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Plextor M6 Pro 128GB SSD Review

Plextor M6 Pro 128GB SSD Review

Today Chris takes a look at yet another Plextor SSD, this time it's the golden M6 Pro in the 128GB capacity. Is this a drive for you to consider? Read on.

@ChrisRamseyer
Chris Ramseyer
Published Tue, Feb 10 2015 9:10 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: Plextor

Introduction & Specifications, Pricing, and Availability

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VIEW GALLERY - 44 IMAGES

Plextor's M6 Pro series got off to a bad start. We received our sample drives at Flash Memory Summit back in August 2014, and we planned to write a preview article with a handful of benchmarks from the show, but it quickly became clear there was a firmware issue. A little while later, European SSD reviewers received samples, and the M6 Pro hit e-tail stores. It wasn't long before the European press started pinning awards on the M6 Pro, and end users began encountering the bugs we found in early testing.

The next stumbling block for the M6 Pro series was a quiet product recall. We never found an official statement from Plextor on this recall, but Newegg and Amazon pulled the series, and a few posts on forums from owners stated the M6 Pro was recalled. Some users were not lucky enough to find issues before losing valuable data in catastrophic failures.

Chris Ryan from Tom's Hardware, Kristian Vättö from AnandTech, and I all found issues with the M6 Pro, and we all agreed to hold full product reviews until Plextor cleared the data loss issue and worked on increasing steady state performance. The M6 Pro is now on firmware 1.03, and I'm finally ready to shake off the dust and publish this report.

Specifications, Pricing, and Availability

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Plextor released the M6 Pro in four capacities that range from 128GB to 1TB. Today we're focusing on the smallest model, the 128GB. The M6 Pro 128GB features a sequential read speed of over 545 MB/s, and a sequential write speed of 330 MB/s. The random read performs tops 100K IOPS, and the random write performance comes in at 82K IOPS. This is the slowest model in the series.

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Plextor's TrueSpeed and TrueProtect features have been around for a few launches now, and so has DEVSLP, which isn't exclusive to Plextor SSDs. PlexTurbo was introduced with the M6 Pro series, and was then improved upon with PlexTurbo 2.0, which was introduced with Plextor's M6e Black Edition.

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The PlexTurbo feature is similar to Samsung's Magician in that it allocates DRAM to act as a cache for the storage IO. In theory, this feature increases performance and reduces the wear on the SSD's flash. Random writes are absorbed by the RAM, and sent to the drive as sequential data. Any data called that is in the RAM is read back from the RAM, which is another method of improving performance.

With the critical issues taken care of via firmware updates, the M6 Pro is now back on the market globally. The 128GB model we're testing today sells for $90.99 on Newegg. The 256GB model lists for $155.99, the 512GB model goes for $306.99, and the massive 1TB model for $679.99. The 1TB model is currently out of stock at Newegg.

Plextor backs the M6 Pro with a five-year warranty. The drive ships with a SATA cable, desktop adapter bracket, and a software disk that includes PlexTurbo and migration software.

PRICING: You can find the Plextor M6 Pro 128GB SSD for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Plextor M6 Pro 128GB SSD retails for $88.35 at Amazon.

Canada: The Plextor M6 Pro 128GB SSD retails for CDN$155.07 at Amazon Canada.

Plextor M6 Pro 128GB SSD

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Plextor pulled out all of the stops with the M6 Pro products. As you can see here, even the retail box is flashy.

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The retail package shows us a lot of information about the product, including specifications, features, warranty, a support number, and a list of everything included in the package.

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The presentation is very nice. The inner box opens, and you see the SSD in a foam holder with the texture of crushed velvet.

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Most SSDs no longer ship with a desktop adapter bracket or a SATA cable. Plextor includes the adapter bracket and cable, along with the software disk and three papers that provide warranty terms, support numbers, and installation instructions.

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The SATA cable Plextor ships along with the M6 Pro is very nice. It's much thinner than a normal SATA cable, like the ones you get with new motherboards. The software disk includes NTI Echo 3, NTI Backup Now EZ 3, and NTI Quick Start Guides.

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Plextor is a Japanese brand, and they love champagne brushed aluminum. This finish started appearing on high-end home audio gear in the '80s. Even today, limited edition A/V gear still ships in this finish; it looks very good.

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The model and serial numbers are listed on the back of the drive with the notations of the drive capacity and firmware version shipped with the drive.

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The M6 Pro series products all use a 7mm z-height case design, so this SSD will fit in a newer notebook or Ultrabook that requires the slim design.

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Inside, we found a Marvell 88SS9187 multi-core controller paired with Nanya DRAM and Toshiba A19 MLC flash.

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The 88SS9187 controller has been around for a few generations now. Companies like Plextor need to develop the firmware used on the drives in-house.

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The MLC flash is Toshiba's second generation 19nm. Toshiba calls the flash "A19."

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The 128GB M6 Pro ships with 256MB of DDR3 DRAM to cache table data.

Test System Setup and Initial Performance

Desktop Test System

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Lenovo T440 - Notebook Power Testing with DEVSLP and Windows 8.1 Pro

Nearly all of the performance tests run on the desktop system, but we use a Lenovo T440 to run the power tests. The T440 is the latest addition to our client SSD test lab, and allows us to test the notebook battery life offered by a SSD with advanced features like DEVSLP enabled.

Initial Performance Evaluation - 4-Corner and then Some Tests

Sequential Read

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Sequential Write

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Sequential 80% Read 20% Write

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Random Read

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Random Write

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Random 80% Read 20% Write

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Two things stood out in our initial performance tests. The first was that the M6 Pro 128GB nearly broke the 10K random read IOPS mark, which is our measuring stick for determining if a drive should be considered a premium product. The second thing we noticed was the sequential write speed that barely broke 330 MB/s. The 128GB model writes data slower than the three larger capacity models.

Benchmarks - Sequential Performance

HD Tune Pro - Sequential Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 5.50

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We have most of the drives that matter in the chart, although there are a few missing, like the 850 EVO, since we haven't focused much on this capacity. The Plextor M6 Pro 128GB performs well in our 64KB sequential read test, but falls to drives like the 850 Pro, the older 840 Pro, and the Extreme II. The drive nearly matches the older Plextor M5 Pro in average sequential read performance.

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Write performance has become an issue on newer SSDs with 128Gb die. The larger die size means less flash is used, and this lowers parallelism, or writing to more than one die at a time. The new M6 Pro 128GB is a little slower at sequential writes than the M5 Pro 128GB.

HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0.4.0

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After a number of sequential and random writes to the device being tested, we measure 128KB sequential performance with HD Tach. The sequential read performance portion of the test turned out very well with an average speed of nearly 450 MB/s. We tend to focus more on the write portion of the test because it allows us to see the effect of previous writes to the drive, and how the drive is able to write with dirty cells. The M6 Pro 128GB shows several drops in write performance that go well under 25 MB/s.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: RC6

So, what is Anvil Storage Utilities? Anvil Storage Utilities is a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test, or just the read or the write test, or you can run a single test, i.e. 4k QD16.

Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet, but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil, has been updating the software steadily on several international forums, and is adding new features every couple of months.

We can use Anvil several different ways to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data, and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.

0-Fill Compressible Data

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Incompressible Data

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Using Anvil Storage Utilities, we determined the Plextor M6 Pro reads and writes compressible and incompressible data at the same speed.

Low Queue Depth Read IOPS

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The Plextor M6 Pro 128GB nearly breaks into the special 10K IOPS random read range at QD1. Very few SSDs are able to deliver this level of performance. The QD1 random read metric is important because roughly 70% of the reads and writes over time happen at the 4K block size. The M6 Pro scales well, but still lacks the punch of the Samsung 850 Pro.

High Queue Depth Read IOPS

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The performance continues to scale well into the high queue depth range. Regular users will rarely reach queue depths on this chart, but it's always nice to have good high queue depth performance for multitasking.

Low Queue Depth Write IOPS

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With random write performance, we want to focus more on QD2 and QD4 since the writes often come in batches. They also take place so fast that it's difficult to get to high queue depths, although it's easier to get into high queue depth writes than high queue depth reads. Here the M6 Pro 128GB does really well against the value focused SSDs, but can't keep pace with the premium drives when commands are stacked.

High Queue Depth Write IOPS

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At high queue depths, we see that this model loses steam at 80K random write IOPS. There is good scaling all the way to QD32.

Benchmarks - Mixed Read / Write Workloads

Sequential Mixed Read / Write Workloads

In this series of tests, we measure mixed workload performance. We start with 100% read, and then add data writes to the mix in 10% increments until we get to 100% writes. We believe this will be the next major area SSD manufacturers will address, after performance consistency.

Sequential Mixed Workload Bandwidth

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We've only run a few 128GB class drives in our sequential mixed workload test that measures sequential 128K performance with the drives in steady state.

Sequential 80% Read / 20% Write Bandwidth

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Of the drives we've run through this test, the M6 Pro 128GB did the best. The sample size is very small, but we will expand upon this area in the future.

Random Mixed Workload Response Time

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We did run the 850 Pro in the random mixed IO test to get a premium product to compare to the M6 Pro in the charts. Both drives performed well in this area where most companies are just now starting to optimize performance.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended - Consistency Test

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.228

Heavy Usage Model:

Futuremark's PCMark 8 allows us to wear the test drive down to a reasonable consumer steady state, and then watch the drive recover on its own through garbage collection. To do that, the drive gets pushed down to steady state with random writes, and then idle time between a number of tests allows the drive to recover.

Precondition Phase:

1. Write to the drive sequentially through up to the reported capacity with random data.

2. Write the drive through a second time (to take care of overprovisioning).

Degradation Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for ten minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat one and two, eight times, and on each pass, increase the duration of random writes by five minutes.

Steady state Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 50 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat one and two, five times.

Recovery Phase:

1. Idle for five minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat one and two, five times.

PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we use to judge a drive's performance. Here we see the three states of performance for the select SSDs, light use, consumer steady state, and worst case.

Storage Bandwidth - All Tests

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Here we get our first look at PlexTurbo with the M6 Pro 128GB SSD. The new 1.03 firmware was released to increase the M6 Pro's steady state performance under real-world workloads.

Storage Bandwidth - Heavy Load

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PlexTurbo doesn't do a lot to increase throughput performance in the heavy workload tests, but this is to be expected. Other SSD cache systems with DRAM in front of the SSD don't do well in this section either. The DRAM is full of data, and no longer buffers the writes to the drive. At that point, the cache is trying to flush to the SSD, and the SSD is taking on writes from the test as well.

Storage Bandwidth - Typical Consumer Load

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PlexTurbo does a bit better under consumer workloads. The Plextor M6 Pro also manages to perform well in this test with the new 1.03 firmware. The drive still doesn't meet the high performance levels of the Extreme II or 850 Pro, but it still performs well.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test - Continued

Total Access Time - All Tests

The access time test measures the total latency across all 18 tests. This is one of, if not the most important of all the tests we run at this time for consumer SSDs. When your latency is low, your computer feels fast; it's just that simple.

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PlexTurbo and other cache software are designed to decrease latency. When you have low latency, your computer feels fast; and when the latency is high, your computer feels sluggish, unresponsive, and slow.

Total Access Time - Heavy Load

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Even under heavy workload conditions, the M6 Pro with PlexTurbo running delivers very low latency. Without PlexTurbo, the M6 Pro is outside of the premium SSD range.

Total Access Time - Typical Consumer Load

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After giving the M6 Pro time to recover, the drive managed to drop latency, and get very close to the premium products in this chart. With PlexTurbo running, we see the M6 Pro 128GB catching up to Samsung 850 Pro 128GB when the Samsung drive is running without Magician, Samsung's in-house cache software.

Final Thoughts

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After testing several firmware updates from Plextor, I'm pleasantly surprised by the M6 Pro's performance. The drive isn't in the same league as Samsung's 850 Pro 128GB, but it's faster than many other 128GB class drives on the market today. Part of the performance increase comes from the new PlexTurbo cache software, but on its own, the M6 Pro 128GB performs reasonable well where performance counts, at low queue depths.

With that said, the M6 Pro 128GB SSD isn't perfect. With just 128GB of capacity, we really wonder if anyone would consider this product for gaming or power use. Games have increased in size, and a decent Steam collection will quickly chew through the available space. We really consider 256GB as the minimum capacity required at this time, and even then, users will find themselves needing more space.

We're glad to see Plextor getting the bugs and performance issues sorted, although it did take several months and a few firmware updates to get to this point. Better late than never, but a few early adopters did end up with bricked drives and lost data.

One area that stands out in the M6 Pro package is Plextor's generous accessory bundle. A few years ago, nearly every consumer SSD shipped with a nice accessory package, but those days are long gone. E-tail price wars pushed SSD manufacturers to find ways to shrink costs, and eliminating accessory bundles was a logical choice to cut costs.

The Plextor M6 Pro 128GB costs $90.99, but still ships with a few bells and whistles that some users would need and have to pay for if not included. Accessory packages and your needs should be considered when shopping for a new SSD. If you need the extras for installation, the M6 Pro comes with them.

PRICING: You can find the Plextor M6 Pro 128GB SSD for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Plextor M6 Pro 128GB SSD retails for $88.35 at Amazon.

Canada: The Plextor M6 Pro 128GB SSD retails for CDN$155.07 at Amazon Canada.

Performance90%
Quality including Design and Build95%
General Features90%
Bundle and Packaging96%
Value for Money89%
Overall92%

The Bottom Line: Plextor got its act together and fixed the issues on the M6 Pro. We don't recommend 128GB drives for gamers or power users, but if you don't need a lot of capacity and need accessories, this drive is pretty good for the price.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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