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Plextor S3C SSD Review

Conclusion

On the surface, the Plextor S3C doesn't look like a competitive consumer SSD. The price is higher than we like, but if we strip away that issue, it could be a strong entry-level product. SSD prices normally fall over time, but we went through a period where normal was not the soup of the day. We're still in a holding pattern with flash prices, but at least they've stabilized. Prices should decline when NAND supply begins to recover. When they do, the S3C could be in a strong position to battle the DRAMless invasion of low-performance products that are taking over the entry-level market.

The Plextor S3C's strongest feature isn't actually the drive, but the accessory package. It's been quite a few years since the extras that ship with SSDs were more than a footnote, but that's not the case with Plextor SATA products. We like the software so much we wish it worked with Plextor's NVMe products. Sadly, those are not supported.

PlexTurbo relieves many of the performance issues we found with the S3C, but you need an ample amount of DRAM for it to be effective. Plextor recommends 32GB, and that's around four times the amount we expect to see in a mainstream system. Like NAND, DRAM also has supply issues that have driven the prices higher than normal. We don't test with DRAM acceleration because it artificially increases the synthetic performance results beyond what we see during real-world use.

PlexVault simply builds a hidden layer in the file system that can be toggled on and off with a user-selectable hotkey. PlexCompressor is the standout feature that some users will find useful for a few reasons. This software will automatically compress files you haven't accessed recently, reducing the amount of space they consume on the drive. This frees up space, and as we've proven in the past, that eases the performance roll off due to data accumulation on the flash.

As a standalone SSD, the S3C doesn't bring much new to the SSD game even though it does bring two new components into the light. Plextor just priced this one outside of the target audience. The low endurance and performance say entry-level aftermarket SSD, but the price is too close to the products that deliver the performance users want.


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Chris Ramseyer
Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.
  • Martell1977
    It seems that no one but Samsung is really looking to improve performance. New SSD's come out and none seem to come close to dethroning the 850 EVO, which has been out for a while now. I'm not complaining, my 850 EVO is great, but I'd think that, as in other markets (like CPU's) new generations would bring more performance...on some level.

    Is it just laziness, stagnation, or companies just don't want to put the money into R&D?
    Reply
  • kalmquist
    I'm guessing that big advantage the EVO has over the competition is the flash memory, combined with a controller that is good enough that it isn't a bottleneck.

    I don't think that the continued dominance of Samsung it the result of other companies not investing in R&D. Other companies are spending money on R&D; they just aren't getting the same kind of results as Samsung is. In particular, Micron/Intel, Toshiba/Western Digital, and SK Hynix have all spent heavily to develop 3D NAND flash. The point is that you can spend a lot of money on R&D and end up with something like the AMD Bulldozer design--which worked, but didn't offer much in the way of competition to Intel.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    You also have to contend with both sata and nvme / pci-express having products that are near the theoretical ceiling of what they can offer.

    Sata 3.0 = 6 gigabits per second or 600 megabytes due to unit conversions and taking 8b/10b encoding into account
    Samsung 850 Pro has 550 MB/s read and 520 MB/s write

    Nvme / pci-express 3.0 x4 link = 3.94 GB/s
    For comparison the read speed of the Samsung 960 Pro is 3.5 GB/s

    And so the race is to spend millions in research and development to get closer to closing the gap between what you have and the theoretical limit so you can proclaim your product is the fastest.

    Or to spend millions in research and development to make the cheapest dollar / gigabyte product in order to saturate your product as the goto SSD for the OEM so the OEM can say their computer is "Powered By A Solid State Drive" allowing them to place bar charts on the box.
    QLC would be the best example of this, but really all of the NAND after SLC are examples.

    Even a 300 megabyte/s read and write ssd getting 5000 IOPS at a queue depth of 1 can still claim to be 50 times faster more responsive than a 7200 rpm hard drive.

    Or they can be even sneakier and compare their 5000 IOPS ssd at a queue depth of 1 and compare it to a 5400 rpm hard drive "in small print of course" and say it is "100 TIMES MORE RESPONSIVE THAN A SPINNING HARD DRIVE DISK" in big bold letters just like that.

    They never quote actual speed due to only being able to say 5+ times faster.
    50 or 100 times are much better numbers for marketing.


    I'd be perfectly content with a 10 Terabyte SSD with 6000 IOPS at a QD of 1 and 300 MB/s read and write at lets say $300.
    Even if that was QLC at 500 DWPD that is still 5000 terabytes or 5 petabytes of data.
    Allowing me to ditch hard drives forever.
    Reply
  • daglesj
    I would add that in going from a 550MBps SSD to a 3500MBps Samsung NVMe, in day to day stuff...I cannot tell the difference. There is a limit to the speed benefits. But cheaper and bigger is always nice.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    20162265 said:
    I would add that in going from a 550MBps SSD to a 3500MBps Samsung NVMe, in day to day stuff...I cannot tell the difference. There is a limit to the speed benefits. But cheaper and bigger is always nice.

    You are absolutely correct.

    If your goal is starting a game then games in general don't really load much data to start.

    They load alot of small files that need to be processed by the cpu.



    Tom's had an article a few years ago that illustrates this beautifully.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-gaming-performance,2991-11.html

    629 megabytes of data needed for Civ5 to start.

    Civilization V took 38 seconds to launch but of those 38 seconds the ssd was only busy for 2.15 seconds

    Note they used a Sata based ssd, OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB.

    With a 3500MBps Samsung NVMe, assuming 960 Pro, the game start time would not be affected by much if any.

    The disk busy time would only be 1 second or less followed by 30+ more seconds of waiting for the cpu to catch up.



    The only way to really see the difference would be to transfer a multi-gigabyte file between 2 ssd through an interface with a higher than 540 megabytes a second bandwidth, like 10 gigabit ethernet.

    540 megabytes a second being the read speed of an 850 Pro.

    10 gigabit (1.25 gigabytes a second) would be about 50% saturated from a sata based ssd, like an 850 Pro.

    Due to the 10 gigabit limit a Samsung 960 Pro would only appear to be twice as fast as an 850 Pro due to completely saturating the 10 gigabit link.
    Reply
  • DerekA_C
    either way it paves the way for future speeds and connections when we start seeing 100gbs=(10%) actual throughput we shall start getting even more CPU and chipset bottleneck. CPU's need to start pushing passed 5ghz base clock @ 8-cores, but question is who will actually push that and the ability to utilize the next phase of DDR5/DDR6 and PCI-E 4.0 and 5.0 slots.
    Reply
  • Jeffs0418
    When one considers that the 850evo was released in December of 2014 and still dominates the price segment. It's remarkable that the others are still trying to catch up!
    I bought one(250gb) shortly after release for a lot more than they cost now but have no regrets at all.
    Reply