Plextor is one of those OEMs who have quietly been making their way into the SSD market. They don't have an aggressive marketing engine like for example OCZ does. Their drives are not featured on NewEgg's front page or advertised on most technology sites. If you have read our Plextor M3 review, you might remember that I had not even heard of Plextor before they contacted me. Older users may remember the name Plextor from times when optical drives were relevant, but for years Plextor was out of the spotlight because optical drive performance stopped being relevant for the majority of people and Plextor didn't really have any other products. In 2010, Plextor's ship took a new destination and that was the SSD market.

SSD prices have been dropping significantly over the last couple of years. Especially in the last few months, there have been lots of discounts. For example, the 128GB Vertex 4 had suggested retail price of $179 when it was released in April. Right now it's selling for $120 at NewEgg. That's 33% reduction in price in less than four months. Even more extreme example would be Crucial's m4. When it was originally released in April 2011, the 512GB version had a suggested retail price of $1000. Currently the exactly same drive retails for $400 at NewEgg, and there have been sales bringing the price down as low as ~$350.

The drop in prices has also increased consumer interest in SSDs. You no longer need to spend half of your entire PC budget on an SSD large enough to hold more than just your OS. With more buyers looking for SSDs, there is room for more manufacturers as well. SandForce's licensing strategy has allowed pretty much any hardware company to enter the SSD market, the most recent entrant being MSI. While SandForce SSDs are good in performance and are usually competitively priced, they are all more or less the same (Intel's custom firmware enabled SF drives being the exception). In the end, there are very few SSD OEMs that have truly unique SSDs. Unique in this context means that you at least have your own firmware. Intel, Samsung, Micron/Crucial, OCZ, Toshiba, SanDisk and of course Plextor are probably the most known manufacturers with their own firmware and even controller in some cases. These OEMs also happen to be the largest in the channel SSD market, which is no coincidence. 

While Plextor is still far away from gaining Intel or OCZ status in the SSD world, they are on the right path. We were very pleased with Plextor's M3 and M3 Pro when we reviewed them. Performance was great and both drives were backed by a 5-year warranty (more on reliability in a bit). The only real complaint we had was about pricing, which was not necessarily enough competitive to keep up with the constant price drops. Of course, there were sales that brought the M3's price down to the level of other SSDs, but in most cases you still had to pay premium if you wanted a Plextor SSD.

The M5S that we'll be looking at today is all about cutting costs while still providing the same performance and (hopefully) reliability that the M3 and M3 Pro provided. Without further delay, lets start off with a specification table:

Plextor M5S Specifications
Model PX-64M5S PX-128M5S PX-256M5S
Raw NAND Capacity 64GiB 128GiB 256GiB
Usable Capacity 59.6GiB 119.2GiB 238.5GiB
Number of NAND Packages 8 16 16
Number of Die per Package 1 1 2
NAND Micron 25nm synchronous MLC NAND
Controller Marvell 88SS9174-BLD2
Cache 128MB DDR3 256MB DDR3 512MB DDR3
Sequential Read 520MB/s 520MB/s 520MB/s
Sequential Write 90MB/s 200MB/s 390MB/s
4K Random Read 61K IOPS 71K IOPS 73K IOPS
4K Random Write 25K IOPS 51K IOPS 70K IOPS
Warranty 3 years
MSRP $100 $160 $300

The 128GB and 256GB models are nearly identical to the M3 in terms of performance. There are some minor changes but the only notable one is a 30MB/s increase in sequential write speed for the 256GB model. The 64GB model, on the other hand, has gone through some serious performance reshuffling: sequential write has dropped from 175MB/s to 90MB/s and 4K random write from 40K IOPS to 25K IOPS. 

Comparison of NAND Interfaces
  ONFi Toggle-Mode
Manufacturers IMFT (Intel, Micron, Spectec), Hynix Toshiba/SanDisk, Samsung
Version 1.0 2.0 2.x 3.0 1.0 2.0
Max Bandwidth 50MB/s 133MB/s 200MB/s 400MB/s 166MB/s 400MB/s

Plextor couldn't tell us why they switched NAND suppliers for the M5S but I believe it has to do with price and supply. Remember that the M5S is all about cutting costs. Often times compromises have to be made in order to cut costs sufficiently. In this case, the 64GB model has compromised performance while the bigger capacities continue to run at roughly the same speeds.

A Word on Reliability
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  • StevoLincolnite - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Another reason regarding Newegg reviews is, will all happy users post a review? Disgruntled customers are highly likely going to do so.
  • themossie - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    There's a strong selection bias, but this bias should be similar for all SSDs. If you compare the percentage of (dis)satisfied reviews, it's a useful way to compare different SSDs - as long as you don't take the numbers too seriously on their own.

    The Plextor M3 256GB and 128GB SSDs rate 88% and 90% five eggs respectively, which is exceptionally high. Compare this with the OCZ Vertex 3 120GB (one of the most popular and highest ranking Sandforce drives) at 35% one and two egg reviews and 62% five eggs.

    I won't speak for the statistical significance of any of this (especially with the <100 review sample size for the Plextors) but it looks like very few people regretted buying a Plextor, something I like to hear about any product :-)
  • Zak - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    I've just ordered 128GB and 256GB M3Pros, so I was a little upset when I saw this review of M5 but then it looks like other than higher price and 30MB/s increase I didn't miss much. But I wonder how fast the M5Pro will be.

    BTW, I don't believe that the current SSDs are significantly more reliable than hard drives (which is a bummer) so the 5 years warranty was the deciding factor for me. Plus, I was always a fan of Plextor products. Two of my older OCZ SSDs died in their second year, after the warranty was over. So I'm more mindful of warranties when buying stuff these days. The recent trend in lowering hard drive warranties is regrettable.
  • karasaj - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Statistically speaking, anything above thirty is actually considered "relevant, fairly reliable information"

    Granted, that might not be entirely true due to the insane selection bias, but since that's also present on all drives it might not matter.
  • Zak - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    "I checked NewEgg reviews for Plextor's M3 and M3 Pro and only 4.2% of the reviews (189 user reviews in total) were one or two eggs, which usually indicates a serious problem with the drive." -- or serious problem with the reviewer. For example I've see people giving SSDs poor reviews because they didn't run at the advertised speeds over 500MB/s on their SATA 3.0Gbps interfaces, etc.
  • justaviking - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    And then there are people who get the ratings backwards.

    How many times have you read a glowing review ("I love my new drive!!!") but it has a rating of 1? Either they thought "1" meant excellent, as in "first place," or they forgot to enter a rating when they did their review.

    I've seen that on more than one site. Maybe the online retailers should use "3" as their default value.
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    "or serious problem with the reviewer"

    I first thought you meant me and was like why the attitude. Took me a while to figure out you mean NewEgg reviewers, not me - or at least that's the way I hope it is :-)

    I definitely agree with you though.
  • TrackSmart - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    I strongly disagree that Newegg reviews "mean squat". For items with similar buyers and *hundreds* of reviews, it quickly becomes clear when there is an unacceptably high failure rate for an SSD. Check out OCZ's Petrol series of SSDs for instance: Or the Vertex 2:

    Certainly, a bad review (1 - 2 eggs) does not equal failure in a 1:1 relationship, but you can bet that the correlation will be high. And highly statistically significant if there are enough reviews, even with self-selection bias.

    Would you really buy one of those OCZ Petrol drives to save $20, despite the preponderance of bad reviews? 72% are 1-2 eggs! That's a correlation.
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    I agree with Kristian on this.

    Personally, I sometimes take newegg reviews more seriously on products like these. Simply, because Anandtech reviews are controlled, and limited by the amount of items they are given.

    However, you also have to be able to ascertain the given reviewers ( on newegg ) understanding of technology. Which thankfully is not too hard. You just need to read. Often, you will find that reviewer have very little understanding of what they are buying, if negative reviews are given. Passed that, ignoring the rating system of a given review, and understanding the product your self is a must,

    Sometimes, you will find that a negative review has merit. Then all you have to figure out. Is if the problem is something you can live with or not. Simple.
  • Nickel020 - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Thank you very much for reviewing the drive. I only skimmed over the review (will read later), but I noticed that the prices in the table on the last page are completely different than what you get when you click on the links.

    It would also be nice if you were to include European prices as well, I think is a very good indicator of what drives actually sell for in Europe.

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