Over the last couple of months we've seen some amazing SSDs in our lab. Quickly being overshadowed was the Intel 520 Series with Intel 25nm flash and a SandForce controller that runs exclusive Intel optimized firmware. The shadow thrower for the 520 Series was the SanDisk Extreme, SandForce's new big dog in town. Then came the Plextor M3, the first Marvell controlled drive to take advantage of the new 24nm Toggle Mode flash that made the Extreme so fast. Now we have the enthusiast model from Plextor, the M3 Pro.
All four of these SSDs are faster than the previous models that came before them and in some areas significantly faster. We're not talking about products that hit the market two years ago, but drives that were reviewed as recently as two months ago can now be considered aged when compared to the new crop. The firmware optimizations and new Toggle Mode flash have really changed the definition of the word fast when referred to with SSDs.
So, how does the Plextor M3 Pro fit into this mix of amazing SSDs? Instead of starting out with the good notes let's look at where this drive is hurting. We're all talking about the pain at the pump these days, but the Plextor M3 Pro 256GB is suffering from pain in the HDD bay. The price of the 256GB Pro model, at the time of writing, is $35 more than the base M3 256GB. The 256GB M3 Pro is the highest priced model on the market today when looking at these new high performance drives, $374.99. We aren't going to pull your leg and tell you that the price does not play a factor. In the defense of the new M3 Pro 256GB, it is the newest SSD on the market and Newegg likes to keep the new drives priced higher than the older models , so we expect this price to come down over the next couple of months.
With the price out of the way we can take a closer look at what the M3 Pro has going for it. The five year warranty certainly helps us swallow the higher cost a little easier as does the included bundle that includes a good software package and desktop adapter bracket. The real selling point though is the performance and this is where the Plextor M3 Pro stands out in many aspects. Only one other drive on the market has an access time even close to the M3 class, the OCZ Octane and it doesn't hold a candle to the sequential speeds offered by the Plextor drives. Next up is the sequential performance where Plextor has managed to increase performance up to and beyond the SandForce controller numbers in some cases.
The real-world performance with a mix of random reads and write have also increased with this release, also elevating the performance to areas we didn't think this generation of Marvell controller would go. The file transfer tests are also very fast, an area where Marvell has dominated for most of the year, but Plextor has managed to increase performance here as well.
Overall we are looking at a very fast drive, with a great bundle, but we still have to keep it real when it comes to the price. For most reading this the current price is going to keep this very fast drive out of your system. My recommendation is to wait it out a month and then see if you can score the M3 Pro 256GB for $350 or less. By then that new, Newegg price will be off and we'll see the M3 Pro be more competitive with other super SSDs on the market.
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