Plextor MP8e NVMe SSD Pushes 2.2GB/s, M7V Fights for Gaming Market

By Published January 12, 2016 at 3:35 pm
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Plextor has been making SSDs since 2008, but their presence in the PC gaming market is nearly unrecognized. They are the third-largest OEM SSD manufacturer behind only Samsung and SanDisk, and Plextor's drives are used in Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, ASUS, Microsoft, and Samsung computers. The company is working to change its consumer recognition as it continues to manufacture high-throughput PCI-e and SATA SSDs. At CES 2016, Plextor announced the M8Pe on the PCI-e side and the M7V on the SATA side, two drives which we think are of serious note for the consumer and gaming audiences.

The M8Pe is a PCI-e Gen 3 x4 M.2 SSD running the NVMe protocol. The drive will be available in the 2280 form factor or as an M.2 stick, then mounted on an HHHL PCB with a styled heatsink (similar to the HyperX Predator). The new M8Pe uses the Marvell 88SS1093 controller to handle Toshiba 15nm MLC NAND. The M8Pe will have 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB of flash memory with up to 1GB of DDR3 for caching, which acts as a sort of pre-buffer to speed-up storage transactions. The drive is a welcomed competitor in a market which consists of a whopping 3 competing companies: Intel (750 SSD), Kingston (HyperX Predator), and Samsung (950 Pro). At the moment, Samsung is king according to published, raw numbers. These numbers aren't really representative of all aspects of drive performance, though, and that's for a number of reasons we define in our SSD Architecture & Anatomy article. There are other discrepancies as well, but we'll look into those in future posts.

Manufacturer Sequential Read (MB/s) Sequential Write (MB/s) 4K Random Read* (IOPS) 4K Random Write* (IOPS)
Intel** 2400 1200 440000 290000
Kingston*** 1400 1000 130000 120000
Plextor 2200 1500 270000 150000
Samsung 2500 1500 300000 110000
         
*Each company's published numbers don't necessarily use the same Queue Depth
**Uses more channels than the others to simultaneously access more NAND
***Uses PCIe 2.0 and AHCI, not NVMe

If the M8Pe delivers on its promises, Plextor's drive will fiercely compete with the Samsung product; for consumers, competition is always a good thing. One advantage that the M8Pe has on the Samsung variants is that the Plextor drive will be available in 1TB capacities. The highest capacity Samsung currently produces is 512GB. Plextor's official launch date for this new competitor is March 26, 2016.

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(Above: One of many demos at Plextor's CES 2016 suite)

The more cost-conscious offering from Plextor is the M7V. It is a standard 2.5" SATA SSD using TLC NAND. The capacity numbers have yet to be confirmed, which we're assuming is because Plextor hasn't decided on whether to stop at 1TB or push for 2TB, as many competing SSD makers have recently done. The controller uses Low Density Parity Checking (LDPC) to keep errors from getting out-of-hand, and the drives have a section of SLC NAND to buffer data so that accesses feel more like MLC-based drives. Plextor's published 4K random read/write numbers, 100K/87K respectively, would make the drive an interesting match-up for the new Kingston UV400, the Samsung 850 Evo, and the Crucial BX series. We'll know more about this drive when it's released on March 21, 2016 and tested.

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Both drives will come with Plextor's software suite that provides extra features and improves performance. The software package consists of three primary components: dynamic caching (“PlexTurbo”), an active compression tool called “PlexCompressor,” and a hidden partition tool referred to as “PlexVault.”

PlexTurbo can be configured to use as much as 1/4 of system RAM as a caching space. The more system RAM available, the more performance PlexTurbo theoretically provides. PlexCompressor monitors file use and compresses files when they hit a 30-day unaccessed threshold. This is supposed to save disk space on SSDs, which are normally smaller than HDDs. PlexVault is a feature that allows the drive's owner to have a hidden partition that can only be accessed with a combination of two unique key press sequences. Interestingly, if you forget the key sequence, there is no way to recover your data; the only way to regain the space is to secure erase the entire drive. That's how you'd want a secure drive to function.

Stay tuned as the drives' release dates get closer, and we'll do our best to provide benchmark data upon launch.

Reporting: Patrick "Mocalcium" Stone
Photography: Jim Vincent

Last modified on January 12, 2016 at 3:35 pm

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