Anyone who's been around PCs for a length of time remembers when Plextor had a reputation for building top-shelf optical drives. For the most part, they were fast performing and reliable, and of course more expensive than your average bargain-bin burner. Plextor still sells optical drives, but like everyone else, the company also dabbles in solid state drives. The company's newest SSD product is the M3 Series with "True Speed" technology and a comparatively lengthy 5-year warranty.
Plextor's new M3S Series of solid state drives rely on server-grade controllers from Marvell and 24nm NAND flash memory from Toshiba to do the heavy lifting, but when it comes to finessing file transfers, Plextor gives equal credit to its own exclusive firmware with True Speed technology and proprietary Bad Block Management, Global Wear Leveling, and Instant Restore technologies. All of these fancy terms combine to "prevent drastic drops in read/write speeds that normally occur with SSDs after prolonged use or when data becomes heavily fragmented," Plextor says.
Remember Plextor? The name isn't thrown around as often as it once was, but Plextor's still out there, and cocky as ever. Take the new M2P Series solid state drive (SSD). Plextor says it's capable of sequential read and write speeds of up to 500MB/s and 440MB/s, respectively, which "clearly makes the M2P the fastest SSD currently available." Come again?
We’ve been recommending Plextor’s B940SA 12x drive on our Best of the Best list for more than a year now, so we were delighted to receive a challenger that could shake things up—even if it was another Plextor drive. Hey, why not build on that good track record?
Our excitement waned, however, when the drive we received—Plextor’s PX-LB950SA—bore the exact same specs as its predecessor.
Plextor shared all the right connections with its sleek and sexy PX-LB950UE Blu-ray burner to be a player in the optical game. This external BD writer boasts 12x recording (BD-R), a low vibration system to prevent screwing up pricey BD media, an 8MB buffer, LightScribe support, and both SuperSpeed USB 3.0 and eSATA hookups.
If the automotive world progressed as fast as the computer industry, the old joke goes, we‘d all have $1,000 cars that get 400 miles to the gallon, never need maintenance, and crash catastrophic-ally every eight weeks for no reason. Ancient punch lines aside, comparing this year’s storage options to those of even half a decade ago would be like entering a Bugatti Type 35 in the Preakness Stakes.
We’ll say this for the Plextor M2 Series SSD: It’s a huge step up from Plextor’s last SSD. The M1S Series SSD we tested in our June 2010 roundup used Marvell’s “Da-Vinci” 88SS8014-BHP2 controller, which suffered from instability and slow writes. We gave that drive a 5 verdict. To our great relief, the M2 series SSD instead uses Marvell’s newer 6Gb/s SATA controller, the 88SS9174-BLD2—marking the third appearance of a Marvell 9174 controller in this roundup.
Plextor has come out with a new solid state drive line the company says is "currently one of fastest SSDs available in the market." A bold claim, one that's backed up by marrying the new M2 series SSDs with a Marvell 88SS9174 controller. By doing so, the M2 series supports the SATA 6Gb/s interface and offers up read (up to 480MB/s) and write (up to 330MB/s) speeds that mechanical hard drives can only dream about. Shoot, even most high end SSDs don't approach those theoretical numbers, but the M2 brings more to the table than just high transfer speeds.
We’re not mad. We’re just disappointed. When Plextor announced in February that it, too, was entering the SSD market, we were cautiously optimistic. After all, more competition is always a good thing, and Plextor wouldn’t put out a subpar product just to try to capitalize on a trend—would it?
The Plextor PX-128M1S is the first drive we’ve tested that is built on the Marvell 88SS8014-BHP2 “Da Vinci” controller—and if its performance is indicative of the platform as a whole, we hope it’s the last.
Once Blu-ray burners reached 8x writes, enabling them to fill a 25GB disc with data in less than 15 minutes, speed stopped being a major argument against the technology—now it’s just price and consumer need that stand in the way of widespread adoption. Still, for what it’s worth, Blu-ray write speeds continue to improve at a steady pace, and now, a mere six months after reviewing our first 8x drive, we’ve been presented with Plextor’s 12x B940SA.
But, you’ll probably wonder, what good is a 12x drive when today’s BD-R media has a maximum rating of 6x? As is the case with DVD and Blu-ray drives alike, hardware is often tuned to exceed the media’s spec, but typically such tuning is tied to a particular brand of media. Plextor’s B940SA, for example, reaches peak speed when writing to Sony and Panasonic BD discs.
Thus, we were able to write 22.56GB of data to a Sony BD-R single-layer disc in 10:57 (min:sec), a 36 percent improvement over our 8x champ, Pioneer’s BDR-2203 (reviewed September 2009), which took 14:56 at the task. When writing to a Panasonic BD-R double-layer disc, we achieved an unprecedented time of 22:05—that’s for a 50GB disc, folks!