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Plextor M5S 256 GB Review: Marvell Inside, With A Twist

Inside Plextor's M5S 256 GB

Plextor's M5S comes apart quite easily via four screws on each side of its enclosure. Popping the top does, of course, void the drive's warranty, so we don't recommend doing that unless you have a good reason to as a diehard tinkerer.

With the SSD stripped down, we see 16 NAND modules manufactured by Micron (part number 29F128G08CFAAB) on a 25 nm node. In addition, there are two 256 MB DDR chips from Nanya that serve as the data buffer.

The M5S doesn't come with any accessories or software. The only contents in the box are the SSD and a quick installation guide. Plextor does provide a tool kit called PlexTool, though, which can be downloaded from its Web site. Currently, version 1.0.0 does not support the M5S, although Plextor claims that an updated version is in the works that'll add support. The utility offers a means to check the drive's status, update its firmware, and secure erase the drive.

The Drive Status button brings up a screen with SSD health, free space, the SATA data rate, and power-on hours.

Unfortunately, the Secure Format function does not work if the drive has an active volume, and it only works plugged in via USB. That means using the feature requires a SATA to USB bridge. This is done to prevent accidentally deleting data. For most people, though, connecting the SSD via USB is not really an accessible option. In our opinion, allowing Secure Format to work over the native SATA interface with appropriate warnings is adequate.

Plextor's Technologies

Back in its heyday, Plextor was known for the advances in optical drive reliability and performance it introduced to the industry. It's trying to do the same thing in the SSD space.

In choosing Marvell's controller technology, Plextor is able to exercise a greater degree of control over the firmware. One of its most touted additions is True Speed technology, which claims to sustain fresh out of the box performance over the duration of the SSD's life. As you no-doubt have heard, sustaining write performance is an Achilles' heel for SSDs in general, and Plextor is attempting to mitigate that to a degree.

As with most proprietary technologies, vendors don't like to detail their enhancements. The most information we could get out of Plextor was this bit about Instant Restore, part of the True Speed technology suite: 

"Exclusive Instant Restore technology uses a unique algorithm to ensure continued data block write optimization. It utilizes the DDR cache to save time during the block erase process and increase performance. Garbage collection and the preparation of available space speeds up the data writing speed.

So, even after prolonged use, the drive can still maintain the same read and write performance as a new drive in a clean state. This perfectly overcomes the slowdown problems associated with dirty state SSDs. Instant Restore makes True Speed SSDs suitable for office software, video graphics, e-learning, or other applications that read and write frequently."

Naturally, we plan to test the accuracy of those claims. Plextor also maintains its focus on quality, claiming to test every drive before it ships. The company's tests include a 20-hour, high-temperature burn-in and workload simulation. As a result, Plextor claims that its annualized failure rate is a mere .59%.