I just love it when stuff gets smaller and faster. I think in 2008 the first SSD we tested already showed so much promise. Now in 2013 prices have gone down, performance quadrupled and volume sizes have risen. As such it is nice to see and test mSATA SSDs. Right now there isn't a big market for them really though. Most mobile solutions already have some soft of SSD partition and very few motherboards come standard with mSATA. The one exception will be Z87 motherboards being released next month. The high-end SKUs will definitely show mSATA connectors. You just pop these in and you are good to go, I love them.
When we tested the Plextor M5 Pro is was exceptional in it's overall IO. The M5M really isnt that much different. Sure write and specifically IOPS write performance is a bit slower, but this product comes with a very refined firmware. And that did show in a couple of read tests alright as its amongst the fastest read performance SSDs we have seen. That is testimony towards the latest Marvell 88SS9187 controller versus the new Toshiba Toggle NAND memory. Plextor has a very fast mSATA based SSD in their hands. Where the SSD really shines are the trace tests and realistically I personally always focus on the trace tests as it's the best test for your real world experience.
Overall SSD usage
An SSD is enjoyable, very much so. If you put a drive like this into your SATA 3 compatible laptop or SATA 3 compatible PC, you'll have no idea what is about to hit you. We very much enjoy the grand sustained performance of this SSD series, so you you copy a fast amount of compressed data, then the Plextor M5 Pro will perform very fast in performance. Make no mistake, replacing an HDD with an SSD in your desktop PC or laptop eliminates the random access lag of the HDD head, it is no longer mechanical. That combined with the performance SATA3 offers these days is simply a massive difference and probably the best upgrade you can make for your computer anno 2012.
Some overall recommendations then. I know this is mSATA but should you be in the market for a SATA 3 SSD then we have a couple of hints though. First and foremost if you have a SATA2 controller only on your motherboard, then you'll get limited at roughly 270 MB/sec read and writes. SATA3 (6Gbps) will free you up from that allowing the SSD to perform in the 500 MB/sec range. It however is important that you connect your SSD towards the proper controller. We absolutely prefer the performance of the Intel Series 6 and 7 (H67/P67/Z68/Z77/H77/X79) integrated SATA 6G controller over anything else available in the market. If you run the SSD from a 3rd party controller with say a Marvell 6G controller, you will see lower performance. The new AMD 85X chipsets also offer fantastic performance. The more recent Asmedia controllers we spotted lately on motherboards are also offering good performance, albeit still 20%~25% slower then Intel's controllers. Also make sure you run your drive in AHCI mode, it does make such a difference in performance -- really guys, a big difference.
Prices HDD versus SSD
First a generic rule that I always apply; you probably should stop looking at the Solid State Disk technology as if it were a traditional HDD. We all will be old and grey before the two reach the same prices or top the multiple TB volume storage the HDD offers for less money. Comparing an SSD with an HDD is making a comparison in-between an integrated IGP or a dedicated graphics card, that last one will cost you a heck of a lot more yet you gain incredible overall performance. It is the very same with an SSD, use it as boot drive on Windows and applications and you instantly have removed a huge bottleneck, namely load and access times. It is a difference in-between night and day (in a proper system). For massive storage like movies, MP3 files and bulky data you do not access on a regular basis, sure that's where the HDD remains the winner as a cheaper storage solution. Guru3D's rule of thumb; the magic simply is finding a good combination in-between the two and balance things out. Use a nice 240GB SSD for your operating system and applications, and park these movies and MP3 files onto a separate TB HDD. That's where the magic happens. I kid you not, all my test systems and work systems run on SSDs, not once have I considered going back to HDDs. The benefits of a good SSD are simply grand. But that doesn't mean I do not understand the budget and cost dilemma that many of you are facing though.
The Plextor M5M mSATA based SSD is a shockingly good SSD with excellent performance and reliability. The overall write performance is merely a hint slower compared to its big brother and we stated this many times, you'd never ever even notice the write difference as a split second write remains a split second write. The overall read performance is good, the trace tests shine and the sustained reads are exceptional. If IOPS matter to you for say database utilization then again this is a segment where the Plextor M5M is very feisty.
Pricing then, the most trivial factor, especially if the new technology doesn't offer any significant improvement.
PX-128M5M, 128 GB, 105 EURO
PX-256M5M, 256 GB, 190 EURO
Pricing is a little higher due to the fact these units are using more expensive high-density 64GB NAND modules. I also would like to say that Plextor offers a really nice warranty, you get 5 years of it. Now we know that mSATA on 98% of all PCs is a no-go, but this is gonna change with the X87 PC motherboards, specifically the high-end SKUs will get these. If not, but you do have laptop of some sort with mSATA, that's where a product like this could make sense. For all others we obviously recommend regular 2.5" sized SSDs. But with form factors getting smaller real fast, these mSATA units might be the future and performance wise, they are as good as a regular enthusiast-class SSD. Very nice, very fast, very much so recommended.
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