Final Analysis & Verdict
Plextor brought the MX8Pe series to market during an interesting time. Samsung dominated the NVMe segment with the 950 series and just released its second-generation 960 series products. Intel had a performance-competitive product with the enterprise-derived SSD 750, but its price was too high for most users. It retailed for nearly $1 per gigabyte for most of 2016. Smaller companies like Zotac and MyDigitalSSD jumped in the ring, and we expect more to come. Increased competition is good for us end users because it will lead to lower prices.
Plextor targets the gaming market with the M8Pe series, but most users shop based on price rather than some type of misaligned category designed to classify and group users together. There are several premium priced products in the 1TB capacity, but only a few break the existing pricing structure to deliver a product with more value. At this time, there are two products that meet these parameters, but only one is actually shipping. The Samsung 960 EVO 1TB will retail for $470.99, but it doesn’t have a firm release date. The Plextor M8Pe sells for $414.99 to $429.99, and it is available now.
Plextor managed to undercut Samsung's pricing this round with MLC flash. The 960 EVO uses TLC flash, but Samsung’s 3D V-NAND delivers MLC-like performance during many consumer workloads. The application tests show the M8Pe outperforming the 960 EVO under light use conditions. That accounts for a majority of typical user workloads. In the end, the Plextor M8Pe is a better product for many users, it’s already shipping, and it costs less.
The real question is which Plextor M8Pe model is right for you. If you have a spare PCIe slot then the M8Pe(Y) add-in card is an exceptional value. You can take the M.2 drive out if you need the drive for a notebook, either now or later on. The value aspect is that you get one of the best M.2 heatsink coolers we've seen so far and the price is only $15 more. The Angelbird Wings PX1 cooler we've used for a year now in some specialized test retails for nearly $75. NVMe and M.2 are not the future; they are the present, and they aren’t a flash in the pan. You will be able to use the cooler for many years to come.
You may already be PCIe-limited if you use more than one video card. That puts the NVMe SSD in an M.2 slot under the video card in most motherboards. We would recommend the M8Pe(G) M.2 model with a heatsink in this situation. If you plan to take the M8Pe straight to a notebook, then we would also recommend the heatsink model, but it may not fit. The benefit of having the heatsink far outweighs the three-minute hassle of removing the heatsink if you need to take it off. I'm sure there is at least one notebook that would force you to take the heatsink off, but I can't name one at this time. The product is too new, and I don't own every NVMe-capable notebook on the market.
I don't know who should buy the M8PeGN without a heatsink. If you already have an Angelbird Wings PX1 or another M.2 to PCIe adapter with a heatsink, then you could save $15 on the 1TB purchase. Other than that specific situation, the bare drive doesn't make a lot of sense for most users. Even though the M8Pe(G)'s heatsink is barely a sliver of anodized aluminum, it works surprisingly well. When we saw the drive for the first time at CES 2016, we thought it was a gimmick. Now that we've tested it, I have to take the gimmick sentiment back and admit that Plextor worked some voodoo magic with a cooler that is as thick as a few pieces of sandwiched tin foil. The thermal transfer material is thicker than the cooler, but it does an excellent job of wicking heat away from the controller.
We would like to see Plextor add to this series. The company spent two years developing several software tools, but none of them currently works with the M8Pe series. We've tested the software before, and we like it a lot! The software is even better than Samsung's Magician is. Actually, Samsung has even incorporated at least one of the advanced features (hidden folders) into the upcoming version of Magician (which is still vaporware).
The M8Pe’s file transfer performance is slower than some of the other NVMe products available. We would like to see the performance increase. The M8Pe(Y) add-in card with the large heatsink could run a more aggressive firmware. Intel's enterprise SSDs feature user-configurable power limits via a command line interface. Plextor could, and should, give users the option of limiting the maximum power draw. The standards committee designed the M.2 slot for roughly 7 watts. Some purists (and motherboards) may not like a 10-watt switch, but it's not as if overclocking components is a new feature. A 10-watt, 7-watt and 5-watt software switch would be great. At the same time, users with dedicated cooling could increase 100% transfer performance, which is the one area where the M8Pe trails the 960 EVO in some four-corner tests.
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