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!
Following the 'better late than never' motto, Plextor today announced it will try its hand in the SSD market with a pair of high performance offerings, the PX-64M1S and PX-128M1S.
"We're excited to leverage Plextor's expertise in optical storage and enter the SSD market as it continues to grow," said Esteban Kim, Director of New Business Development at PLDS. "PCMark, SYSmark, and HD Benchmark industry utility tests scored Plextor SSDs high and we're proud to have the new lineup available to our customers."
With the recent spate of SSDs boasting read and write speeds well above 200MB/s, Plextor may be stretching things a bit in classifying these as "high performance." The 64GB PX-64M1S comes rated at up to 110MB/s sequential reads and 65MB/s in sequential writes, while the 128GB PX-128M1S sports 120MBs and 70MB/s read and write speeds, respectively.
Both drives are available now for $225 (64GB) and $400 (128GB).
Blu-ray has yet to prove itself as a sensible storage medium—there are just too many less-costly solutions for backing up data. But just because you’re satisfied with a standard DVD drive for your burning chores, doesn’t mean you should be denied the enjoyment of watching Blu-ray movies on your PC—especially now that large 1920x1080 monitors are so affordable.
Enter Plextor’s PX-B320SA DVD burner/BD-ROM combo. We can’t say it offers the best of both worlds, but it strikes a nice balance. The drive’s DVD speeds aren’t up to the likes of, say, Samung’s SH-S223 performance DVD drive. For example, the Plextor is rated at 16x for DVD+R writes compared with the Samsung’s 22x. In our tests, that amounted to a 5:20 (min:sec) time to fill a single-layer disc vs. 4:46—not such a big deal. With double-layer media, the Plextor took 16:58 vs. the Samsung’s 13:16—yes, over time those minutes can add up.
For a long while, it seemed as though Plextor was content to fade from memory after ruling the optical market, that is until the company announced a bunch of optical drives last November and a spattering of releases since then. Plextor's back again, this time with a new internal 8X Blu-ray reader and DVD/CD writer combo, the PX-B320SA.
"We're pleased to be able to offer consumers a versatile, multi-feature drive that offers faster Blu-ray read speeds as well as a way to burn data to CD or DVD," said Christine Hsing, Marketing Manager at Plextor. "Additionally, having Cyberlink's BD Suite software included will make it easy for consumers to enhance existing DVD content using the same drive."
Tech specs include reading Blu-ray discs at 8X, DVD±R at 16X, DVD±R DL and DVD+RW at 8X, DVD-RW at 6X, and DVD-RAM at 12X. And in addition to CyberLink software, the drive also comes with Plextor's PlexUTILITIES app.
Plextor says the drive is available now for $179 MSRP.
Last month we reviewed our first 22x DVD burner, Samsung’s SH-S223; this month, Plextor presents us with a challenger in the form of the PX-850SA—a similarly spec’d drive that rises to the occasion in some respects, but falls short in others.
Like Samsung’s new burner, the PX-850SA boasts an industry-leading 22x speed rating for DVD+/-R media. It lacks, however, the Samsung’s over-speed feature, which helped that drive eke out a 4:46 (min:sec) Lab record when writing 4.38GB of data to a single-layer DVD+R disc. By comparison, the Plextor took 5:36, never breaching the 16x speed limit imposed by our Verbatim media.
The difference between the two drives’ performance with double-layer media was more expected. After all, Plextor’s PX-850SA is rated at just 8x when writing to DVD+/- DL, compared to the Samsung drive’s rating of 16x. In practical terms, this means Plextor’s drive took 16:33 to fill an 8GB disc versus the Samsung drive’s time of 13:13.
But the Plextor PX-850SA did have its triumphs. Read on for the rest of the review.
If you're new to the DIY scene, you might not even recognize the name Plextor, a company who carved out a following by offering best-in-class optical drives. But as prices for CD/DVD burners have hit rock bottom in recent years, the high end optical maker has, for the most part, slinked into the shadows. Now the company is making a comeback.
"Plextor continues to strengthen its position in the optical storage market with the addition of these new drives to its already robust line of products," said Bob Gronski, vice president of sales and marketing for Plextor. “Now more than ever, people are going out less and taking advantage of home entertainment more, so it’s a perfect time for us to introduce such an extensive line of products."
Plextor gets back into the optical game with several new drives covering a variety of connection options, including USB, SATA, and even PATA. Models include the PX-610U 8X Slim External USB Super Multi Drive, PX-B310SA (6X internal SATA), PX-B310Q (6x external USB), PX-850SA (22x internal SATA), and PX-850A (22x internal PATA).
Minus the Mac version of the PX-610U, each of the new drives ships with Plextor's PlexUTILITIES, which gives end users the ability to control specific drive functions, view drive information, and includes a utility to destroy data on CD and DVD media.