Plextor M6e 256 GB PCI Express SSD Review: M.2 For Your Desktop

Results: TRIM Testing With ULINK's DriveMaster 2012

We've been utilizing ULINK's DriveMaster 2012 software and hardware suite to introduce a new test for client drives. Using JEDEC's standardized 218A Master Trace, DriveMaster can turn a sequence of I/O (similar to our Tom's Hardware Storage Bench) into a TRIM test. JEDEC's trace is months and months of drive activity, day-to-day activities, and background operating system tasks.

ULINK strips out the read commands for this benchmark, leaving us with the write, flush, and TRIM commands to work with. Execute the same workload with TRIM support and without, and you end up with a killer metric for further characterizing drive behavior.

DriveMaster is used by most SSD manufacturers to create and perform specific measurements. It's currently the only commercial product that can create the scenarios needed to validate TCG Opal 2.0 security, though it's almost unlimited in potential applications. Much of the benefit tied to a solution like DriveMaster is its ability to diagnose bugs, ensure compatibility, and issue low-level commands. In short, it's very handy for the companies actually building SSDs. And if off-the-shelf scripts don't do it for you, make your own. There's a steep learning curve, but the C-like environment and command documentation gives you a fighting chance.

This product also gives us some new ways to explore performance. Testing the TRIM command is just the first example of how we'll be using ULINK's contribution to the Tom's Hardware benchmark suite.

On a 256 GB drive, each iteration writes close to 800 GB of data, so running the JEDEC TRIM test suite once on a 256 GB SSD generates almost 3.2 TB of mostly random writes (it's 75% random and 25% sequential). By the end of each run, over 37 million write commands are issued.

The first two tests employ DMA to access the storage, while the last two use Native Command Queuing. Since most folks don't use DMA with SSDs (aside from some legacy or industrial applications) we don't concern ourselves with those. It can take up to 96 hours to run one drive through all four runs, though faster drives can roughly cut the time in half. Because so much information is being written to an already-full SSD (the drive is filled before each test, and then close to 800 GB are written per iteration), SSDs that perform better under heavy load fare best. Without TRIM, on-the-fly garbage collection becomes a big contributor to high IOPS. With TRIM, 13% of space gets TRIM'ed, leaving more room for the controller to use for maintenance operations.

TRIM Testing

Average

To avoid adding too much data, I have the average performance for each benchmarked SSD with and without TRIM support enabled. Displayed in IOPS, this helps us make comparisons more quickly.

The M5 Pro is toward the bottom of the chart, while SanDisk's PCIe-attached A110 is closer to the top. Plextor's M6e is faster though, particularly with the TRIM command active.

Instantaneous

But I also want results for the instantaneous average of my TRIM test. How does the drive fare servicing writes with and without TRIM during each 100,000-command window? The purple line represents IOPS across the entire trace, without TRIM. The teal line is with TRIM. Each data point represents write IOPS per 100,000-command test reporting period.

The M6e's performance is improved quite a bit by TRIM. The troughs of the teal line don't dip quite as low, while the highs peak well over the purple indicator's levels. It's safe to conclude that the M6e is best-optimized for environments with TRIM enabled. 

Were the reverse true, you'd see the purple line dominate, which is the case for Intel's SSD 730/S3500/S3700 and SanDisk's X210.

Just for fun, we pit the M6e against Plextor's celebrated M5 Pro. As we already know from the average IOPS chart, the outcome shouldn't even be close. And indeed, it isn't. There just isn't a lot to report from the M5 Pro. The lowest lows and highest highs aren't that far apart. Not so for the M6e, though. Its worst drops still tend to exceed the SATA drive's peaks.

Throughput

We collect and report the total throughput of each drive in the NCQ with TRIM test. It's one number that helps capture overall performance in the test.

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  • blackmagnum
    Nice product design, please make one in red (it will be faster).
    8
  • dgingeri
    Someone needs to build an adapter that connects to a PCIe x8 slot and has mounting points for up to 4 or 8 PCIe M2 SSDs.
    3
  • Au_equus
    lots of empty space on that PCB and its only a half height card. Maybe its possible we can see multiple TB PCIs SSDs in the consumer space or they may just restrict it to enterprise.
    4
  • Amdlova
    300 dollar for 256 gb... i can buy 4x 120gb v300 kingston (2200mb/s R) (1920mb/s W)
    raid 0. too expensive. that plextor
    -3
  • menetlaus
    Who keeps telling you there is no demand for M.2 drives?

    I bought a Lenovo Y410P shortly after they were released (and was incorrectly told it had mSATA not NGFF/M.2 for the SSD), and have been waiting over a year for a decent M.2 drive to put in it.
    1
  • swordrage
    May be in a few years we will see an ssd connected to a PCIe x16 the and size of a graphics card.
    0
  • nekromobo
    How much does it add to boot-time with its bios loading stuff? Other PCI-e cards add as long as a 1-2 minutes to boot time.
    0
  • dgingeri
    It's only a single AHCI device, and it doesn't have to wait for spinup like other raid controllers, so likely only a second or so extra init time.
    1
  • cryan
    Anonymous said:
    lots of empty space on that PCB and its only a half height card. Maybe its possible we can see multiple TB PCIs SSDs in the consumer space or they may just restrict it to enterprise.


    The drive itself has no wasted space. The bridge board has plenty, being that the drive is only 22mm x 80mm.

    Regards,

    Christopher Ryan
    1
  • cryan
    Anonymous said:
    How much does it add to boot-time with its bios loading stuff? Other PCI-e cards add as long as a 1-2 minutes to boot time.


    It adds all of about a second. You'll never notice, and based on UEFI settings, you might never even see the Plextor op-rom splash screen at post.

    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
    2
  • cryan
    Anonymous said:
    Who keeps telling you there is no demand for M.2 drives?

    I bought a Lenovo Y410P shortly after they were released (and was incorrectly told it had mSATA not NGFF/M.2 for the SSD), and have been waiting over a year for a decent M.2 drive to put in it.


    On the desktop, the demand for M.2 storage is not very high yet. In laptops, SATA M.2s are in high demand, but there isn't much reason to have a pure M.2 native PCIe Phy drive in a desktop yet. The M6e we looked at is built around the AIB bridge board, and thus isn't detachable from the M.2 drive itself, so despite the M.2 drive at the heart of the board, you still really can't buy a M.2 native PCIe drive yet. And even if you bought a M6e, ripped it out of the bridge board, and installed it in the Lenovo -- it probably wouldn't see more than a single lane of connectivity.

    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
    0
  • RedJaron
    Fun stuff here. Makes me interested what options I'll have to work with when I'm due for an upgrade in two years.
    0
  • Drinkperrier
    Work on the asus impact VI on the MPCIe combo 2 slot?
    0
  • west7
    this is a great product great speed and a nice price
    0
  • west7
    this is a great product great speed and a nice price
    0
  • Vadamo
    Ill pick one up, alot of space on that card tho, why not put another set and make it a full sized card?
    0
  • foscooter
    If you remove the SSD drive from the PCI-e adapter board, will it work in the new Z97 motherboards, in the M.2 slot?
    BTW: I know it will void the warranty.
    0
  • foscooter
    If you remove the SSD drive from the PCI-e adapter board, will it work in the new Z97 motherboards, in the M.2 slot?
    BTW: I know it will void the warranty.
    0
  • foscooter
    If you remove the SSD drive from the PCI-e adapter board, will it work in the new Z97 motherboards, in the M.2 slot?
    BTW: I know it will void the warranty.

    I posted the same question in the forums, and got an answer: NO!

    If I wish to use a m.2 SSD, it looks like I'd have to get a Crucial M550 m.2 SATA SSD. No PCI-e SSD's available yet!

    EDIT: 06/11/2014 - BTW, YES it will work. Mine does! And it uses the 2 PCI-e channels. My Z97 mobo sees it with no problems! That's what I'm running now.
    0
  • catilley1092
    I believe this type of product will kick the mSATA drives to the curb before these can become popular. Won't be the first time I've seen this, though. A technology released, then quickly superseded for another.

    Will be great to have these for notebooks, though an adapter will be needed for current releases, negating any performance gains. Because this option isn't dependent on, nor was designed for, a SATA 3 port. A true PCI-e port will be needed.

    Who said that the PC was dead, again? We have every reason to keep them very much alive.

    Cat
    0