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Plextor M6M 256GB mSATA SSD Review
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Date: May 05, 2014
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

The near-constant influx of new solid state storage solutions has shown no signs of letting up. In the last few weeks alone, we have looked at new drives from Micron/Crucial, ADATA, Intel, Samsung, OCZ and SanDisk, and today we’re going to cover something a little different from Plextor, the new M6M series.

Plextor’s M6M series of products are mSATA-based drives, designed for mobile devices or small form factor systems. These new drives are the follow-up to last year’s popular M5M series, though the M6M series is built around a newer controller and NAND flash memory.

The Plextor M6M series’ full list of features and specifications are listed below, followed by some pics of the drive and some more detail. A full suite of benchmarks is available on the pages ahead, of course.


The Plextor M6M mSATA 256GB SSD - Find It @ Amazon

Plextor M6M mSATA Solid State Drives
Specifications & Features


Plextor’s new M6M series of mSATA solid state drives are based on the popular dual-core Marvell 88SS9188 controller and offers sequential transfer speeds of up to 520MB/s for reads and up to 440MB/s writes. Plextor also claims random reads of up to 94K IOPS and write speeds up to 80K IOPS at 4K, according to the drives’ specifications.

 

As you can see, the Plextor M6M looks like most other mSATA devices, with its standard edge connector and diminutive PCB. Look a little deeper and you’ll the aforementioned Marvell controller, along with some Toshiba synchronous Toggle NAND flash memory and a bit of DRAM. The 256GB drive you see here is outfitted with 512MB of DDR3 cache memory, though the total amount of cache varies depending on the capacity of the drive, from 128MB on the 64GB drive, all the way up to 768MB for the 512GB drive.

The Plextor M6M series also features custom Plextor firmware to ensure maximum sustained performance and data integrity. The drive supports TRIM and idle garbage collection and leverages 128-bit error correction code to ensure the accuracy of written data. The drive also use the AES-validated Marvell controller to provide secure 256-bit full-drive encryption.
 

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Test Setup, IOMeter 1.1 RC

Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a separate drive used for the OS and benchmark installations. Out testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI (or RAID) mode was enabled. The SSDs were secure erased prior to testing, and left blank without partitions for some tests, while others required them to be partitioned and formatted, as is the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 and SSD Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Storage -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-4770K

Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH
(Z87 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

Intel HD 4400

8GB G.SKILL DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

Corsair Force GT (OS Drive)
Plextor M6M (256GB)
SanDisk Extreme II (480GB)
Samsung SSD 840 EVO (250GB)
Samsung SSD 840 EVO mSATA (500GB)
OCZ Vertex 460 (240GB)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 8.1 Enterprise x64
Intel 9.4.0.1027, iRST 12.8.0.1016
DirectX 11

Intel HD 10.18.10.33

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tune v5.50
ATTO v2.47
AS SSD
CrystalDiskMark v3.0.3 x64
PCMark 7
SiSoftware Sandra 2014

IOMeter
I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool

As we've noted in previous SSD articles, though IOMeter is clearly a well-respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're not completely comfortable with it for testing SSDs. The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to scale properly, it is debatable whether or not certain access patterns, as they are presented to and measured on an SSD, actually provide a valid example of real-world performance for the average end user. That said, we do think IOMeter is a reliable gauge for relative available throughput within a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you can't with most other storage benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our custom Workstation pattern, with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and a 4K access pattern with a 4K transfer size, comprised of 67% reads (34% writes) and 100% random access.

 

The Plextor M6M 256GB drive drive put up some excellent numbers in our IOMeter testing. At lower queue depths, the drive performed about in the middle of the pack, but as the workload increased, the Plextor drive pulled ahead and finished at or near the top.

In terms of total bandwidth, the Plextor M6M 256GB drive offered the highest performance with out custom workstation access patters, and also performed well in the fully random 4K test.
 

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SANDRA and ATTO Disk Benchmark

Next we ran SiSoft SANDRA 2014, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provide the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run on unformatted drives and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.

SiSoft SANDRA 2014
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

 

According to SiSoft SANDRA's physical disk benchmark, the Plextor M6M 256GB drive offered very competitive read performance, but trailed the other drives in write bandwidth.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w

ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc.

 

 

 

The Plextor M6M 256GB drive performed well in the ATTO read test, with transfer sizes up to and including 32KB, but trailed off a bit with larger transfers. Writes, however, generally trailed the competition.
 

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HD Tune Benchmarks
EFD Software's HD Tune is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more." The latest version of the benchmark added temperature statistics and improved support for SSDs, among a few other updates and fixes.

HD Tune v5.50
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com




The Plextor M6M 256GB drive offered competitive performance in HD Tunes' transfer tests, though it didn't lead the pack. Access times were quite good though, as were burst rates.
 
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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests

The Plextor M6M 256GB drive offered middling performance throughout most of CrystalDiskMark's tests, though it finished near the top of the charts in the 4K QD32 test.
 

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AS-SSD Compression Test

Next up we ran the Compression Benchmark built-into AS SSD, an SSD specific benchmark being developed by Alex Intelligent Software. This test is interesting because it uses a mix of compressible and incompressible data and outputs both Read and Write throughput of the drive. We only graphed a small fraction of the data (1% compressible, 50% compressible, and 100% compressible), but the trend is representative of the benchmark’s complete results.

AS SSD Compression Benchmark
Bring Your Translator: http://bit.ly/aRx11n

The Plextor M6M 256GB drive's performance is unaffected by the compressibility of the data being transferred. Whether transferring highly compressible or incompressible data, the Plextor M6M 256GB drive's performance remains consistent.
 

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PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks
We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.

Futuremark's PCMark 7 Secondary Storage
http://www.futuremark.com

The Plextor M6M 256GB drive put up some good numbers in PCMark 7, thought he overall score may be a bit misleading. In the individual tests, the Plextor M6M 256GB drive had the second best "Starting Applications" score, the third best "Importing pictures" score, and the second best "Video editing" score. Add everything up though, and it looks like the Plextor M6M 256GB drive finishes in second to last place. That's technically true, but not that only 1.2% separated the Plextor drive from the Samsung drive that led the pack.  That's well within the margin of error for this test, so for all intents and purposes, this one's a tie.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Plextor M6M 256GB drive we tested offered competitive performance across the board. There wasn't one particular category where the drive led the pack, but in all of the tests we ran, the Plextor M6M 256GB drive put up competitive numbers. It performed best at higher queue depths, as evidenced by the our IOMeter and CrystalDiskMark tests, where the Plextor M6M finished at or near the top of the charts. The Plextor M6M 256GB drive also put up some very good access times and its performance remains consistent, regardless of the compressibility of the data being transferred.


The Plextor M6M 256GB mSATA SSD - Find It @ Amazon

Plextor's M6M series of drives have been available for a couple of weeks now, at prices ranging from about $69 for the 64GB model to about $169 for the 256GB drive we've tested here. At those prices, the Plextor M6M series of drives are among the more affordable mSATA-based solutions currently available. Their performance may not be class-leading in any one particular category, but overall the Plextor M6M 256GB drive we tested still performed very well across the board. If you're in the market for an mSATA drive for a small form factor build or to upgrade a notebook, and don't want to break the bank, you should absolutely check out the Plextor M6M series. They're based on a reliable, widely-used controller, feature a solid 3-year warranty, and they're priced right too.

  • Decent Performance
  • Affordable Pricing
  • Strong at High Queue Depths
  • Didn't Stand Out In Any Particular Category
  • Samsung mSATA SSD Faster Overall



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