Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB PX-256M5Pro SATA3 2.5" SSD Review

The introduction ...

We recently reviewed one of the fast Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSD, but we wanted it faster again.
Said and done, because today we test two of these fast Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSDs.
We build a hardware RAID0 striping with two of these SSDs and compare their performance with a software RAID 0, with one single Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSD and with two Crucial m4 SSDs in RAID 0.
Let us continue to see, how fast two Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSDs are in RAID 0.

 

 

 

Thanks for the support ...

Many thanks for the support with both Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB 2.5" SSD by the manufacturer Plextor.

The Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SATA3 2.5" SSD PX-256M5Pro has at present a price of approx. 199 Euro (05/2013).

The Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme SSD series contains the following models:
- Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 128GB PX-128M5Pro
- Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB PX-256M5Pro
- Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 512GB PX-512M5Pro
Whereby the writing performance of this Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme SSD series alters depending on the capacity.
A higher capacity of this Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme SSD has a higher write performance.
The read performance is specified for all three SSDs with 540 MB/s, the write performance is according to Plextor for the M5 Pro 128 GB SSD 330 MB/s, the M5 Pro 256 GB SSD has 460 MB/s and the M5 Pro 512 GB SSD is specified with 470 MB/s.

Here you can order the Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme SSD.

 

 

The supply of the two Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SATA3 SSDs ...

Both Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme SSD are supplied in this cardboard box:

 

 

That is contained in the delivery ...

A first look into the small box shows that Plextor puts much emphasis on a high-quality content.
The two Plextor PX-256M5P M5 Pro Xtreme 2.5" SSD are delivered together with a 3.5" mounting frame, screws, installation guide and the warranty conditions.
Also included is a serial number for "NTI SSD Solution Suite For Plextor".
The NTI SSD Solution Suite includes the "Backup Now EZ" backup software and the "Echo Cloning" software, which is very useful especially for the upgrade from a HDD to SSD.

 

The following image shows the top of the two 2.5" Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSD solid state drives:

 

On the flipside you can see the label of the Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme SSD with some technical data and the pre-installed firmware version.
You can also see the SATA3 connectorss for data and power on the left side.
These connectors are identical to conventional SATA3 hard disks and these SATA3 SSDs can also operate with a slower speed at an SATA2 interface:

 

Here you can see eight out of a total of sixteen 19nm NAND modules of the SATA3 SSD with a total of 256 GB capacity, the 512MB cache module and the new Marwell 88SS9187-BLD2 controller IC.
The SSD also provides a built-in 256-bit AES encryption:

 

On the back of the circuit board, you can see the remaining eight NAND modules:

 

Another feature is the low construction height that is only 7 mm when compared to some other SSDs:

 

Here you can see again the Plextor SSD on the supplied 3,5-inch mounting frame:

 

The technical data ...

Manufacturer Plextor
Article number PX-256M5Pro
Capacity 256GB
Interface SATA3 6GB/s
Cache 512MB
Controller Marvell
Flash Type MLC - Multi-Level-Cell
Size 2.5" (100 x 69.85 x 7mm)
Weight approx. 70 gramm
Speed Read up to 540 MB/s / Write up to 460 MB/s
Seek Time < 0.1ms
Power Consumption 0.25 Watt
MTBF 2.4 million hours MTBF
Other SMART support global wear leveling, garbage collection, instant restore technology, TRIM, bad block management algorithm, NCQ, 256-bit AES encryption encryption, backup software

 

Here is a screenshot of Snipping the CrystalDiskInfo 4.3.0 SSD and HDD information software, where it is noticeable, that Plextor does not spend this SSD a temperature sensor:

 

 

SSD firmware update ...

Before starting the tests, we've separately updated both Plextor SSDs to the latest firmware version.
The SSD was delivered with firmware 1.02 and at the review date, Plextor offered the firmware version 1.03.
Of course a test with the previous version was made as well, but it was not as fast and not so safe like the current one.
The update of the Plextor firmware is relatively simple:
Download the latest firmware from Plextor, burn the px-256m5pro_1.03.iso ISO file to a CD or transfer it with a suitable software to a USB stick, boot with this CD-ROM or USB thumb drive and confirm the SSD firmware update.

 

 

RAID setup ...

The RAID installation is essentially quite simple:
- first attach both SSD drives at a RAID capable controller e.g. on the motherboard.
- then enable the RAID controller in the BIOS or by a Jumper (pay attention to additional references in the manual) and change the SATA controller in the BIOS from IDE or AHCI to RAID.
- at the next start enter now the RAID BIOS with the explained key combination (ASRock e.g. CTRL+F).
- there activate and define the desired RAID assignment.

There are some different RAID configurations and here are two simple RAID arrays:
RAID1 mirror drives, in order to operate two or more drives at the expense of the size as much fail safe as possible reduntant.
RAID0 stripe drives, in order to operate two or more drives at the expense of the data loss possibility with higher performance, thus without redundancy.

Since we want to reach a higher SSD speed, we create a RAID 0 striping.
After the previously review with a stripe block size of 64KB vs. 128KB, we've decided to define a stripe block size of 64KB.
Gigabyte Boundary remains to ON, Fast Init remains to ON and Cache Mode to WriteThru.

 

 

Hardware RAID 0 setup ...

Here you can see a screenshot of the RAID BIOS ROM, where both 256GB SSD drives with RAID0 are striped as one logical 512GB SSD drive to achieve a higher performance:

 

Now it's necessary to save and confirm the RAID again with CTRL + Y.
After that you can see the RAID 0 array already in the RAID BIOS:

 

After creating the RAID array we restart the PC and see the new logical drive with the given LD name, in our case ocinside.
In Windows, we can partition and format the RAID array now as an usual drive.

 

 

Software RAID 0 setup ...

By the way, you can also create a software RAID over the operating system by striping both drives as a RAID in Windows 7 disk management.
A software RAID 1, or JBOD can be already created with Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium and the software RAID 0 with Microsoft Windows 7 Professional or Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate.
For our tests, we have Windows 7 Ultimate, so the software RAID0 could be set up easily:

 

 

Benchmark values and test results ...

Let us continue with the benchmark results.
SATA3 drives are currently tested with an ASRock 890GX Extreme3 motherboard.
At present, Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition is used as the operating system.

The SSD drive speed was examined and compared with the following benchmark software:

AS SSD Benchmark 1.4.3704.27281 - Download
ATTO Disk Benchmark v2.46 - Download
CrystalDiskMark 3.00 - Download
HD Tach 3.040 - Download
SiSoftware Sandra 2011 - Download

 

AS SSD benchmark result ...

The AS-SSD benchmark values offers a very good reference point of the maximal possible reading and writing performance, the speed with smaller files and the respective access time.

1x SSD achieved at the SATA3 controller in RAID mode like in the IDE mode even with correct alignment a significantly slower performance than in AHCI mode.
We already published comparative tests of the SSD in IDE mode and in RAID mode and in AHCI mode in previous reviews.
Now it is about how fast 1x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB vs 2x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB are in hardware RAID and compare these results among others with 2x Crucial m4 128 GB in RAID.
In addition, we test a 2x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSDs as software RAID.

In RAID 0 you can see particulary the strong increasement of the sequential transfer rates:

1x Plextor M5 Pro 256GB SSD AHCI reached a read value of 511,21 MB/s and a write value of 436,73 MB/s.

2x Plextor M5 Pro 256GB SSDs reached as hardware RAID 0 a sequential read value of 745,48 MB/s and the highest write value of 604,19 MB/s.

Who now believes that a software RAID with latest processors nowadays is still slower than a chipset hardware RAID, can recognize the opposite in the AS SSD software RAID benchmarks:

2x Plextor M5 Pro 256GB SSDs reached a gigantic high read value of 910,19 MB/s and 818,68 MB/s write value as software RAID 0.
However these high values attend a faulty alignment and the missing TRIM support, which will result in decreasing transfer rates.
So we test the SSD in a software RAID only out of competition and do not include the results in the official SSD benchmark chart.
Nevertheless there are impressive transfer rates, which can be achieved usually only with a "real" hardware RAID controller.

2x Crucial m4 128 GB SSDs reached compared to the hardware RAID 0 a read value of 748,22 MB/s and a write value of 377,24 MB/s.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (1x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (2x Plextor M5 Pro 256GB at SATA3 RAID as RAID0 64KB):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (2x Crucial m4 128GB at SATA3 RAID Controller as RAID0 64KB):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD benchmark results (2x Plextor M5 Pro 256GB at SATA3 AHCI as Software RAID0 64KB):

 

Regarding the total score, the Plextor M5 Pro 256GB reached in AS-SSD at SATA3 AHCI 708 points, which is a clearly above the result of the two Plextor M5 Pro 256GB combined in RAID 0 with 558 points.

It may confuse one or the other, why the RAID array has achieved only the lowest total score with such high transfer rates.
This is due to the very high weighting of the "4K 64Thrd" values in the AS-SSD Benchmark tool.
4K means that small 4K blocks are read and/or written and with the 4K 64Thrd this is distributed on 64 Threads at the same time.
Thus the benchmark program simulate for example a typical program start.
And exactly where the problem is for a SSD RAID 0, which can be achieve significantly higher transfer rates, but the everyday Windows performance of SSD remains on track.

How big the difference is, becomes even clearer in the iops value comparison where the data input and output performance of 51486 drops to 14695 and thus delays the fast file access, even with the increased 16MB from 31,95 iops to 46,59 iops.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD iops benchmark results (1x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the AS SSD iops benchmark results (2x Plextor M5 Pro 256GB at SATA3 RAID as RAID0 64KB):

 

The comparison of the AS SSD benchmark results is extended with each new HDD/SSD test.
Here you can see already some SSDs in comparison to both Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB 2.5" SSDs, whereby the SSD benchmark chart is updated continuously with new SSDs.
The top of the AS SSD total score is led by the Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSD, where the RAID 0 has a clearly lower overall result, because of the lower 4K values.

Here is a comparison of the AS SSD benchmark values, which are getting updated with soon coming drives:

 

ATTO Disk benchmark result ...

The ATTO disk benchmark values gives a very good overview about the write and read rate on different file sizes.
These values are maximum ratings, which are different to the previously continuous transfer rate benchmarks, since this benchmark may even reach a higher overall performance with slower SSDs.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the ATTO Disk benchmark values (1x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the ATTO Disk benchmark values (2x Plextor M5 Pro 256GB SATA3 RAID as RAID0 64KB):

 

The Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSD (green) already reached a good read speed at about 16 KB transfer size and the highest transmission values of up to 536870 KB/s at about 128 KB transfer size.
The write speed (red) achieved high values at a transfer size of approx. 32 KB and the highest transfer rate up to 448460 KB/s at a transfer size of about 256 KB.
With 2x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSDs in RAID 0 the values are significantly higher.
In our case, a read speed (green) of up to 823660 KB/s and a write speed (red) up to 643730 KB/s can be achieved.

The ATTO disk benchmark values are compared with a small transfer size of 32KB and a large transfer size of 8192KB.
The bar chart already includes a comparison to some SSDs and HDDs, where the Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme cannot reach the top.

Here is a comparison of the ATTO disk benchmark values, which are getting updated with soon coming drives:

 

CrystalDiskMark result

With CrystalDiskMark one receives a balanced measurement of the performance with different transfer sizes.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the CrystalDiskMark values (1x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the CrystalDiskMark values (2x Plextor M5 Pro 256GB at SATA3 RAID as RAID0 64KB):

 

The following diagram shows the CrystalDiskMark results once again compared with other SSDs and platter drives, which are extended step by step.
In the CrystalDiskMark comparison one can see significant differences between the to-date tested Solid State Drives and Hard Disk Drives.

As seen in the previous 4K-64Threads results, the read 4K QD32 value is nearly one third slower.
But the sequential read and write result of both Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme SSDs is much higher when operating as RAID0.

Here is a comparison of the CrystalDiskMark values, which are getting updated with soon coming drives:

 

HD Tach result

With HD Tach one can measure the gradient of the performance, but the SSD transfer is not comparable with a conventional HDD.
New logical NAND cell access of the SSD controller results like some other equal designed SSDs in strong varying values with the latest HD Tach Version 3.0.4.0 version, which is written for hard disk drives.
HD Tach measured with the two Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSDs in RAID0 varying read and write rates and extremely low access times of approx. 0.1ms.
To compare these results you can move the mouse over the following drives to see their respective benchmark results:
2x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB 2,5" SSD an SATA3 RAID0, Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB 2,5" SSD at SATA3 AHCI, ADATA S511 120GB SSD at SATA3 AHCI, ADATA S511 120GB SSD at SATA3 AHCI, 2x Crucial m4 128GB 2,5" SSD at SATA3 RAID, Crucial m4 128GB 2,5" SSD at SATA3 AHCI, Crucial m4 128GB 2,5" SSD at SATA3, Crucial m4 256GB 2,5" SSD FW 000F at SATA3 AHCI, Crucial m4 256GB 2,5" SSD FW 0309 at SATA3 AHCI, Crucial m4 256GB 2,5" SSD FW 0002 at SATA3 AHCI, Crucial m4 256GB SSD FW 0309 at SATA3 IDE, Crucial m4 256GB 2,5" SSD FW 0002 at SATA3, Crucial M500 480GB 2,5" SSD at SATA3 AHCI, Crucial C300 64GB 1,8" SSD at SATA3, Crucial RealSSD 256GB 2,5" SSD at SATA3, Crucial RealSSD 256GB 2,5" SSD at SATA2, Hitachi 7K1000.C 1TB HDD, MX-DS Fusion 60GB SSD SATA3 IDE, MX-DS Fusion 60GB SSD SATA3 IDE, MX-DS Turbo 120GB SSD at SATA3 AHCI, OCZ Agility 128GB SSD, Samsung Series470 128GB SSD AHCI, Samsung Series470 128GB SSD Legacy IDE, Seagate Constellation.2 1TB 2,5" HDD at SATA3, Toshiba MK8007GAH 1.8" hard disk drive.

Here is a Snipping screenhot of the HD Tach benchmark values:

 

The comparison of HD tach benchmark results shows the fast read speed, write speed and the low average access time of the two Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SSDs as RAID0 array.

Here is an impressive comparison of the HD Tach benchmark values, which are getting updated with soon coming drives:

 

SiSoftware Sandra benchmark result

Of course, SiSoftware Sandra benchmark should not be missing in this test series.
SiSoftware offers with their SiSoft Sandra program a very comprehensive tool, which contains a lot of tools to get very reliable test results of all hardware components.

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark read values (1x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark read values (2x Plextor M5 Pro 256GB as RAID0 64KB):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark write values (1x Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SATA3 AHCI):

 

Here is a Snipping screenshot of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark write values (2x Plextor M5 Pro 256GB as RAID0 64KB):

 

Here is a comparison of the SiSoftware Sandra benchmark values, which are getting updated with soon coming drives:

 

 

Result and general impression ...

The two Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 2.5" 256 GB SATA3 SSDs achieved very high sequential read and write transfer rates at slower 4K values.

The two Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB MLC Solid State Drives with Marvell Controller were tested as RAID array and compared to one single Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB in AHCI, whereby the RAID0 array showed clear advantages regarding the transfer rates.
But similar to the controller in IDE mode, the 4k and 4k-64Thrd results decreased rapidly.
And of course the risk of loosing the data by a possible mailfunction of one of both SSDs in RAID0 is twice as high.
Nowadays, by the way some chipsets support the TRIM command (e.g. Intel Z77 RST since version 11.x), but so far not yet in the "software" RAID.
This means, a software RAID 0 represents at the time of the test the worst choice for SSDs, so the hardware RAID in the BIOS should be selected to build the RAID0 striping.

The boot time took with activated RAID BIOS approx. 20-30 seconds longer than without RAID BIOS.
The Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate boot procedure from start screen to login screen took approx. 8 seconds.
So the complete Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate boot time including motherboard BIOS and RAID BIOS took approx. 38 seconds.

All-in-all achieved the RAID 0 array with the two Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSDs higher sequential transfer rates than with one single Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSD in the AHCI mode.
So, who wants to achieve a maximum read / write throughput for example for photo or video editing or who prefers one large SSD drive, which would be available in size not or only very expensive on the market, can build this much cheaper with two or more Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSDs in hardware RAID0.
Nevertheless remain even with TRIM and GC support in RAID0 still the slower 4K values and twice the chance of failures, which is why a regular backup of the data on a RAID 0 array is strongly recommended.
Conveniently Plextor delivers a cloning- and backup software with their M5 Pro Xtreme 256 GB SSDs.

 

Discuss in our forum and exchange experiences ...

Here you can buy the Plextor SSD ...

Read on in the hardware test area with several hardware reviews ...

Up

All pictures and article copyright 2013 www.ocinside.de