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Two Marvell-Based Stand-Outs Emerge

Marvell-Based SSDs From Corsair, Crucial, OCZ, And Plextor: Tested
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Marvell-based SSDs are less prevalent than the great many SandForce-based drives, but they're nevertheless impressive devices that you should take into consideration when it comes to planning your next build. Although SandForce's technology confers a performance advantage when it comes to working with compressible data, there are a number of workloads that involve incompressible data. In those situations, SSDs based on Marvell controllers, along with Samsung's 830, are great alternatives.

We expected to find considerable similarities amongst these seven SSDs, given their Marvell heritage. We also ran across notable differences, though. The hope, however, was that more access to Marvell's firmware would give these vendors an even greater opportunity to set their products apart. As it turns out, though, like SandForce, the brands selling Marvell-based drives are largely using a couple of NAND standards to create unique performance profiles.

Corsair and Plextor both shine as a result of their reliance on Toggle-mode flash, which conveys the highest possible benchmarks results. Firmware seems to play a less influential role. We do, however, see Plextor creating differentiation between its M3 and M3 Pro drives through an enhanced firmware package. The company claims its improvements are related to garbage collection, though we weren't able to isolate the effect of its optimizations to confirm.

Otherwise, performance similarities between drives are difficult to ignore, particularly when our charts show multiple SSDs generating numbers that almost overlap each other, as is the case with Corsair's Performance Pro and Plextor's M3 Pro. Like chefs creating dishes with almost identical ingredients, each company tries to squeeze the best possible results from their SSDs in an effort to create something other than "yet another second-gen SandForce drive."

Marvell-based SSD Comparison
NAND Interface
Market Price
Price per GB
Warranty
Corsair Performance Pro 128 GB
Toggle-mode$190
$1.48
3 years
Crucial m4 64 GB
Synchronous$90
$1.41
3 years
Crucial m4 128 GB
Synchronous$125
$0.97
3 years
OCZ Octane 128 GB
Synchronous$170
$1.33
3 years
Plextor M3 64 GB
Toggle-mode$70
$1.09
5 years
Plextor M3 128 GB
Toggle-mode$180
$1.41
5 years
Plextor M3 Pro 128 GB
Toggle-mode$205
$1.60
5 years


Perhaps the most obvious areas where these companies draw attention to themselves are pricing and support. Massive variation in price per gigabyte between models makes it pretty easy to zero in on favorites, though. The 128 GB Crucial m4, for instance, breaks through the $1/GB barrier for the first time that we can remember. And the 64 GB Plextor M3 delivers Toggle-mode flash in a boot drive very close to the same threshold. Moreover, five-year warranty coverage is something we've only seen from an elite few organizations, and it's a nice addition. 

If tracking down fringe performance is more your thing, the 128 GB Performance Pro and M3 Pro are the best choices. The M3 Pro sells for about $15 extra, but again, there's that five-year warranty to consider.

All things considered, we have to recognize two drives today: the 128 GB Crucial m4 and the 64 GB Plextor M3. Both SSDs proffer impressive performance. One employs synchronous NAND and breaks under $1/GB. The other includes faster Toggle-mode memory and still manages to deliver 64 GB for $70. 

Crucial's m4 128 GB already won our 2011 Recommended Buy award for its showing in Crucial's m4 SSD Tested At 64, 128, 256, And 512 GB last year. We're happy to dust that honor off to remind you that this remains one of our favorite choices.

We're also quite happy with the way Plextor's 64 GB M3 performs. We like its generous warranty. And, at $70, it makes a fantastic choice for a boot drive. As a result, the SSD receives our 2012 Tom's Hardware Recommended Buy award.

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  • 10 Hide
    hellfire24 , May 1, 2012 6:39 AM
    crucial FTW!
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 1, 2012 7:49 AM
    Shoulda tossed in a V4 128gb for entertainment value...ah well. :p 
  • -7 Hide
    uruquiora , May 1, 2012 9:14 AM
    hellfire24crucial FTW!

    hmm , my M4 has 10x more BSOD than my vertex 3... Each i boot my pc and work with it i prepare myself for a BSOD with my M4...
  • 3 Hide
    joytech22 , May 1, 2012 11:27 AM
    uruquiorahmm , my M4 has 10x more BSOD than my vertex 3... Each i boot my pc and work with it i prepare myself for a BSOD with my M4...


    That is what we in the I.T industry like to call: "Faulty Hardware".
    If you considered that normal all this time, I have some bad news for you..
  • 6 Hide
    chesteracorgi , May 1, 2012 1:00 PM
    With the price of SSDs coming down, Toms should start introducing 256 GB + drives into its reviews. It's nice to have the 64 & 128 GB reviews, but for power builders the 256 GB is becoming mainstream.
  • 2 Hide
    Cyclops21 , May 1, 2012 1:23 PM
    Any tests planned on the Sandisk Extreme models. They were a Tom's recommend buy but I still haven't seen any benchmarks on Tom's.
  • -2 Hide
    cknobman , May 1, 2012 1:51 PM
    I'd still say for most boot and program drives SandForce is the way to go as it has a significant performance edge.
  • 4 Hide
    Onus , May 1, 2012 1:54 PM
    I've only installed 6-7 SSDs, with mixed results. Two with Sadforce controllers died within months or weeks (the RMA of one is yet to be tested). Given that the slowest SSD beats the pants off the fastest magnetic HDD, I have quickly reached the conclusion that reliability has to be the #1 criterion for SSDs, and I'm not sure Sandforce is there yet.
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , May 1, 2012 2:13 PM
    Awesome. SSDs time is now!
  • 7 Hide
    ramon zarat , May 1, 2012 2:34 PM
    uruquiorahmm , my M4 has 10x more BSOD than my vertex 3... Each i boot my pc and work with it i prepare myself for a BSOD with my M4...


    You must be joking... The list of forum thread complaining about SF controller instability is endless. The M4 actually has a very solid reputation. I've been running 2 128GB M4 in 2 different PC for the last 8 months. Not a single BSOD. They still both benchmark the same speed as day 1. Actually, the M4 was and might very well still be the best choice for balance between price, performance and reliability in the whole SSD market. In my book, there are only 3 manufacturers really worth mentioning when it comes to SSD: Crucial, Intel and Samsung.

    Your unit is simply defective. That can happen to any manufacturer. RMA it and be happy.
  • 6 Hide
    daysyang , May 1, 2012 3:54 PM
    ^ agree... my M4 has been nothing but awesome.
  • 1 Hide
    Pawessum16 , May 1, 2012 4:50 PM
    When are you going to update your SSD charts? Some of the SSD's on the 2011 chart don't even exist anymore, and it's missing all the cool new drives released in the past couple of months.
  • 4 Hide
    americanherosandwich , May 1, 2012 4:55 PM
    Hah, I just got done reading this, too: http://computerhardwareupgrades.blogspot.com/2012/05/comparing-different-nand-types-and.html

    Crucial M4's still kicking butt.
  • 2 Hide
    g-unit1111 , May 1, 2012 5:04 PM
    daysyang^ agree... my M4 has been nothing but awesome.


    So has mine, but at $70 I am thinking I might ditch my Intel 320 for a Plextor M3. I've always been a fan of Plextor drives and it's good to know that the move to SSD hasn't changed their quality at all. Tempting, tempting...
  • 2 Hide
    eddieroolz , May 1, 2012 5:14 PM
    Godo to see my choice of SSD be proven in tests. I have high hopes for my Crucial m4.
  • 1 Hide
    inflexion , May 1, 2012 6:07 PM
    Nice review. I just picked up another Crucial M4 today on Buy.com for $110 USD to my door.

    Thanks for the great content!
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 1, 2012 6:33 PM
    Where the heck can you get the M3 64gb for $70?
  • 0 Hide
    rohitbaran , May 1, 2012 11:31 PM
    I wonder if there are any reliability stats on SSDs available. They are fast for sure, but how about reliability scores, based off drive performance over a year or so?
  • 0 Hide
    slomo4sho , May 2, 2012 1:11 AM
    rohitbaranI wonder if there are any reliability stats on SSDs available. They are fast for sure, but how about reliability scores, based off drive performance over a year or so?


    I couldn't agree more. Having a fast drive means nothing if it dies or corrupts your data.
  • 0 Hide
    10tacle , May 2, 2012 3:36 AM
    Where are you guys seeing the 64GB M3 for $70? I have yet to find it anywhere for under $100. In fact, the best price I can find from reputable E-tailer is $120. I'd snap one up in a second as dedicated Intel SRT cache drive.
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