We looked at one of Plextor's first 6Gb/s rated drives - the PX-128M2S - last year. And barely nine months later, the next generation is upon us, in the shape of the M3 series. According to Plextor's own blurb, these are its most advanced drives yet.

The Plextor M3S SSD comes in 128GB (510MB/s read, 210MB/s write) and 256GB (510MB/s read, 360MB/s write) flavours, both of which are available now. The flagship M3S 512GB model (525MB/s read, 445MB/s write) will be appearing soon.

The new drives come with an up-rated Marvell controller, four times as much cache as the previous generation (in the 256GB and 512GB models), and faster NAND to complete the upgrade. So what do they look like when you throw some data down their tubes?

Marvell-ous

The new M3 series uses the same Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2 controller as the M2S series – and a load of other drives come to that – but with a twist: Plextor has made a raft of upgrades to the firmware. This, combined with 24nm Toshiba Toggle MLC NAND and a large 512MB cache (256MB in the 128GB model), gives the Plextor M3S 256GB pretty impressive performance.

Eight 32GB 24nm Toshiba Toggle NAND chips give the drive its capacity. These sit on the topside of the PCB, along with the two 256MB Nanya DDR3 1333 chips that make up the cache. The controller is positioned all on its lonesome on the underside of the board.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Sequential read/write (incompressible)
AS SSD: MB/S: Bigger is better

Plextor PX-256M3S
Read: 468
Write: 346
Vertex 3 MAX IOPS
Read: 506
Write: 234
Samsung SSD 830
Read: 499
Write: 391

4K random read/write performance
AS SSD: MB/S: Bigger is better

Plextor PX-256M3S
Read: 24
Write: 46
Vertex 3 MAX IOPS
Read: 18
Write: 42
Samsung SSD 830
Read: 20
Write: 53

Under test conditions using the ATTO benchmark, the drive came pretty close to Plextor's own figures for sequential reads at 507MB/s, and did marginally better than the quoted figures for sequential writes at 365MB/s.

The more demanding AS SSD incompressible data benchmark saw it fall behind both the Vertex 3 Max IOPS and Samsung SSD 830 in the sequential read/write test, but it did much better in the 4K random read/write tests.

A bit of real world testing saw the drive take just four and half minutes to copy a 50GB folder of mixed file sizes and types, while loading Office 10 Pro took a smidgen under five minutes from key code entry to being ready for use.

Plextor is also shipping the M3S with its proprietary True Speed technology. This supposedly provides better sustained drive performance over time and, together with advanced wear levelling and bad block management, keeps the drive running closer to fresh-out-the-box than many of its competitors'.

The M3 series carries on from the previous generation, offering strong performance compared to the Samsung SSD 830 and OCZ's Vertex 3 Max IOPS. It's competitively priced as well, and at around £300 it may well ruffle a few feathers.

Plextor backed its previous range of SSDs with the usual three-year warranty, but the M3S series is backed for an unusually generous five years.

Verdict

Plextor's new drive is a rather impressive offering. It may not be the fastest kid on the block, but it's powerful enough and that price tag makes it a pretty attractive choice too.

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