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Marvell-Based SSDs From Corsair, Crucial, OCZ, And Plextor: Tested

Two Marvell-Based Stand-Outs Emerge

Marvell-based SSDs are less prevalent than the great many SandForce-based drives, but they're nevertheless impressive devices that you should take into consideration when it comes to planning your next build. Although SandForce's technology confers a performance advantage when it comes to working with compressible data, there are a number of workloads that involve incompressible data. In those situations, SSDs based on Marvell controllers, along with Samsung's 830, are great alternatives.

We expected to find considerable similarities amongst these seven SSDs, given their Marvell heritage. We also ran across notable differences, though. The hope, however, was that more access to Marvell's firmware would give these vendors an even greater opportunity to set their products apart. As it turns out, though, like SandForce, the brands selling Marvell-based drives are largely using a couple of NAND standards to create unique performance profiles.

Corsair and Plextor both shine as a result of their reliance on Toggle-mode flash, which conveys the highest possible benchmarks results. Firmware seems to play a less influential role. We do, however, see Plextor creating differentiation between its M3 and M3 Pro drives through an enhanced firmware package. The company claims its improvements are related to garbage collection, though we weren't able to isolate the effect of its optimizations to confirm.

Otherwise, performance similarities between drives are difficult to ignore, particularly when our charts show multiple SSDs generating numbers that almost overlap each other, as is the case with Corsair's Performance Pro and Plextor's M3 Pro. Like chefs creating dishes with almost identical ingredients, each company tries to squeeze the best possible results from their SSDs in an effort to create something other than "yet another second-gen SandForce drive."

Marvell-based SSD ComparisonNAND InterfaceMarket PricePrice per GBWarranty
Corsair Performance Pro 128 GBToggle-mode$190$1.483 years
Crucial m4 64 GBSynchronous$90$1.413 years
Crucial m4 128 GBSynchronous$125$0.973 years
OCZ Octane 128 GBSynchronous$170$1.333 years
Plextor M3 64 GBToggle-mode$70$1.095 years
Plextor M3 128 GBToggle-mode$180$1.415 years
Plextor M3 Pro 128 GBToggle-mode$205$1.605 years

Perhaps the most obvious areas where these companies draw attention to themselves are pricing and support. Massive variation in price per gigabyte between models makes it pretty easy to zero in on favorites, though. The 128 GB Crucial m4, for instance, breaks through the $1/GB barrier for the first time that we can remember. And the 64 GB Plextor M3 delivers Toggle-mode flash in a boot drive very close to the same threshold. Moreover, five-year warranty coverage is something we've only seen from an elite few organizations, and it's a nice addition. 

If tracking down fringe performance is more your thing, the 128 GB Performance Pro and M3 Pro are the best choices. The M3 Pro sells for about $15 extra, but again, there's that five-year warranty to consider.

All things considered, we have to recognize two drives today: the 128 GB Crucial m4 and the 64 GB Plextor M3. Both SSDs proffer impressive performance. One employs synchronous NAND and breaks under $1/GB. The other includes faster Toggle-mode memory and still manages to deliver 64 GB for $70. 

Crucial's m4 128 GB already won our 2011 Recommended Buy award for its showing in Crucial's m4 SSD Tested At 64, 128, 256, And 512 GB last year. We're happy to dust that honor off to remind you that this remains one of our favorite choices.

We're also quite happy with the way Plextor's 64 GB M3 performs. We like its generous warranty. And, at $70, it makes a fantastic choice for a boot drive. As a result, the SSD receives our 2012 Tom's Hardware Recommended Buy award.