Plextor PX-128M1S 128GB SSD

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Product: Plextor PX-128M1S 128GB SSD
Provided By
: Plextor America
Price
: ~$379.99 Online at Publication

 

Introduction:

Solid State Drives are becoming more popular as the prices drop and there is more selection.  Today, there are over 50 companies making SSDs while there are only four major players in the traditional HDD market.  Unfortunately, many of these "different" drives from the wide variety of manufacturers are pretty much exactly the same.  There are only a handful of SSD drive controllers and companies are generally choosing from about four different ones.  Indilinx is a popular choice as well as the recent Sandforce controller.  Options from Intel, JMicron and Marvell are also plentiful.  Marvell makes several controllers and today we are looking at the Marvell-based Plextor PX-128M1S drive.  The actual controller is the 88SS8014-BHP2 "Da-Vinci" controller.  There really isn't a lot of information about this controller so let's jump into the review and see how the drives looks. 

Even though many SSDs are blistering fast, the Plextor PX-128M1S has a rated speed of 130MB/sec Read and 70MB/sec Write speed maximum so it certainly doesn't compare with Indilinx drives.  We'll have to find out where it fits in the grand scheme of things as we carry on through the review. 

Package Front
Package Front
Package Back
Package Back

 

After meeting with Plextor at CES, the lovely Ashley asked us if we'd be interested in taking a look at the line of Plextor SSDs as they became available.  We certainly agreed and this is the first look at the first Plextor SSD to ship in a retail box.  Currently, Plextor only ships a 64GB version as well as the 128GB version we have on our bench.


First Look:

Hard Drives don't usually come with a bundle and this is perhaps what sets the Plextor 128GB SSD apart from other drives.  Not only does it come in a very nice retail package as you can see above, it ships with a full version of Acronis True Image with isn't cheap software.  This software allows you to image, backup and migrate your existing Operating System installation to the new drive.  This is a nice bonus and may add some value to the bundle.

 In Package
In Package
Bundle
Bundle

 

One thing that pictures can't really display is how good the Plextor SSD looks.  Now I realize that beauty is only skin deep, but the product looks like it's been milled out of a solid piece of aluminum and while it's not quite as polished as a unibody Macbook, it still looks slick.

 SSD Profile
SSD Profile
SSD Label
SSD Label

 

 Connector Side
Connector Side
Machined Edge
Machined Edge

 

The overall finish of the drive is very professional and on the next page we'll take a look at the specs and see what it claims it can do.


Features:

The following information has been pulled from the Plextor product page and reposted here for your convenience.  For up to date information, make sure you check the Plextor website.

Leveraging Plextor’s years of expertise in optical storage products, Plextor is proud to expand its product category to the solid state drive.

The Plextor SSDs are designed to bring top performance and portability to your daily workflow. With Plextor’s wear Leveling Technology, the SSDs can maintain the performance and reliability over an extended period of usage. The SMART technology analyzes data error ensuring the accuracy of data every time you use the drives. PC Mark, SYSMark, & HD Benchmark industry utility tests gave high scores to Plextor SSDs which have proven to prevent data degradation overtime when compared with other SSDs.

The PX-128M1S is offered in a 2.5” small form factor that delivers a digital storage capacity of 128GB. It has a SATA II interface for better performance and versatility. It delivers 130MB/s sequential read, and 70MB/s in sequential write, and up to 4,300 random read IOPS and 1,800 random write IOPS. The PX-128MIS also offers low power consumption, high shock and vibration resistance among other benefits.

The PX-128M1S bundles Acronis® True Image provides users a full set of advanced features for backup and recovery needs. 

 

While the feature list looks pretty good for starters, there is more information to be found.

The Latest Technology

  • Innovative technology prevents degradation in performance and maintains original condition
  • Wear leveling technology maintains SSD reliability over period of usage
  • S.M.A.R.T (Self Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) for error analyzing and reporting
  • Designed with a commercial grade controller IC for professional use
  • 64MB on-board cache
  • Ultra low power consumption
  • Completed SATA compatibility test in “Drive Master”


Performance & Reliability

  • Sustain up to 50,000 power on-off cycles
  • MTBF 1.5M hours
  • Top scores received in PCMark & SYSMark & HD Tune Benchmark tests
  • High shock and vibration resistance

 

Specifications:

It looks pretty solid according to all of the above information.  Lastly we have the full list of specifications.

 

Specs

 

 

I was a little surprised to see that the read speed was rated at a mere 130MB/sec maximum throughput and the write speed is as low as 70MB/sec maximum.  Plextor claims a couple of redeeming features and benefits however.  They claim that with their wear leveling technology, the drive will retain the same performance whether it is "clean" or "dirty".  Only time will tell how this actually performs in the real world, but we have certainly seen other drive performance degrade considerably until we ran a restoration utility to restore the drive to a "clean" state.  According to Plextor and their choice of SSD controller, this won't ever be an issue.  It is also rated for use up to 75,000' so if you're an aspiring astronaut, this will help you get some height - but it's not rated to run in space.

On the next page we'll pull it apart and see what makes it tick before we make it tick in our tests.


 

Inside the Plextor 128GB SSD:

While it is probably as true in the world of technology as it is when it comes to people, "beauty is only skin deep" and "It's what's inside that counts."  To this end we rarely leave hardware alone and often void warranty by pulling devices apart to see what is inside and what makes them tick.  We treated the $400 Plextor just the same as another other piece of hardware and proceeded to pull it apart and discovered that the drive is not in fact milled from a solid block of aluminum but is cast, then finished to appear super high-end.  That being said, it doesn't matter in overall quality or ruggedness.  SSDs are tougher than regular mechanical drives and as long as the parts are protected it should be good to go.

Plextor SSD Apart
Plextor SSD Apart

 

Plextor has used all of the available space inside this SSD and crammed both sides of the PCB with Samsung K9HCG08U1M-PCB0 51nm NAND flash chips.  The drive is buffered by a 64MB Hynix HY5DU121622DTP DDR400 module that provides more than enough buffer for a drive of this speed.  The flash is controlled by the Marvel 88SS8014-BHP2 controller that remains fairly mysteries at this point.  There really isn't a lot of information on this controller, but we've seen it used in other drives that aren't super high performance.  It seems to be a reliable part and is found in "Strong Page" drives that have continuous performance, high-reliability - albeit, mediocre performance.

Marvell Controller Side
Marvell Controller Side
Hynix RAM Side
Hynix RAM Side

 

Before we head on over to the next page and begin testing, we have a close-up of the Marvell controller.

Marvell Da-Vinci Controller
Marvell Da-Vinci Controller

 

The Marvell controller goes by the codename "Da-Vinci".  I'm not sure why this is the case as it certainly doesn't have the talent to paint like the master, but it sounds impressive - much more refined that the Indilinx "Barefoot" controller.

 

SSD Testing Disclaimer:

Because of the wear-leveling algorithms used in SSDs, performance is actually pretty hard to nail down.  It is for this reason also that drive performance can vary so much from one review to the next.  Some sites go to extreme measures to show the maximum performance possible after they use utilities to restore the drive to pristine performance levels, but that isn't accurate in the real world.  We've tried to get a balance of the pristine and the dirty drive here at BCCHardware and have used this drive extensively in our test system with both Windows Vista 32-bit and Windows 7 RTM 32-bit.  We feel that our results are as reproducible as possible, and while no software can accurately measure SSD performance in a perfectly fair fashion, we've done our best to keep the results accurate as possible.  We've used synthetic benchmark tools such as HDTach, Everest, CrystalDisk Mark and others that are indicators of real-world performance.

Test System:


Intel Core i7
CPU
Motherboard
ASRock X58 Supercomputer
Memory
Graphics
2x Radeon HD 4870 512MB
Cooling
Hard Drives

Crucial M225128GB SSD - firmware 1571 (no TRIM)
Patriot Torqx 128GB SSD - firmware 1819

Plextor 128GB SSD - Original Firmware

Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
ATI Drivers
10.1 Catalyst

Performance - ATTO:

ATTO is not an indicator of real-world performance, but it shows how fast the drive can read and write data using different sized files.  We've included results from the 128GB Patriot Torqx as well as the Crucial M225 SSD - which happens to use the same controller, same NAND and same Elpida RAM.  The Plextor drive uses similar NAND, but a different controller and different buffer memory.

ATTO - Read Chart

 

 ATTO - Write Chart

The Patriot and Crucial drives are based off the same technology but the Plextor drive has a completely different setup.  The controller is different as is the buffer memory.  While the NAND flash remains fairly similar, the way it is accessed is completely different and you can see especially in the write tests that it lags significantly behind the other two drives.  Even in the read tests, the Plextor drive is much slower when all drives are in their "clean" state.  Plextor claims that no matter how "dirty" the NAND gets, it will retain the same speed.  If it slows down much more, a traditional Hard Drive will be able to best the performance.

All that being said, the drive exceeds what Plextor says it can do in terms of read speed.  The specs state that the drive has a maximum speed of 130MB/sec read and 70MB/sec write.  According to ATTO, the write speed falls short while the read speed is better than rated.


 

 

Performance - Crystal DiskMark 2.2:

As we get warmed up with the benchmarks we stop by and give Crystal DiskMark a run through the paces.  This is a very basic read and write test that is used to either confirm or deny the manufacturers rated speeds.  DiskMark uses sequential tests as well as 4KB and 512KB random tests to gauge how the drive will perform when reading and writing various file sizes.  The results were not too surprising based on what we saw with the ATTO test on the previous page - smaller file sizes = lower performance, and the Plextor fall short of the competition and its rated write speed, but exceeds its rated read speed once again.

Crystal Read Chart

 

 Crystal Write Chart

 

While the Plextor drive lags behind in write tests at all speeds, it shows a very strong performance at 512K write speeds and actually bests the faster drives from Patriot and Crucial.

 

Performance - HDTach:

While HDTach was great for testing out traditional hard drives, it lack the precision required to test SSDs properly.  We still included the results as they read speed is quite interesting, but as you can see below the burst speed is not at all accurate.  In this test we compare all three 128GB SSDs we've looked at recently.

HDTach Chart

HDTach shows the same overall results as the other benchmarks at this point.  The slower spec'd Plextor drive is indeed slower.


 

Performance - HDTune:

HD Tune Pro is a relatively new benchmark for us here at BCCHardware as we don't typically do a lot of storage reviews.  This benchmark now allows random read and write tests to be performed, and the results are displayed on a very handy chart.  HDTune tests 512 byte, 4KB, 64KB, 1MB and Random sizes of data over the disk.  The results displayed below show total operations per second as well as average access time and average speed.  This is quite informative as it shows how the drive responds to different sizes of data - not only in transfer rate, but also in operations/sec, access time and more.

HDTune Read Performance
HDTune Read Performance
HDTune Write Performance
HDTune Write Performance

 

HDTune shows that the drive is quite capable at reaching its rated read speed, but once again the rated write speed falls short.  Also, 512 byte and 4K writes are very slow.  Once it gets above that, the performance picks up, but small files are not a strong point on this drive.

 

Performance - IOMeter:

Our last benchmark today for the Plextor SSD is IOMeter and this benchmark goes a long way to test out the Input/Output subsystem.  This benchmark is used to measure the performance of the drive under a very controlled set of circumstances.  The output is in total I/O per sec, average I/O response, maximum I/O response and MB/sec output.

IOMeter Chart

While the Plextor can't keep up in terms of Total I/O per second or Total MB/sec, it has very good response times as a redeeming feature.

 

Final Thoughts:

Plextor has been well known over the years for the high-quality optical drives.  They've also ventured into video capture and storage over the years, but the PX-128M1S is their first SSD.  While they once again focus on quality and drive integrity without performance degradation, I can't help but think they should have used a higher performance controller to keep up with the competition.  It may not be fair to compare the Plextor drive with other companies products that focus on "clean" speed more than reliability, but the truth is that people want the fastest product for the lowest price.

So how do we accurately and fairly score the Plextor PX-128M1S?  Can we fairly compare it and rate it when based on other drive technology?  I think we have to ultimately score the performance based on what Plextor claims it is capable of, and perhaps value in a broader sense of what other drives are available and how they perform.  One thing Plextor does is add Acronis True Image (~$50 value) to the mix and that helps improve its overall value.  That being said, I still believe that there are better choices if you are all about blistering fast SSDs.

 

Pros:

  • Well designed/finished drive
  • 64MB cache keeps response time low. 
  • Drive performs consistently if NAND is "clean" or "dirty"
  • Exceeds rated read performance
  • Acronis True Image is handy for system migration

 

Cons:

  • Priced same as a high-performance drive
  • 3 year warranty seems weak compared to other 5 year & 10 year warranties
  • Doesn't reach rated write speed in any tests

 

BCCRating

 

I'd like to thank Plextor for sending over this SSD for us to review.  I just can't help but feel that with other drives supporting TRIM and other "Garbage Collection" options, the performance of SSDs continues to remain the same in the long term and in order to compete, this drive needs better performance.

Please post your comments and questions in the forum at the "Comments" link below.