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Inside Plextor's 256 GB M5 Pro

Plextor M5 Pro 256 GB Review: 19 nm NAND And Marvell's Latest
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Pulling out the contents of Plextor's box, we find that the M5 Pro comes with the following accessories:

  • Mounting bracket for desktop installations
  • Four screws to fix the mounting bracket
  • Four screws to fix the mounting bracket to a hard drive bay
  • A software CD


The CD contains:

  • NTI Echo (Cloning software)
  • NTI Backup Now EZ (Backup software)
  • NTI SSD Performance Analyzer (Bechmark software)
  • NTI Software Trials (NTI Media Maker, NTI Shadow, and NTI Ninja)


The M5 Pro's enclosure has a different, brushed finish than the M5S, and it comes in the smaller 2.5" form factor with a 7 mm Z-height. The casing comes apart quite easily via four screws located on the sides. Unlike the M5S, the M5 Pro employs thermal pads on top of the NAND and DDR RAM chips.

Once the casing is removed, we find eight 64-Gb Toggle-mode NAND packages manufactured at 19 nm and hosting two bits per memory cell on one side of the PCB. A 128 GB drive uses two 64-Gb dies per package, the 256 GB model employs four dies in each package, and the 512 GB version hosts eight 8 GB dies in each memory package.

The Toshiba NAND was developed under a longstanding collaboration with SanDisk, achieving industry-first 15 MB/s programming throughput. Smaller geometries typically result in a loss of write endurance, higher bit error rates, and slower memory performance. However, Toshiba's collaboration with SanDisk is reported to have introduced new technologies that combat those typical side effects. The 19 nm NAND employs a one-sided, All-Bit-Line (ABL) architecture with proprietary programming algorithms and multi-level data storage management schemes to help sustain performance and reliability. Write cycle endurance is reportedly equivalent to what Toshiba was producing on its 24 nm node, and the latest die shrink also has a new memory cell programming algorithm to mitigate program disturbances. 

Plextor's M5 Pro leverages the same Nanya 256 MB DDR3-1333 SDRAM chips as the M5S. Two, operating side-by-side, yield an aggregate 512 MB DRAM buffer.

The back side of the PCB hosts Marvell's 88SS9187-BLD2 processor and very little else.

We have it on good authority that this isn't the first SSD with Marvell's 88SS9187-BLD2 controller. As we'll see, though, the M5 Pro performs very differently from the other drive we suspect employs the same processor. This demonstrates the flexibility that Marvell's hardware affords to SSD vendors willing to customize their firmware and differentiate their products. Ultimately, this gives you more choice, and it's a pleasant break from the uniformity seen from SandForce-based offerings.  

Plextor provides a tool kit available on its website that lets users monitor drive health and free capacity, apply firmware updates, and securely erase all data stored on the drive. Unfortunately, as of this writing, the M5 drives aren't yet supported by the application suite. Plextor claims it is working to update its Plextool utility, though.

As we mentioned in Plextor M5S 256 GB Review: Marvell Inside, With A Twist, the secure erase feature only works if the drive doesn't already have a volume and it is connected via USB (quite the show-stopper in most cases).

The CD comes with the NTI SSD Performance Analyzer, which only takes a few seconds to run and reports average and maximum read/write speeds. It doesn't have the bells and whistles of a real benchmarking tool, so relying on this for test results is probably not a good idea.

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    grantwar , September 28, 2012 10:35 AM
    I'd love to see how this drive fares against the samsung 840 Pro.
  • 13 Hide
    SpadeM , September 28, 2012 10:56 AM
    grantwarI'd love to see how this drive fares against the samsung 840 Pro.


    Here you go:
    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/665?vs=646
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 28, 2012 4:43 AM
    You have the wrong Marvell controller listed for the crucial M4 and the Plextor M5S. This controller is new.
    The old one was the 88SS9174-BKK2.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/plextor-m3-crucial-m4-octane-performance-pro,3178.html
  • 9 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 28, 2012 5:17 AM
    can we have a benchmark of the time it takes to install a fresh copy of Win7+SP1 on a SSD ? Because thats the first thing a user will do after buying a new drive.
  • 4 Hide
    echondo , September 28, 2012 5:54 AM
    mayankleoboy1can we have a benchmark of the time it takes to install a fresh copy of Win7+SP1 on a SSD ? Because thats the first thing a user will do after buying a new drive.


    I believe we can all assume it will take around 10-15 minutes. My old SATA2 Vertex drive can have Windows installed with all the Windows updates I want in around 20 minutes, it would be less time but I have to install all my drivers first for my motherboard :p 
  • 0 Hide
    fat-chunk , September 28, 2012 10:24 AM
    Long live SSDs!
  • 15 Hide
    grantwar , September 28, 2012 10:35 AM
    I'd love to see how this drive fares against the samsung 840 Pro.
  • 13 Hide
    SpadeM , September 28, 2012 10:56 AM
    grantwarI'd love to see how this drive fares against the samsung 840 Pro.


    Here you go:
    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/665?vs=646
  • 6 Hide
    JeanLuc , September 28, 2012 12:30 PM
    I was on Youtube the other day on the Corsair channel and they were showing the advantages of 'Ram cache' which was lights years faster then SSD's in therms of throughput. Could Toms consider doing an article into Ram cache as I think it would be of interest to people who have 16-32Gb systems (since DDR3 is cheap at the moment) can spare the extra system ram to cache files and software.
  • 6 Hide
    merikafyeah , September 28, 2012 12:35 PM
    SpadeMHere you go: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/665?vs=646

    Wow. The 840 Pro beat the M5 Pro in virtually everything according to that data. The 840 Pro does cost significantly more though.
  • 4 Hide
    merikafyeah , September 28, 2012 12:41 PM
    JeanLucI was on Youtube the other day on the Corsair channel and they were showing the advantages of 'Ram cache' which was lights years faster then SSD's in therms of throughput. Could Toms consider doing an article into Ram cache as I think it would be of interest to people who have 16-32Gb systems (since DDR3 is cheap at the moment) can spare the extra system ram to cache files and software.

    TheSSDReview did something similar:
    http://thessdreview.com/our-reviews/romex-fancycache-review-ssd-performance-at-13gbs-and-765000-iops-in-60-seconds-flat/

    No point in even comparing RAM to SSDs, as even "slow" RAM is faster than even the best SSDs by about the same amount as the best SSDs are faster than floppy disks.
  • 0 Hide
    aicom , September 28, 2012 5:09 PM
    This review would have been impressive if it was published 2 weeks ago. With the 840 Pro out, it simply blows the M5P out of the water. Too bad it wasn't included in the benchmark charts here.
  • 0 Hide
    richard hart , September 28, 2012 5:27 PM
    @ rafale. Thanks for spotting that mistake. Its now been corrected.
  • 0 Hide
    bobdylan11 , September 28, 2012 9:42 PM
    woot, installing mine at this moment
    450 for 512gb
    good luck beating that "stat", samsung
  • 0 Hide
    KenZen2B , September 29, 2012 4:37 AM
    merikafyeah 09/28/2012 2:41 PM Insert quote.
    Report
    -1+ .
    JeanLuc :

    I was on Youtube the other day on the Corsair channel and they were showing the advantages of 'Ram cache' which was lights years faster then SSD's in therms of throughput. Could Toms consider doing an article into Ram cache as I think it would be of interest to people who have 16-32Gb systems (since DDR3 is cheap at the moment) can spare the extra system ram to cache files and software.



    TheSSDReview did something similar:
    http://thessdreview.com/our-review [...] onds-flat/

    No point in even comparing RAM to SSDs, as even "slow" RAM is faster than even the best SSDs by about the same amount as the best SSDs are faster than floppy disks.

    I have read the article and have these thoughts on the subject.
    1) Why have mobo manufactures not placed an extra four memory slots on their mobo to handle this concept ?
    2) Why have RAM manufactures not teamed up with mobo manufactures to supply them with 256 GB memory sticks ?
    3) Has the industry, video and others, (movies, ads, special effects, cartoons, simulations, etc.) moved to this type of strategy to increase their productivity ?
  • 1 Hide
    luciferano , September 29, 2012 6:14 AM
    KenZen2Bmerikafyeah 09/28/2012 2:41 PM Insert quote. Report -1+ .JeanLuc :I was on Youtube the other day on the Corsair channel and they were showing the advantages of 'Ram cache' which was lights years faster then SSD's in therms of throughput. Could Toms consider doing an article into Ram cache as I think it would be of interest to people who have 16-32Gb systems (since DDR3 is cheap at the moment) can spare the extra system ram to cache files and software. TheSSDReview did something similar:http://thessdreview.com/our-review [...] onds-flat/No point in even comparing RAM to SSDs, as even "slow" RAM is faster than even the best SSDs by about the same amount as the best SSDs are faster than floppy disks.I have read the article and have these thoughts on the subject.1) Why have mobo manufactures not placed an extra four memory slots on their mobo to handle this concept ?2) Why have RAM manufactures not teamed up with mobo manufactures to supply them with 256 GB memory sticks ?3) Has the industry, video and others, (movies, ads, special effects, cartoons, simulations, etc.) moved to this type of strategy to increase their productivity ?


    1) mobo manufacturers would have nothing to connect these RAM slots too. They need DDR3 controllers and they'd need more of them, so where are those going to come from? The only thing that I can think of is some sort of integrated PCIe device and it would make the motherboard quite expensive.

    2) 256GB memory sticks would cost thousands of dollars. Even 16GB memory sticks and especially 32GB memory sticks can already be extremely expensive and difficult to make. We can't just make chips that have more memory capacity in a given size than current memory procces nodes can work with, so any such memory module with 256GB of RAM would be huge, to say the least.

    3) It's too expensive.

    Basically, cost is the main inhibitor for all three of your questions.
  • 0 Hide
    merikafyeah , September 29, 2012 12:11 PM
    Maybe it's for the best that they don't release the Limited Edition Shuriken model worldwide.
    Some people might be tempted to throw their SSDs like tech ninjas.
  • 0 Hide
    hrath , September 29, 2012 3:22 PM
    wow that looks epic :) 
  • 0 Hide
    g00b , September 30, 2012 7:52 PM
    I think the first page meant Flash instead of DDR.

    "... reviewed previously uses 25 nm synchronous NAND from Micron and Marvell's 88SS9174-BLD2 controller, while the M5 Pro employs 19 nm Toggle-mode --DDR-- from Toshiba and a more modern Marvell 88SS9187-BLD2 processor."
  • 2 Hide
    g00b , September 30, 2012 7:54 PM
    Ok. I'm partly an idiot :) .

    Toggle-Mode Double Data Rate NAND Flash
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 2, 2012 3:30 PM
    But how does the M5Pro compare with the Corsair Neutron GTX ?
  • 2 Hide
    Onihikage , October 2, 2012 7:19 PM
    Quote:
    I have read the article and have these thoughts on the subject.
    1) Why have mobo manufactures not placed an extra four memory slots on their mobo to handle this concept ?
    2) Why have RAM manufactures not teamed up with mobo manufactures to supply them with 256 GB memory sticks ?
    3) Has the industry, video and others, (movies, ads, special effects, cartoons, simulations, etc.) moved to this type of strategy to increase their productivity ?


    Luciferano has already commented, but I thought I'd make input on the first point. There are mobos with an extra four slots, enabling up to 64GB of RAM (such as the ASUS P9X79 PRO) but these are uncommon and expensive. Higher RAM capacities under today's technology will almost always require you to be using server hardware; the PC form factor just won't cut it.
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