3D NAND is the hot topic, but there is still room for planar NAND even as the latest in 3D technology ramps up. Most think that increased 3D NAND production signals the end for 2D products, but that isn't the case. Planar NAND is still cheaper to manufacture, and it's better suited for low capacity products due to its smaller die density. In time, 3D NAND will power most mainstream to enterprise systems, but some lower-cost entry-level SSDs will still use planar technology for at least the next year.
SATA has a few years left in it, too. While enthusiasts scour the web for the best price on the few remaining NVMe drives with MLC NAND, the rest of the world is just happy to find a good price for a SATA SSD. There are still a few high-performance SATA products on the market, but prices are steep. The NAND shortage has increased the cost of the most vital component, though, so the price gap between entry-level and mainstream products is shrinking.
Plextor brings the new S3C series to market in three full-capacity models that range from 128GB to 512GB. This series ships in the 2.5-inch form factor, but Plextor's S3G M.2 2280 is a SATA model that shares similar specifications and components.
The S3C 2.5-inch drives achieve up to 550/520 MB/s of sequential read/write throughput. The 265GB model loses 10 MB/s of sequential write performance compared to the high-capacity model, and the 128GB steps down another 10 MB/s. All three drives come to market with different random performance specifications. The 128GB achieves 72,000/57,000 random read/write IOPS, but performance increases to 90,000/71,000 for the 256GB and 92,000/79,000 IOPS for the 512GB.
This series gives us our first look at both the SMI SM2254 controller and the new Sk Hynix 14nm planar TLC NAND. We know very little about the components. The controller supports Low-Density Parity Check (LDPC) error correction code and the S3C also uses an SLC buffer to increase performance during bursty write workloads.
The S3 designation is part of Plextor's new product naming scheme for SATA SSDs. The new lineup begins with the newly released S1 and includes the S2 and S3 we're testing today. Plextor has yet to release a product with 3D NAND, but it announced the M9Pe would come to market in 2018 with Toshiba's 3D BiCS NAND.
Pricing, Warranty & Endurance
We haven't seen the new S3C or S3G products listed for sale yet, but Plextor sent us the MSRP for both products. The 128GB SC3 drives start at just $51.99, and pricing scales up to $93.99 for the 256GB model and $186.99 for the 512GB. The company doesn't plan to release a 512GB-equivalent in the M.2 form factor, but the S6G 256GB M.2 model retails for $96.99.
All S3 products come with a three-year warranty and an endurance limitation. This is where the series shows it's value-focused positioning. The 128GB drives only come with warranty support for up to 50TB of data writes. That increases to 70TB for both the 256GB and 512GB models. In contrast, the new Western Digital Blue 3D 500GB includes a 200TB rating at a similar price point.
The S3 products work with Plextor's impressive software suite that goes well beyond the traditional "SSD Toolbox" software features. Plextor uses a monitoring software called PlexTools to view status updates, secure erase, and TRIM the drives. There are also three additional pieces of software.
Plextor's PlexVault software provides you with a secure hidden partition and complete control of access privileges. Even if you share a computer with others, you can still store your private data via PlexVault.
SSD storage capacity is always important. Plextor's PlexCompressor uses custom smart-compression technology that gives you more storage capacity without impacting the user experience and system performance.
PlexTurbo is an intelligent SSD RAM caching solution that leverages system RAM to accelerate SSD storage performance. It boosts the service life of the SSD while vastly accelerating access performance (32GB recommend DRAM capacity).
Plextor ships the SC3 with a new look for its SATA products. The new package is similar across the "S" product range. The back side of the package lists the speeds and feeds as well as warranty information. There is very little descriptive information on the package about the drive's other features. We are glad to see performance data listed because many companies have removed the vital information necessary to compare products in a retail store.
A Closer Look
The overall drive design is similar to several Plextor SATA SSDs dating back several years. The brushed aluminum finish is a classic that doesn't need a makeover to look great.
Inside the package, we found the new SMI SM2254 controller paired with a single DRAM package and four Sk Hynix 14nm NAND packages. The drive uses a very small circuit board, and a small thermal pad between the controller and the case helps cool the internal components.
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