Plextor M6M 128GB mSATA Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


A few months ago I took a look at a drive that has managed to slingshot Plextor right back into the enthusiast market with a drive that took the limitations of the SATA III interface and threw it out of the window, using the supreme bandwidth of a PCIe interface to allow it to stretch its legs out and give us some proper next generation performance. Now if you’ve not guessed which drive I’m on about here, I’m referring their M6e PCIe SSD – which uses the latest M.2 NGFF interface to deliver levels of performance that may have dreamed of for quite some time.

Whilst the M6e is a great product to behold, it is not for everybody. Firstly we have to look at the cost and with a 512GB drive fetching over £500 / $800, it is a heavy investment to made and secondly its compatibility list is somewhat limited, knocking many mATX builds and portable systems out of the question. Fortunately though Plextor were not naive enough to force users on to the M.2 platform to enjoy the performance that is on offer from the components of the M6e. Alongside the next generation drive, Plextor have brought two more drive to market that follow are more traditional approach to storage, using the most commonly used interface, SATA, and its compact alternative mSATA. Whilst both the mSATA and SATA drives are not able to offer the break neck speeds that can be achieved through a native M.2 or PCIe interface, they still play home to the same controller and NAND packages, just with a lower headlining above them.

The drive we’ve got to play around with today come in the mSATA form factor and with the M6M product name (the second M representing mSATA) we can easily point out its association with the highly popular M6e. Built around the same Marvell 88SS9188 controller and custom firmware, the M6M comes in capacities ranging from 64GB right up to 512GB, all within the same 50.8 x 29.8 container, allowing them to fit into virtually any device that houses a mSATA port. Offering sequential read and write speeds of up to 520MB/s and 440MB/s with IOPs ratings of up to 94K read and 80K write, the M6M is by no means a basic solution for mSATA devices – it is a workhorse that delivers just as much of a punch as its bigger brothers which are part of the SATA and M.2 groups.

Where most drives come in a sleek box with a colourful presentation on the front, the M6M uses packaging the like it’s from a value RAM production line. The only indication of which drive is enclosed is found on a single sticker attached to the front of the pack. At the bottom of the sticker we do get a short list of performance ratings so we at least know what type of performance we should be expecting once plugged in.

Latest Plextor Memory Products at Computex 2014

Next up on our tour of Computex 2014 we’re taking some time out to have a look at Plextor’s storage products to hit the consumer market. As we know from our look at the SSD market over the last few months, there has been a massive revelation in the performance of solid state storage with the new M.2 or NGFF (Next Gen Form Factor) drives that have the capacity to push past the limitations of traditional SATA based drives.

The first drive that we come across is one that we’ve already had a closer look at. Built to run on a PCIe interface the M6e is on of only a few PCIe drives that are available on the consumer market, delivering speeds that are far greater than that of any SATA interface and not requiring any more than a basic amount of knowledge to get them up and running.

Although the M6e, as we saw it in our review, is mainly built on to a PCIe platform, the drive itself is actually a separate component with the card itself simply acting as an interface adaptor. As the latest breed of Z97 motherboards rolls out across the land, users are able to take hold of the M.2 generation of drives, building systems that perform better and faster than before.

In a display cabinet to the side of the running samples shows each of the capacities that the drive is available in as well at the performance figures in both a PCIe format and a native M.2 format.

Further along from the M6e variant of Plextor’s M.2 drives we find three pure M.2 drives on offer, the key difference between each of them being the length and thus the maximum capacity that each drive can hold.

Moving along from the M.2 drives and over to native SATA, the M6Pro, bar a lower set of read and write speeds, is inherently the same drive. Using the same controller and NAND packages, the M6Pro comes in capacities ranging from  128GB right up to 1TB, but what is particularly interesting with these drives is the addition of Plextor’s own PlexTurbo technology. Acting in a similar fashion to that of Intel’s Smart Response, PlexTurbo uses the host systems memory along with the NAND in the drive to create a drive cache that loads at the start of each system boot, giving a stronger level of performance that a standard SSD. The M6Pro is dubbed for release later this year and we’ll be sure to check this drive out when it arrives.

The last drive that we find on display comes in an mSATA format. Known as the M6M, the mSATA drive come in capacities starting at 64GB and rising up to 512GB whilst offering read and write speeds that are as strong as the full fat M6Pro. To show that the M6M is just as strong as the Pro, Plextor have taken two drives and put them together in a dual-mSATA to SATA adaptor and set them up in RAID0 – ideal for blistering gaming performance in a compact system where an M6e is not an option.