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

Results: Tom's Hardware Storage Bench v1.0

Storage Bench v1.0 (Background Info)

Our Storage Bench incorporates all of the I/O from a trace recorded over two weeks. The process of replaying this sequence to capture performance gives us a bunch of numbers that aren't really intuitive at first glance. Most idle time gets expunged, leaving only the time that each benchmarked drive is actually busy working on host commands. So, by taking the ratio of that busy time and the the amount of data exchanged during the trace, we arrive at an average data rate (in MB/s) metric we can use to compare drives.

It's not quite a perfect system. The original trace captures the TRIM command in transit, but since the trace is played on a drive without a file system, TRIM wouldn't work even if it were sent during the trace replay (which, sadly, it isn't). Still, trace testing is a great way to capture periods of actual storage activity, a great companion to synthetic testing like Iometer.

Incompressible Data and Storage Bench v1.0

Also worth noting is the fact that our trace testing pushes incompressible data through the system's buffers to the drive getting benchmarked. So, when the trace replay plays back write activity, it's writing largely incompressible data. If we run our storage bench on a SandForce-based SSD, we can monitor the SMART attributes for a bit more insight.

Mushkin Chronos Deluxe 120 GB
SMART Attributes
RAW Value Increase
#242 Host Reads (in GB)
84 GB
#241 Host Writes (in GB)
142 GB
#233 Compressed NAND Writes (in GB)
149 GB

Host reads are greatly outstripped by host writes to be sure. That's all baked into the trace. But with SandForce's inline deduplication/compression, you'd expect that the amount of information written to flash would be less than the host writes (unless the data is mostly incompressible, of course). For every 1 GB the host asked to be written, Mushkin's drive is forced to write 1.05 GB.

If our trace replay was just writing easy-to-compress zeros out of the buffer, we'd see writes to NAND as a fraction of host writes. This puts the tested drives on a more equal footing, regardless of the controller's ability to compress data on the fly.

Average Data Rate

The Storage Bench trace generates more than 140 GB worth of writes during testing. Obviously, this tends to penalize drives smaller than 180 GB and reward those with more than 256 GB of capacity.

Had I not securely erased the M6e myself and proceeded to repeat this test over and over, I wouldn't have believed the outcome. Despite multiple iterations on combinations of operating systems and platforms, 180 MB/s was the best I could originally manage. Frequently, the drive scored closer to half of that. The only other Marvell 9183-based drive in our test, SanDisk's A110 lands at 275 MB/s. Clearly, something was fishy. After troubleshooting several days away, I figured the issue out. What was the problem?

Secure erasing a PCIe SSD in Windows without a special tool from the drive vendor is a pain, in short. The device is frozen when the UEFI loads at boot, so normally you'd want to power cycle the drive. With a SATA-attached SSD, you can disconnect its power and plug it back in. A PCIe card requires more creativity. My workaround appeared to work, and the secure erase was reported as successful. But in reality, nothing was getting wiped.

Once I was able to confirm the secure erase, the results improve to 245 MB/s. In theory, that should be indicative of excellent service times on the next page.

In other news, the M5 Pro and newer M6S/M6M models fare quite well, dispatching a significant share of the field and coming within striking distance of the PCI Express-based M6e.

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22 comments
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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
    481417 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
    178265 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
    142574 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