this free downloadable tool lets users check the status of their drive. From the main screen, users can view information like the overall health, total capacity, free space and firmware version of each drive.
The Secure Format feature gives users the option to delete all the data on an SSD in a way that it can never be recovered, restoring the drive to its original performance.
Plextool also gives users the ability to update a drive's firmware, perform a diagnostic scan and check its S.M.A.R.T. details and see if there are any issues.
The S2C also supports Plextor's PlexCompressor technology. Available as a free download, PlexCompressor is a smart compression program that compresses files left unused for an extended period of time in order to save space.
During each compression, only part of the space is compressed, avoiding occupation of system resources for long periods of time. After an extended period of use, most of the rarely used files are in a compressed state, and commonly used files are in a decompressed state. Compression of new files gradually decreases, until eventually almost no system resources are devoted to compression.
PlexCompressor can be monitored through its Viewer utility. From here, you can see which disks PlexCompressor is enabled on as well as the compression rate and the amount of increased free space.
Plextor's PlexVault software is aimed to provide a secure space where users can store personal information. Using the software, users can set up hidden disk spaces which can be opened or closed using a set of hotkeys. A password can also be set for even greater security.
When opened, the PlexVault volume will appear as an additional drive letter on your computer. Otherwise it remains hidden and cannot be found through the Device Manager or the Disk Administrator.
Last but not least, you have Plextor's PlexTurbo technology. This smart caching software uses system RAM to prolong the life of the drive and push its performance beyond the bandwidth limitations of the SATA interface.
Once installed, you can monitor PlexTurbo using the Viewer. This utility runs in the system tray, showing which disks Plextool is enabled on as well as the current cache capacity and the total reduced write volume. The reduced write volume is proportional to the extension of the drive's lifespan.
With the current version of PlexTurbo, you can set the maximum cache size and the cache release time. You can also have it preload data files that were used immediately prior to the last shutdown and automatically run the Viewer after start up.
By default, PlexTurbo uses anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 of your system memory. With the M6 Pro and M6e, the maximum amount of memory it can use is 16GB. However, with the S2C, this number is capped at 1GB. Even with this limitation, we saw some considerable gains in our tests. When tested with CrystalDiskMark, ATTO and AS SSD, sequential read and write speeds increased, in some cases, by more than 9x.
The test system used in this review was an HP EliteDesk 800 G1. The computer is equipped with an Intel Core i5-2400 CPU, 16GB of DDR3 1333MHz memory, Plextor PX-256M5P 256GB SSD, PNY Quadro K600 1GB PCIe graphics card and Intel 1217-LM gigabit network card. For the operating system, I installed a fresh copy of Windows 8.1 Enterprise.
To test the performance of Plextor's S2C SSD, I ran a series of benchmarks using CrystalDiskMark, HD Tach RW, ATTO Disk Benchmark, AS SSD, HD Tune Pro, Anvil's Storage Utilities, Iometer and PCMark 8. For comparison, I've also included test results from the Crucial M300, Plextor M7V, PNY CS1311, OCZ Trion 150, PNY CS2211, Plextor M6V, Crucial BX200, OCZ Trion 100, Kingston HyperX Savage, Crucial MX200, OCZ Vector 180, Kingston BX100, Samsung 850 EVO M.2, Samsung 850 EVO mSATA, AMD Radeon R7, Silicon Power Slim S80, Samsung SSD 850 EVO, OCZ ARC 100, SanDisk Ultra II, Crucial MX100, SanDisk Extreme Pro and Samsung SSD 850 PRO.
As I mentioned earlier, the S2C is based on SMI's SM2258 controller chip. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see 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 256GB S2C is capable of reading at 520 MB/s and writing at 480 MB/s. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that the drive had no problems reaching these speeds in CrystalDiskMark's sequential read and write tests.
The S2C performed equally well when using highly compressible 0x00 (0 Fill) data. This time around, the drive was able to read at 563.9 MB/s and write at 528.1 MB/s.
HD Tach RW 126.96.36.199:
Next, I used HD Tach to test the S2C'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 S2C had average read and write speeds of 451.9 MB/s and 221.3 MB/s respectively, as well as a burst speed of 499.0 MB/s. The screenshot also shows that, like most other TLC-based SSDs, the S2C uses some sort of SLC caching. The drive starts writing at about 400 MB/s and then drops to about 220 MB/s when the write operation exceeds the size of the cache. The cache on the 256GB version of the S2C is also surprisingly small. It appears to use about 0.8% of the drive's total capacity, which is about 2GB.
ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46:
I also used ATTO Disk Benchmark to test the S2C'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 S2C's read speeds topped out at about 564 MB/s and its write speeds at 528 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 5.00:
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 S2C's random read and write speeds, random access times and the number of operations per second.
The S2C performed relatively well when benchmarked with HD Tune. The drive had average read and write speeds of 520.6 MB/s and 215.4 MB/s, respectively, and a burst rate of about 198 MB/s when reading and writing.
When writing 4KB blocks, the S2C reached 25,321 IOPS and had an average speed of 98.912 MB/s. The drive was even faster when reading, reaching 27,056 IOPS with an average speed of 105.689 MB/s.
Anvil's Storage Utilities:
Anvil's Storage Utilities is another new benchmark designed with SSDs in mind. The standard storage benchmark measures a drive's performance by testing its transfer speeds, access times and IOPS.
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 S2C'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 S2C's performance was hit and miss when tested with Iometer. While the drive was able to read at a respectable 537.79 MB/s, its sequential write speed averaged out at only 226.95 MB/s.
The S2C wasn't one of the faster drives we've tested when it came to random reads and writes. In our tests, the drive was able to read at 121.68 MB/s and write at 210.88 MB/s.
According to Plextor, the 256GB version of the S2C is capable of 98,000 IOPS when reading and 72,000 IOPS when writing 4K blocks. In our tests, the drive reached 31,151 random read IOPS and 53,885 random write IOPS. Increasing the queue depth had little impact on the S2C's random write performance. However, with the queue depth set to 32, the drive was able to reach 83,051 random read IOPS.
Vantage PCMark 8 - Storage Test:
PCMark 8 is a complete benchmark for Windows. It includes five benchmark tests, each designed around a specific scenario. The storage benchmark measures drive performance using real-world traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games.
PCMark 8 also includes a consistency test which measures the performance consistency and degradation tendency of a storage system. The test reports the performance level at the start, the degraded steady-state and the recovered state as well as the number of iterations required to reach the degraded state and the recovered state. For this test, we are focusing on the Adobe Photoshop (Heavy) trace and will look at both the bandwidth and latency of the drive
The S2C did fairly well throughout PCMark's consistency test. While not as fast as the Trion 150, it performed better than the M7V and MX300 throughout the degradation and steady state phases. The S2C's performance also increased during the recovery phase, topping out at about 236 MB/s.
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.
To test the S2C's TRIM and garbage collection functions, I first put the drive in a "dirty" state. I used Iometer to fill the entire drive and then ran a random write test for 30 minutes. This had little impact on the S2C's read speed. However, its average writing speed dropped to a mere 42.8 MB/s.
Plextor S2C - Dirty
To see how well the S2C could recover, I let the computer sit for about 30 minutes and then reran the test. The drive wasn't able to reach the factory fresh performance shown in our earlier tests. However, its average write speed climbed up to 182.8 MB/s.
Plextor S2C - After TRIM
Lastly, I used Plextor's Plextool software to perform a secure format on the S2C. With the drive wiped clean, it had average read and write speeds of 454.7 MB/s and 222.7 MB/s, respectively.
Plextor S2C - Secure Erased
Plextor's S2C SSD is a great choice for the consumer looking for an easy and affordable way to improve the performance of their existing computer. This entry-level drive combines SMI's SM2258 controller with SK Hynix's 16nm TLC NAND to deliver good performance and innovative features at a price that won't break the bank. Thanks to Plextor's PlexNitro technology, the S2C performed relatively well throughout most of our tests. In our sequential read and write tests, the 256GB version of the drive was able to read at speeds as high as 564MB/s and write at speeds in excess of 528 MB/s. It also had no problems holding its own against other TLC-based SSDs in our random write tests, producing more than 53,000 IOPS at low queue depths.
While Plextor's PlexNitro technology works well under normal workloads, it does have its limitations. If you have a heavy workload, where a consecutive write operation exceeds the size of the SLC cache, the S2C's write speed drops to non-accelerated levels. Thankfully, this drop in performance isn't nearly as dramatic as what we've seen with other TLC-based SSDs. With its ability to bypass the cache and write directly to the TLC NAND, the S2C outperformed many of the TLC-based drives we've tested, including the M7V, when doing sustained sequential writes.
Of course, fast read and write speeds aren't the only things the S2C has to offer. The drive is compatible with Plextor's Plextool software and supports their PlexTurbo smart cache technology. The S2C is also compatible with PlexVault and PlexCompressor software, which have traditionally been reserved for the company's higher end drives. That being said, the S2C does not support Device Sleep (DEVSLP) or hardware based encryption. This probably isn't an issue if you're looking for an SSD for your desktop computer. However, these are things you may want to keep in mind if the S2C is going in a laptop or if data security is a concern.
The S2C will be shipping soon in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities. Suggested retail prices range from $46 to $134, with the 256GB version reviewed here going for about $76.
- Available in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities
- SMI SM2258 controller
- SK Hynix 16nm TLC NAND flash
- Good sequential read and write speeds under most conditions
- PlexNitro technology optimizes performance without taking up SSD space
- Supports PlexTurbo, PlexVault and PlexCompressor technologies
- Direct-to-die write method for optimal sustained write performance
- Large DRAM cache
- Ultra-slim form factor
- 3 year warranty
- Affordably priced
- Write speed drops when SLC cache is full
- SLC cache is small
- Does not support DEVSLP
- Does not support hardware based encryption
- Endurance rating is lower than M7V