Plextor M6s 256GB SSD Review
Plextor’s storage division has been on a roll as of late. First it was their M6e, an enticing adaptable PCI-E SSD that combined value and performance into a different form factor. The M6S on the other hand represents an effort to bring that same value quotient to the standard SATA 6Gbps market without sacrificing throughput. That’s a tall order but Plextor may be uniquely placed to deliver just that, despite going up against heavily entrenched competitors like OCZ, Corsair, Sandisk and Crucial.
While the M6S may be considered a lower end drive by enthusiasts, it offers a good amount of performance for a relatively affordable price. Naturally, drives like Crucial’s MX100 and AData’s SP920 will stand in its way but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Plextor is fighting an uphill battle. On the contrary; its use of 19nm Toggle Mode NAND is something that could prove to be a deciding factor.
Unlike some drives that use red, yellow and other flashy exteriors to distinguish themselves, Plextor takes a no-nonsense approach with a simple full metal chassis. The M6S uses an older 9.5mm form factor instead of the current 7mm standard and it doesn’t come with a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate. Thankfully, none of these points are overly worrisome given its more budget orientated nature.
Instead of the older Marvell 9187 or even a slower 9183, the Plextor M6S uses Marvell's 9188 controller. This four channel controller may only boast half the channels of the older 9187, but it is still a very potent controller. In many ways it can actually be considered the smaller and less expensive brother of the 9189 found inside such drives as the Crucial M550, MX100, and AData SP920 series.
As we saw with the M6e, four channel controllers can offer a ton of potential, leaving the NAND to either make or break overall performance. In this regard Plextor has not gone down the usual ONFi 1 or ONFi 2 NAND 'budget drive' road, nor have they opted for ONFi 3 NAND. Instead they are using the tried and true second generation, 19nm Toshiba Toggle Mode NAND, which is rather surprising to see in a non-OCZ branded entry level drive that has an online asking price of only $145.
Internally the only real nod to budget constraints that Plextor's team has made is the inclusion of only 8 NAND ICs. However the M6S doesn’t use mega-sized ONFi 3 NAND ICs but rather dual-die NAND. This means that while there are still two NAND chips on each controller channel, every one of these NAND chips houses two independent dies. To put this another way, the Plextor M6S may only have 8 NAND chips, but each of the Marvell 9188's channels is fully populated with 4-way interleaving. This will help optimize full drive performance at proper levels and gives the M6S a leg up over many other 'budget' drives.
Further helping overall performance is the 256GB version of the M6S uses a massive 512MB DDR3 RAM IC for its cache buffer instead of the typical 256MB most similarly sized Marvell drives come equipped with.
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