Plextor PX-256M5P review

The Plextor PX-256MP is one of the fastest SSDs we've tested yet, but not necessarily worth its price premium.
Photo of Plextor PX-256M5P

Historically, Plextor has been known for its optical drives, not solid-state storage. The company first made a name for itself in the early days of CD and DVD burning, when the quality of drives and blank media could vary enormously from company to company. Plextor’s drives offered a welcome respite from such problems, and the company has extended its product lineup into SSDs as well. The PX-256M5P is the first SSD to use Marvell’s 88SS9187 SSD controller, and it packs a bevy of high-end capabilities. Its random read/write performance is significantly better than some of the other SSDs we’ve tested, but it’s also more expensive.

The drive contains 512MB of DDR3 cache, and integrates a dual-core Marvell CPU to ensure maximum performance, even in non-optimal test conditions. The M5P is one of the first drives to use Toshiba’s next-generation 19nm Toggle Flash, and the new controller adds the ability to queue TRIM commands without needing to pause regular operations to perform garbage collection. The M5P family consists of 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB entries, all in a 2.5-inch form factor. All three include a substantial DRAM cache, from 256MB of DDR3 on the 128GB drive to 768MB on the 512GB unit. We tested the Plextor M5 Pro on an Intel DZ77GA-70K motherboard with a Core i7-3770K.

Plextor claims the M5 Pro can hit read speeds of up to 96,000 IOPS and sequential read/write speeds of 5 40MBps and 450MBps, respectively. Our performance tests bear those figures out; the M5 Pro may be the first SSD to use Marvell’s new controller, but it won’t be the last. In AS-SSD, the M5 Pro handily beat OCZ’s 512GB Vertex 4 and 480GB Vertex 3 in every test. Its sequential read performance topped out at 504MBps compared to 492GMBps for the Vertex 4 and 429.3MBps for the Vertex 3. Sequential read/write tests measure a drive’s sustained performance over contiguous blocks of data and are most relevant to people who frequently copy large files.

In AS-SSD’s 4K 64-thread read/write tests, the M5 Pro put up scores of 362MBps read and 310MBps write. The Vertex 4 managed a reasonable second-place (275MBps read, 218MBps write), but the Vertex 3 could only manage 257MBps and 149MBps in the same tests.
The PX-256MP delivers the random write performance that Plextor promised as well. SiSoft Sandra’s random tests show the M5 Pro hitting 520.34MBps read. 432MBps write. The Vertex 3 matches the PX-256MP’s read performance at 516MBps (the OCZ Vertex 4 hit 427KMBps), but neither OCZ drive can match the random write performance. The OCZ Vertex 4 manages a little more than half, at 218.2MBps; the OCZ Vertex 3 tops out at 149MBps.

In PCMark 7, the results were closer, but still favored the Plextor SSD. The PX-256MP was our top performer, with a score of 5,458, compared with 5,147 for the OCZ Vertex 4 and 5,430 for the OCZ Vertex 3. PCMark’s storage tests are designed to replicate real-world data sets and application usage patterns; OS boot times, file copies, random data access, and streaming data workloads are all part of the final score.

This leaves the drive’s price/performance ratio for consideration, and here the PX-256MP is on shakier ground. At $249 for a 256GB drive, it’s priced well above the OCZ Vertex 3 & Vertex 4, which are currently $199 and $184, respectively, at NewEgg.

Whether the PX-256MP is worth the cash may depend on what you plan to do with it. Not all storage controllers support TRIM, and Plextor claims that the PX-256MP’s performance remains excellent even when the drive is “dirty ” (i.e., has blocks of unused storage that need to be erased) Those with highly random write workloads might also want to give the drive serious consideration; it’s far faster than the OCZ Vertex 3 and Vertex 4 in certain specific tests.

If you’re looking for a general-purpose SSD, however, the $50 premium of the Plextor PX-256M5P may not be worth it. Plextor’s five-year warranty is good, but other companies match it on this front. With multiple drives slipping well below the $1/GB mark, Plextor may trim prices sooner rather than later.

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the Plextor PX-256M5P with several other solid-state drives side by side.

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Specifications
Rotation Speed SSD
System Type Notebook
Type External
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 256 GB

Verdict
The Plextor PX-256M5P internal solid-state drive is great for certain specific tasks, but not a clear front-runner in the field.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc