Plextor MP5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SSD Review

The Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SSD is designed and optimized for users with demanding workloads. The Marvell Monet 9187 controller in tandem with the 19nm Toshiba Toggle Mode NAND provides outstanding specifications. We test the M5 Pro Xtreme with other flagship SSDs.

Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme 256GB SSD Basics

Plextor has announced the latest high performance SSD in its arsenal, the Plextor M5 Pro Extreme. This SSD has the prosumer and enthusiast in mind, boasting impressive specifications with sequential read speeds rated at 540MB/s and sequential write speeds of 460MB/s. Throwing in 100,000 random read IOPS and 86,000 random write IOPS for the 256GB capacity version that we are testing today places this among the fastest consumer SSDs available. These massive specifications are delivered by the third generation Marvell ‘Monet’ 88SS9187 controller with 19nm MLC Synchronous Toshiba Toggle NAND.

This SSD is an enhanced version of the original Plextor M5 Pro which we have previously evaluated, with the most significant difference stemming from the NAND employed. The previous version of the M5 Pro was powered by 19nm Toshiba Toggle NAND that utilizes 8K pages, where the new Xtreme version uses 19nm Toggle with 16K page sizes. The only other difference between the two SSDs is the number of NAND packages, the Xtreme version sports 16 packages compared to the 8 of the original. The controller, DDR3 DRAM cache, and even the firmware is essentially unchanged.

Our original review of the M5 Pro was with the standard firmware, but Plextor took the unusual step of offering the new Xtreme firmware retroactively, allowing users of the original M5 Pro to upgrade their firmware to the same version running on the new Xtreme model. Providing existing customers with a performance upgrade is great customer service, as many SSDs manufacturers will simply issue a new SKU in similar cases.

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Plextor has a long history in CD-ROM and DVD players, among other forms of optical storage mediums, since 1989. As we witness the gradual withdrawal from optical storage Plextor is looking to extend the company into the flash-based storage market. Plextor has already made vast strides into this area by becoming one of the world’s leading producers of SSDs.

Many aren't aware of Plextor's extensive SSD manufacturing experience; Plextor also assemble SSDs for many other companies. This experience in product manufacture and validation has helped Plextor to maintain a good reputation for reliable SSDs, and we will cover its testing and validation process on the coming page.

As we have demonstrated in the past, insane IOPS and massive sequential throughput do not always equate to performance that will directly affect the user experience in typical scenarios. These measurements are typically taken when the SSD is brand new, but the reality is that SSD performance degrades over time, and this level of performance will not be present after even a few weeks of casual usage. As the device settles into its real level of performance, or 'steady state,' the performance can be markedly different from the IOPS on the box.

Plextor bandies about the fresh performance specifications, but also focuses on sustained performance over an extended period of time. This is reflected in Plextor’s True Speed technology. This technology is integrated into the firmware, and revolves around advanced algorithms that keep the SSD at a relatively high level of performance in relation to the typical loss of speed in steady state conditions.

Utilizing Marvell processors allows Plextor to leverage the experience of its firmware teams to provide enhanced functionality via its exclusive firmware. This provides an SSD that can handle heavy workloads and is geared for the most demanding scenarios, so let's take a look to see how Plextor's performance claims stack up.