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A PCIe Controller And Toshiba NAND

Plextor M6e 256 GB PCI Express SSD Review: M.2 For Your Desktop
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Disconnected from the adapter card, Plextor's M6e is downright diminutive. Again, this is a 22 mm-wide, 80 mm-long device, which we expect to become a fairly common side for M.2-based SSDs moving forward.

In fact, unless you're reading this on a smartphone or tablet, you're probably seeing the front and back PCB shots larger than they actually are. M.2 storage can be 12, 16, 22, and 30 mm-wide, though most of what we've seen thus far conforms to the 22 mm standard, easily accommodating the width of NAND packages. An 80 mm length offers enough room for eight placements (four on each side). And if that's not enough for a specific application, PCBs can grow as long as 110 mm.

This is the second time we've seen Marvell's 88SS9183-BNP2 controller, too. Its first appearance was on SanDisk's aforementioned A110. The 88SS9183 rocks two native PCIe physical layers, which means it natively supports two second-gen PCIe lanes. That's fairly special functionality. Most of the PCIe-based SSDs we've tested were based on SATA processors alongside host bus or RAID hardware. After all, a modern RAID controller's job is connecting SATA or SAS storage to the PCI Express bus.

Marvell's implementation is essentially the same processor used in a great many SSDs with specific considerations for connecting through PCI Express. It's significant in that it's as low-power as we're used to on the desktop, and capable of exposing similar features.

The M.2 connector and Marvell's 9183The M.2 connector and Marvell's 9183

Next to the controller, we have Toshiba's 64 Gb Toggle-mode DDR manufactured on a 19 nm process. Again, that's the same flash found on Plextor's celebrated M5 Pro, rated for 3000 P/E cycles. We already know this stuff is fast. 

It's also worth a reminder that Marvell's 9183 controller and Plextor's firmware are in AHCI mode, supported by most modern operating systems without specialized drivers. The hardware does most of the things other SSD processors do, just over PCI Express. Differences to exist though, mostly with power consumption. DevSlp, for example, is a SATA command. The M6e should drop into a deep PCIe sleep state if the endpoint (that is, the slot Plextor's SSD populates) cooperates. We'll take a magnifying glass to power in just a bit.

Given the eight total NAND packages, we know each must employ a quartet of 64 Gb dies, totaling 256 GB. Plextor reserves just ~7% of that space for spare area.

Toshiba's NANDToshiba's NAND

Display all 22 comments.
  • 8 Hide
    blackmagnum , May 1, 2014 1:08 AM
    Nice product design, please make one in red (it will be faster).
  • 3 Hide
    dgingeri , May 1, 2014 5:21 AM
    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.
  • 4 Hide
    Au_equus , May 1, 2014 7:05 AM
    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.
  • -3 Hide
    Amdlova , May 1, 2014 7:31 AM
    300 dollar for 256 gb... i can buy 4x 120gb v300 kingston (2200mb/s R) (1920mb/s W)
    raid 0. too expensive. that plextor
  • 1 Hide
    menetlaus , May 1, 2014 9:09 AM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    swordrage , May 1, 2014 9:16 AM
    May be in a few years we will see an ssd connected to a PCIe x16 the and size of a graphics card.
  • 0 Hide
    nekromobo , May 1, 2014 9:23 AM
    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.
  • 1 Hide
    dgingeri , May 1, 2014 10:40 AM
    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 Hide
    cryan , May 1, 2014 11:23 AM
    Quote:
    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

  • 2 Hide
    cryan , May 1, 2014 11:24 AM
    Quote:
    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
  • 0 Hide
    cryan , May 1, 2014 11:29 AM
    Quote:
    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 Hide
    RedJaron , May 1, 2014 4:14 PM
    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 Hide
    Drinkperrier , May 1, 2014 8:30 PM
    Work on the asus impact VI on the MPCIe combo 2 slot?
  • 0 Hide
    west7 , May 2, 2014 11:04 AM
    this is a great product great speed and a nice price
  • 0 Hide
    west7 , May 2, 2014 11:04 AM
    this is a great product great speed and a nice price
  • 0 Hide
    Vadamo , May 2, 2014 1:16 PM
    Ill pick one up, alot of space on that card tho, why not put another set and make it a full sized card?
  • 0 Hide
    foscooter , May 8, 2014 5:31 PM
    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 Hide
    foscooter , May 8, 2014 5:33 PM
    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 Hide
    foscooter , May 8, 2014 5:33 PM
    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 Hide
    catilley1092 , May 12, 2014 4:57 PM
    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
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