REPORT ANALYSIS AND FINAL THOUGHTS
Lopping 2.5mm off the z-height of the M3 Standard’s chassis has made the drive compatible with a wider range of ultrathin laptops. It also ratchets up the visual appeal of the drive a notch. Good looks are appreciated, but it’s the firmware that truly sets this drive apart from the M3S. The firmware upgrade bestowed upon the Pro has given it some truly impressive performance gains over an already impressive M3.
Both the Pro and Standard Plextor M3 SSDs carry a rarely seen 5 year warranty. This is certainly one of those stats that can and does sway consumers when making purchasing decisions. Plextor would prefer to have their offerings thought of as enterprise SSDs given respect to their components, and so they tout their enterprise-grade Marvell controller and premium Japanese NAND flash memory (though it’s actually made in Taiwan). While few servers are probably going to get equipped with M3 Pros, the enterprise grade ethos is good to see. The Japanese company is also happy to point out that they spend 20 hours burning in and testing every SSD they make. As a result, Plextor claims their SSDs have an annualized failure rate of only 0.5%.
When shopping for a new 6gbps SSD, potential buyers are confronted with a vast array of offerings. At the moment, there just aren’t that many controllers on the market. It generally boils down to three different choices: SandForce, Marvell, and Samsung. Since you will only find Samsung controllers in Samsung drives, the rest of the market is composed of only SandForce and Marvell.
It might seem like a prospective SSD buyer would face a scarcity of choice, but it’s actually the opposite. Every controller, NAND, and firmware combination creates a relatively unique offering and performance profile. Plextor was first to market with Toshiba’s new 24nm Toggle flash, and it’s certainly the only Marvell controlled drive using it. Of course, Plextor’s new firmware seems to have wrung every last bit of performance available with that particular combination of controller and flash. But is this the last new product to use the veteran ‘9174? The next Marvell controller, the 88SS9184 is already shipping.
In the end, shoppers will have to pay a premium to get the M3P over the M3S. For enthusiasts seeking the fastest gear available, that premium will most likely be worth it. At this moment, the M3 256GB can be found for as little as $340 while the M3P 256GB is as low as $374. That’s a bit on the steep side, but storage fanatics looking for something both fast and a little unique would do well to check out the M3 Pro.