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Plextor M9Pe 512GB & 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD Review

Plextor M9Pe 512GB & 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD Review

Fortified with BiCS 3, Plextor's M9Pe NVMe PCIe SSD is a force to be reckoned with. Here's our full review.

@JonCoulterSSD
Published Tue, Jan 2 2018 8:00 AM CST   |   Updated Thu, Oct 15 2020 1:09 PM CDT
Rating: 96%Manufacturer: Plextor

Introduction, Drive Specifications, Pricing & Availability

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VIEW GALLERY - 105 IMAGES

Plextor's M9Pe represents the first retail SSD we've tested with a Toshiba BiCS 3 64-layer TLC flash array. Having already tested Toshiba's OEM XG5, we know that BiCS 3 offers plenty of performance even though it is a TLC product. BiCS brings with it the promise of more affordable and better performing flash-based SSDs in 2018. Third generation BiCS, or BiCS 3 64-layer 3D TLC, was first demonstrated at this year's Dell/EMC World via the XG5. Toshiba feels BiCS flash is superior to others for the following compelling reasons:

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Of the features listed above, the feature that interests us most is the faster 1-shot programming called "Full Sequence." With Full Sequence programming, three pages can be programmed at the same time resulting in fewer steps. Full Sequence programming delivers better performance and at the same time reduces power consumption. More performance with less power consumption isn't something you see every day. In a mobile environment, power consumption becomes a primary concern which makes BiCS 3 particularly attractive for the ever-expanding world of mobile computing because it is power efficient.

Plextor has again partnered with Marvell for their newest NVMe SSD. The M9Pe pairs Marvell's 88SS1093 Gen3 x4 NVMe 8-channel "Eldora" controller with Toshiba BiCS 3 64-layer TLC flash and Plextor's own in-house firmware. The 88SS1093 is the very same NVMe controller that Plextor has used for all of their NVMe SSDs to this point.

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There are two main points about the Marvell 88SS1093 controller that we feel make it stand out from the competition. Number one is the massive 4K QD1 random read performance that the Eldora controller dishes out. As we've stated countless times, random read performance at low queues is by far the most important factor for system performance in a consumer environment. Secondly, the 88SS1093 employs LDPC (Low-Density Parity Check) error correcting technology. LDPC drastically reduces write-amplification in comparison to conventional ECC code, thereby greatly extending the life-span of NAND-flash arrays. LDPC works so well that TLC flash can have MLC-like endurance.

Marvell controllers are supplied without firmware, so buyers can customize performance and features as they see fit. This means you won't be seeing Marvell controlled SSD's coming from smaller companies that do not have in-house firmware engineers. Plextor's custom firmware incorporates SLC buffer technology called PlexNitro. PlexNitro accelerates performance, increases endurance and does so without impacting the drive's capacity.

A BiCS 3 flash array and an Eldora controller powering it is unquestionably a very enticing combination. But, there is more. If you choose the AIC (Add-In-Card) version of the Plextor M9Pe, the M9PeY, you also get some serious bling in the form of RGB lighting.

RGB In Action

Not only is the M9PeY about the most attractive AIC SSD we've ever seen, but it is also the first PCIe SSD with true RGB that we know of. True RGB that reacts with disk activity.

Plextor's newest NVMe SSD has the looks and packs a punch as well. Let's get into the review, and we will show you exactly how potent the M9Pe can be.

Specifications

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Plextor's M9Pe Series is available in three capacities and three different versions - the M9PeY (AIC with heat sink), the M9PeG (M.2 with heat sink) and the M9PeGN (M.2 only). Available capacities: 256GB, 512GB and 1024GB.

  • MTBF: 1.5 Million Hours
  • Warranty: 5-Year Limited Warranty
  • PlexNitro SLC caching
  • LDPC
  • SMART
  • TRIM
  • Garbage Collection
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Availability: Early 2018

Features

Note: There is no performance difference between the M9PeY and the more affordable M9PeGN models.

Features include Plextor's exclusive TrueSpeed and TrueProtect technologies. TrueSpeed technology keeps long-term SSD performance at like-new speeds after periods of use and when the SSD is nearly full. TrueProtect technology is a multi-layered error checking mechanism automatically executed by the firmware. TrueProtect keeps data access error-free. PlexNitro accelerates data transfers using SLC caching technology that does not impact capacity. Additionally, data accuracy is ensured by Marvell's latest third generation LDPC bit correction which also provides extended flash endurance.

Drive Details

Plextor M9Pe PCIe NVMe SSD

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The front face of the packaging has an attractive RGB type look to it featuring every color of the rainbow. The drive's capacity is advertised as is the limited 5-year warranty, NVMe interface, formfactor, and exclusive features.

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The back of the packaging lists factory performance specs for each capacity.

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Opening the inner box reveals the AIC drive is well protected by a thick molded plastic carrier tray. The GN model is protected by a clear plastic clamshell container.

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Front view of both drives.

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Rear view of both drives. The 512GB GN model is a single-sided design. The back half of the Y version is just the back half of the AIC adapter. The black color will go well with any color scheme.

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This side of the drive is where the RGB goodness is displayed.

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Removing the heat sink voids the warranty and reveals the M.2 x 2280 SSD that is mounted to the drive's AIC adapter card. Looking at the underside of the solid aluminum heat sink, we find a full-length thermal pad.

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A close-in view of the 2280 x M.2 module at the heart of the AIC version. Housed on this side of the PCB is the drive's controller, DRAM cache, and two of the drive's four 256GB BiCS 3 flash packages.

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This side of the PCB houses two of the drive's four 256GB flash packages.

Test System Setup, Drive Properties

Jon's Consumer PCIe SSD Z270 Intel Review Test System Specifications

We will be running the 512GB M9PeGN on this system.

Jon's Consumer PCIe SSD Intel Z370 Review Test System - Specifications

We will be running the 1TB M9PeY on this system.

We would like to thank ASRock, Crucial, Intel, Corsair, RamCity, IN WIN, and Seasonic for making our test system possible.

Drive Properties

Plextor M9PeGN 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD OS Disk 75% Full

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Note: We will be running this drive on our Z270 test system.

Plextor M9PeY 1TB M.2 with AIC PCIe NVMe SSD OS Disk 75% Full

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Note: We will be running this drive on our Z370 test system.

The majority of our testing is performed with our test drive as our boot volume. Our boot volume is 75% full for all OS Disk "C" drive testing to replicate a typical consumer OS volume implementation. We feel that most of you will be utilizing your SSDs for your boot volume and that presenting you with results from an OS volume is more relevant than presenting you with empty secondary volume results.

System settings: Cstates and Speed stepping are both disabled in our systems BIOS. Windows High-Performance power plan is enabled. Windows write caching is enabled, and Windows buffer flushing is disabled. We are utilizing Windows 10 Pro 64-bit OS (Build 14393) for all of our testing except for our MOP (Maxed-Out Performance) benchmarks where we switch to Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit. Empty Windows 10 benchmark screenshots will also be shown on our MOP page.

Please note: When comparing our results to those of other review sites, look at page 10 Maxed Out Performance-Windows 10 which is done with the disk empty.

Benchmark screenshots will be shown 512GB model first, followed by the 1TB model.

Synthetic Benchmarks – ATTO & Anvil Storage Utilities

ATTO

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.05

ATTO is a timeless benchmark used to provide manufacturers with data used for marketing storage products. When evaluating ATTO performance, we focus on the drive's performance curve.

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We are able not able match factory sequential read/write performance on either capacity point when the drive is 75% full. Keep in mind that factory sequential speeds are measured at QD32, we are running this test at QD4.

Sequential Write

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The performance curve looks really good when writing sequential data in burst mode. The 1TB model manages to outperform Samsung's mighty 960 Pro 2TB. The 512GB model does the same to Samsung's 960 EVO 1TB. Challenging Samsung's finest right out of the gate is indeed impressive.

Sequential Read

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Sequential read performance ramps up slowly. Not as slowly as the Intel 750, but slower than we would like to see. However, as you will see this is one of the few faults we can find with the M9Pe.

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0

Anvil's Storage Utilities is a storage benchmark designed to measure the storage performance of SSDs. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test or just the read or write test, or you can run a single test, i.e., 4k QD16. When evaluating performance with Anvils, we focus on the total score. When evaluating NVMe SSDs, we are typically looking for a minimum total score of over 10K. We place a greater importance on read performance than write performance.

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Scoring

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In terms of total score, the M9Pe shreds everything except for the 960 Pro and EVO. Now when we dig a bit deeper and look at the all-important read score, both drives are outperforming the 960 EVO by a considerable margin.

(Anvil) Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale

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Random performance is much more important than sequential performance for a system disk. Low queue depth random performance is more important than high queue depth performance. With those two previous statements in mind, the results of this test are quite impressive. The M9Pe is beating the 960 Pro when reading buffered random data at low queue depths.

(Anvil) Write IOPS through Queue Scale

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Random write performance is middle of the road when data is on the drive. However, it is reaching elite status at QD16 and higher.

Synthetic Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark & AS SSD

CrystalDiskMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

CrystalDiskMark is disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy. Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at QD4. When evaluating CDM results, we focus on 4K random performance at QD1 and QD4.

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Focusing in on QD1 and QD4 we find the M9Pe smoking the 960 Pro. The 960 EVO manages to slightly edge out the M9Pe in this test, but it is important to note that the 960 EVO can only deliver this kind of low QD random read performance with this particular test. Look at that 512K performance; it is the best we've seen from any flash-based SSD to date.

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Random write performance at QD1 and QD4 is above average. We focus on random performance with this test, but we cannot ignore the sequential performance this time because the M9Pe 1TB sets a new lab record in this category.

AS SSD

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.8.5611.39791

AS SSD determines the performance of SSDs. The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. We evaluate AS SSD performance in terms of overall score. We are looking for a minimum score of 2,000 when evaluating NVMe SSDs.

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AS SSD is a demanding test, and the M9Pe delivers the goods very well. What our chart does not show is the M9Pe delivers much better random read performance at QD1 than Samsung's 960 series.

Benchmarks (OS) - Vantage, PCMark 7, PCMark 8 & SYSmark 2014 SE

Moderate Workload Model

We categorize these tests as indicative of a moderate workload environment.

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0.0

The reason we like PCMark Vantage is because the recorded traces are played back without system stops. What we see is the raw performance of the drive. This allows us to see a marked difference between scoring that other trace-based benchmarks do not exhibit. An example of a marked difference in scoring on the same drive would be empty vs. filled vs. steady state.

We run Vantage three ways. The first run is with the OS drive 75% full to simulate a lightly used OS volume filled with data to an amount we feel is common for most users. The second run is with the OS volume written into a "Steady State" utilizing SNIA's consumer guidelines. Steady-state testing simulates a drive's performance similar to that of a drive that been subjected to consumer workloads for extensive amounts of time. The third run is a Vantage HDD test with the test drive attached as an empty, lightly used secondary device.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used

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OS Volume 75% Full - Steady State

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Secondary Volume Empty - FOB

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There's a big difference between an empty drive, one that's 75% full/used, and one that's in a steady state.

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The important scores to pay attention to are "OS Volume Steady State" and "OS Volume 75% full." These two categories are most important because they are indicative of typical of consumer user states. When a drive is in a steady state, it means garbage collection is running at the same time it's reading/writing.

Focusing in on 75% full and steady-state performance, we see that the M9Pe takes a bit of a beating. The 1TB model does still manage to beat most of the SSDs in our test pool when running in a steady-state. This time Samsung's 960 Series delivers better performance.

PCMark 7 - System Storage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4.0

We will look to Raw System Storage scoring for evaluation because it's done without system stops and, therefore, allows us to see significant scoring differences between drives. When evaluating NVMe SSDs, we are looking for a minimum score of 11,000.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used

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Samsung's 2TB 960 Pro has always owned this test. Not anymore. Now it shares ownership with the 1TB M9Pe. The advantage here for the 960 Pro comes down to a better NVMe driver. Pretty compelling evidence that it would be nice if Plextor developed their own NVMe driver like Samsung has.

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The above benchmark was run with an alternative NVMe driver. Look at our MOP (Maxed-Out-Performance) page for more benchmarks using an alternative NVMe driver.

PCMark 8

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.4.304

We use PCMark 8 Storage benchmark to test the performance of SSDs, HDDs, and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, and a selection of popular games. You can test the system drive or any other recognized storage device, including local external drives. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices. We focus on the total score first and then storage bandwidth when evaluating PCMark 8 results.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used

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PCMark 8 is the most intensive moderate workload simulation we run. With respect to moderate consumer type workloads, this test is what we consider the best indicator of a drive's performance. When it comes to scoring, the 1TB M9Pe is tied for second place with the RD400. In terms of storage bandwidth, the RD400 has the edge. However, once again the bandwidth advantage that the RD400 has over the M9Pe is due to OCZ's dedicated NVMe driver. With an alternate NVMe driver, the M9Pe easily beats the RD400 as shown on our MOP page. Once again, Plextor's M9Pe proves itself to be a more powerful SSD than the 960 EVO.

BAPCo SYSmark 2014 SE Application Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.0.70

SYSmark 2014 SE is considered the gold standard for testing system performance because it is an application based benchmark. This test gives us the ultimate in real-world results because it utilizes actual applications running on the system, instead of playing back recorded traces. If you want to know what kind of impact a particular SSD will have on your system's overall performance; this test will show you.

Our systems are much more powerful than the calibration system (1000-point baseline) used by BAPCo, so we ran an OCZ TL100 120GB SATA III SSD to establish a comparison point relative to our test systems. We will be running this test going forward, and we will add drives to our chart as we test them.

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This benchmark was run on our Z370 system.

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We also ran the 1TB on our Z270 system for this one particular test, because all of the drives in our test pool were run on it. For SYSmark scores to be comparable, they must be run on the same system. The 512GB M9Pe easily beats the drives in our test pool, with the exception of the 960 Pro. However, if we were to run the M9Pe 512GB with an alternate NVMe driver, the outcome might be a win for Plextor. We consider the Samsung PM961 to be the equivalent of the 960 EVO when run with the Samsung NVMe driver, so even though we don't have the 960 EVO on our chart, we are more than confident that the M9Pe does outperform the 960 EVO.

Benchmarks (Secondary) - IOPS, Response & Transfer Rate

Iometer - Maximum IOPS

Version and / or Patch Used: Iometer 2014

We use Iometer to measure high queue depth performance. (No Partition)

Max IOPS Read

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Max IOPS Write

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We test NVMe SSDs using eight threads at QD32, or QD256. We do this because we want to see what the drive can generate at its maximum attainable queue depth. We are falling just short of factory specs with the 1TB model, and are exceeding factory specs with the 512GB model.

Iometer - Disk Response

Version and / or Patch Used: Iometer 2014

We use Iometer to measure disk response times. Disk response times are measured at an industry accepted standard of 4K QD1 for both write and read. Each test runs twice for 30 seconds consecutively, with a 5-second ramp-up before each test. We partition the drive/array as a secondary device for this testing.

Avg. Write Response

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Avg. Read Response

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The results of this testing indicate that we are bypassing the drives NitroCache when reading random data, and what we are seeing is the native performance of the drives TLC flash array. Nevertheless, the M9Pe is delivering excellent results.

DiskBench - Transfer Rate

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.6.2.0

We use DiskBench to time a 28.6GB block (9,882 files in 1,247 folders) composed primarily of incompressible sequential and random data as it's transferred from our Toshiba RD400 1TB NVME SSD to our test drive. We then read from a 6GB zip file that's part of our 28.6GB data block to determine the test drive's read transfer rate. Our system is restarted prior to the read test to clear any cached data, ensuring an accurate test result.

Write Transfer Rate

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Read Transfer Rate

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We recently upgraded our test system to Windows 10 build 14393. With that upgrade, write transfer rates almost doubled. The reason for this, as far as we know, is that CPU power switching modes have been relaxed on the latest version of Windows 10. We included the NVMe drives we've tested to date on this build of Windows 10. If you needed a good reason to upgrade to a newer version of Windows 10; this is a good reason.

As expected, we are seeing very good read transfer results and decent write transfer results. In fact, the 512GB model is delivering the second best read results for any SSD we've tested to date. Better channeling is the reason why the 1TB model delivers superior write transfer performance than the 512GB model.

Benchmarks – 70/30 Mixed Workload & Sustained Sequential Write

70/30 Mixed Workload Test (Sledgehammer)

Version and / or Patch Used: Iometer 2014

Heavy Workload Model

This test hammers a drive so hard we've dubbed it "Sledgehammer." Our 70/30 Mixed Workload test is designed to simulate a heavy-duty enthusiast/workstation steady-state environment. We feel that a mix of 70% read/30% write, full random 4K transfers best represents this type of user environment. Our test allows us to see the drive enter into and reach a steady state as the test progresses.

Phase one of the test preconditions the drive for 1 hour with 128K sequential writes at QD32. Phase two of the test runs a 70% read/30% write at QD32, full random 4K transfer workload on the drive for 1 hour. We log and chart (phase two) IOPS data at 5-second intervals for 1 hour (720 data points). 60 data points = 5 minutes.

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What we like about this test is that it reflects reality. Everything lines up, as it should. Consumer drives don't outperform Enterprise-Class SSDs that were designed for enterprise workloads. Consumer drives based on old technology are not outperforming modern Performance-Class SSDs, etc.

We were expecting to see wild variability coming from a TLC flash array, but the Eldora controller keeps things nice and tight. The M9Pe would probably benefit from some OP when running heavy sustained workloads. However, sustained heavy workloads of this nature are very rare in the consumer space.

Sustained Sequential Write

Version and / or Patch Used: Iometer 2014

Heavy Workload Model

We write to the drive for 1 hour with 128K sequential writes at QD32. We log and chart megabytes per second data at 5-second intervals for 1 hour (720 data points). 60 data points = 5 minutes.

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Like our transfer test, this test unmasks the sequential write performance of TLC flash arrays. The 512GB M9Pe sustains writes at 548 MB/s, the 1TB model 945 MB/s. This is the native sequential write performance of BiCS 3 as evidenced by the exact same rate coming from Toshiba's BiCS 3 equipped XG5.

Maxed-Out Performance (MOP)

Maxed-Out Performance

This testing is just to see what the drive is capable of in an FOB (Fresh Out of Box) state under optimal conditions. We are utilizing empty volumes of Windows 10 and Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit for this testing.

Windows 10 MOP

Plextor M9PeGN 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD

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Windows Server 2008 R2 MOP

Plextor M9PeGN 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD

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Windows 10 MOP

Plextor M9PeY 1TB AIC PCIe NVMe SSD

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Windows Server 2008 R2 MOP

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Plextor M9Pe 512GB & 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD Review 97 | TweakTown.com

Windows 10 MOP with Alternative NVMe Driver

Plextor M9PeY 1TB AIC PCIe NVMe SSD

Plextor M9Pe 512GB & 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD Review 111 | TweakTown.com
Plextor M9Pe 512GB & 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD Review 112 | TweakTown.com
Plextor M9Pe 512GB & 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD Review 113 | TweakTown.com
Plextor M9Pe 512GB & 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD Review 115 | TweakTown.com

Final Thoughts

Plextor M9Pe 512GB & 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD Review 98 | TweakTown.com

Plextor hit this one out of the park. The design of the M9PeY is absolutely stunning; it is literally a work of RGB art. More importantly, the M9Pe gives us something we've wanted to see for years, a challenge to Samsung's supremacy for the fastest flash-based SSD. So, is it the fastest? Not quite, but it in our opinion, the 1TB model is the second fastest flash-based SSD for consumer use on the market. It is very close to the 960 Pro, even beating it in certain scenarios. The M9Pe is considerably faster than the 960 EVO at 512GB and 1TB, and likely at 256GB as well.

We are most impressed by the M9Pe's 4K QD1 read performance. We knew it would be good, but not this good. Looking back at our Anvil, CDM, and AS SSD testing, we are seeing a new level of 4K QD1 random read performance when the data is being accelerated by PlexNitro. It is true that the 960EVO can beat the M9Pe ever so slightly when reading buffered data, but that is only when running CDM.

The Marvell "Eldora" controller at the heart of the M9Pe definitely surprised us with its robust performance when paired with good flash. Up until now, we've only tested Eldora controlled SSDs with planar flash arrays, so we didn't know what Marvell's NVMe controller was truly capable of delivering. The M9Pe showed us that Toshiba BiCS 3 is a force to be reckoned with when paired with a great controller and firmware.

The only real complaint we have with Plextor NVMe SSDs is the lack of a proprietary NVMe driver. The native Windows NVMe driver just cannot deliver the random performance of Samsung's or Intel's NVMe driver. We aren't sure why Plextor and others do not offer a similar proprietary NVMe driver because it seems like it would be easy for a company as big as LITEON. As we demonstrated, the M9Pe runs significantly better with a non-native Windows NVMe driver.

In terms of overall performance when running moderate workloads, you can expect the M9Pe to deliver moderate workload performance that is better than Samsung's popular 960 EVO and almost as good as the 960 Pro. As you can imagine, the user experience delivered by an SSD this fast is incredible. The M9Pe boots as fast or faster than any flash-based SSD we've tested to date, multitasks with ease, and never lags no matter what you throw at it. Definitely a true Tier-1 SSD experience.

With these things in mind, Plextor's M9Pe is TweakTown recommended and Editors Choice awarded.

Pros:

  • Overall Performance
  • Sleek Design
  • Available RGB

Cons:

  • No SSD Management Tool Box
TweakTown award
Performance97%
Quality98%
Features95%
Value95%
Overall96%

The Bottom Line: Fast as hell, and RGB too.

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

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Jon became a computer enthusiast when Windows XP launched. He was into water cooling and benching ATI video cards with modded drivers. Jon has been building computers for others for more than 10 years. Jon became a storage enthusiast the day he first booted an Intel X25-M G1 80GB SSD. Look for Jon to bring consumer SSD reviews into the spotlight.

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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