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Results: Tom's Hardware Storage Bench v1.0, Continued

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

Service Times

Beyond the average data rate reported on the previous page, there's even more information we can collect from Tom's Hardware's Storage Bench. For instance, mean (average) service times show what responsiveness is like on an average I/O during the trace.

It would be difficult to graph the 10+ million I/Os that make up our test, so looking at the average time to service an I/O makes more sense. For a more nuanced idea of what's transpiring during the trace, we plot mean service times for reads against writes. That way, drives with better latency show up closer to the origin; lower numbers are better.

Write latency is simply the total time it takes an input or output operation to be issued by the host operating system, travel to the storage subsystem, commit to the storage device, and have the drive acknowledge the operation. Read latency is similar. The operating system asks the storage device for data stored in a certain location, the SSD reads that information, and then it's sent to the host. Modern computers are fast and SSDs are zippy, but there's still a significant amount of latency involved in a storage transaction.

Like my waist, this chart could probably stand to lose a couple of inches. But Plextor's results necessitate expanding the scale (at least in Windows 7). I'm giving you results from both Windows 7 and 8.1 because the M6e ends up in the rough under Windows 8.1, further out to the right than any other SSD. That's the opposite of where it'd want to be.

Under Windows 7, in green text, everything changes. Instead of demonstrating the worst read time, it yields the best. And write service time shows up just behind SanDisk's A110. We're working with Plextor to narrow down a more concrete explanation. Interestingly enough, average data rate doesn't change, so the figure on the previous page is correct for both operating systems.

After crunching the numbers, the real difference boils down to service time quality. The standard deviation with read/write service times is far lower (and more consistent) under Windows 7. Since we’re displaying mean service time (Tx), outliers add up, and there are more painfully-long operations due to Windows 8.

Think of latency like a golf score; lower is better. On this course, 296 µs is not good. Previously, the 120 GB Crucial M500 turned in the worst averages. But Plextor's M6e in Windows 8 relieves it. Switch to Windows 7, though, and everything is beautiful.

It turns out that this is a problem, and not that Plextor is responsible for. You'll see a lot more AHCI-conforming PCIe-based storage in the future, and it's looking like the issue is Microsoft's AHCI driver under Windows 8. All of our SATA-based drives are benchmarked under Intel's Rapid Storage Technology driver. But we have to use the built-in AHCI software for this type of native storage sitting on the PCI Express bus. MSAHCI.SYS was around forever, and is indeed what you use in Windows 7. That driver appears to behave itself. But it was recently superseded by STORAHCI.SYS in the latest version of Windows, and its performance isn't as predictable, manifested by requests serviced less consistently.

And before you start thinking this issue is limited to AHCI-based native PCIe storage, SATA-attached drives like Crucial's M550 get the same harsh treatment under STORAHCI. Its just that you're stuck with the operating system's generic AHCI driver when you use a device like the M6e.

The A110 is deadly with its 427 µs result, likely due to its emulated-SLC cache. Our trace seems to be ideally suited to SanDisk's nCache technology, providing small idle times the cache uses to flush information to the conventional MLC-configured storage. Plextor’s M6e slides in just behind, impressing with its performance as well. That's a spectacular result if you're in Windows 7. Making the move to Windows 8.1 pushes the M6e back another 200 µs worse on average.

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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