Features & Specifications
The Plextor M8Se first appeared at Computex 2016. Plextor announced the M8Pe high-performance drive at the event, but it also introduced the mainstream NVMe M8Se that downshifts to TLC NAND. At Computex 2017, Plextor released the M8Se in three configurations. That gives you a number of options for different applications.
The new Plextor M8Se is almost identical to the M8Pe we tested last year. Plextor designed a new cooler for the Add-In Card (AIC) and M.2 models with a heatsink, but the biggest change comes in the form of lower-cost TLC NAND. Normally TLC would reduce the cost of an SSD, but that may not be the case in the current climate. Plextor has already finished the M8Pe production run, but NAND was cheaper when Plextor built the M8Pe SSDs. The company warned us that the M8Se with TLC NAND might cost more than the existing M8Pe models with MLC, at least while the M8Pe models last.
The fabs will push 3D TLC NAND moving forward, and all but Sk Hynix will have 64 layers. Toshiba is focusing on manufacturing next generation 3D BiCS NAND, but we suspect 15nm planar production will continue until mid to late 2018. Plextor must have an ample supply of Toshiba 15nm planar (2D) TLC on hand, and that's a win in the performance category.
The two high-capacity models deliver up to 2,450/1,000 MB/s of sequential read/write throughput. Random performance is also very high at 210,000/175,000 read/write IOPS. That's faster than the Adata SX8000 NVMe SSD, which features similar endurance specifications but uses Micron's first-generation 3D MLC NAND.
Like the M8Pe, Plextor released the M8Se in three models that vary based on the form factor and heatsink. The M8SeY uses a PCIe half-height half-length AIC form factor. A standard M.2 SSD resides under the heatsink. You can remove it and use it in a notebook just like the normal M.2 model. Plextor claims that the AIC's heat sink is 30% more efficient than the M8Pe's.
The M8SeG is another M.2 2280 drive, but it comes with a small and efficient heatsink. On paper, notebooks don't support the M8SeG simply because it doesn't comply with the strict M.2 specification. We didn't have any issues using the drive in a few of the notebooks we have on hand. You can simply remove the heat sink, which Plextor affixed with spongy thermal tape, if the SSD doesn't fit.
The Plextor M8Se uses a Marvell 88SS1093 NVMe 1.1b controller with a three-core Cortex-R5 processor. The company also uses third-generation LDPC error correction technology. The eight-channel controller supports planar MLC and TLC NAND. It also supports next-generation 3D TLC NAND, but only up to 533 MT/s.
Pricing, Warranty & Endurance
There are three models and four capacities, so we end up with twelve separate SKUs. The M8Se starts out at just $77 for the non-heat sink 128GB model. That climbs to $463 for the 1TB M8SeY add-in card. The M8SeG (M.2 heat sink) 512GB appears to be the sweet spot at $247. The only problem is the Plextor M8PeG with a similar configuration and MLC NAND. It only costs $229.99. Newegg has an exclusive for the M8Se series in the US, at least at first, so your Prime account won't help you this round.
The previous-generation M8Pe drives come with a five-year warranty, but the new M8Se drives only have a three-year warranty. The warranty is limited by the total data you write to the flash. This isn't the same as the amount of data you write to the drive (write amplification muddies the waters), but it's close. The endurance is relatively good compared to other new products.
We have the highest and lowest priced models in the lab. The Y-model is at the top of the M8Se pyramid. This AIC drive uses a massive heatsink that, according to Plextor, is 30% more efficient than the previous version. An M8SeGN base drive is inside the card, and you can remove it if you are willing to void your warranty (or are careful with the warranty sticker).
We also have the M.2 2280 1TB drive. The 1TB model is the only M8Se to use both sides of the PCB for components. This will mean more to some users than others. A small number of notebooks will only accept single-sided M.2 2280 SSDs.
The M8SeGN doesn't use a heat sink at all. The three low-capacity drives are single sided, but the 1TB model uses both sides for components. Our testing will show if the 15nm planar NAND generates enough heat to require a heatsink.
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