YOU SAY AN SSD with a 6Gb/s SATA 3.0 interface just isn’t fast enough? Speed freak. I kid: Faster is always better when it comes to storage, and until loads are instantaneous, you will never hear “It’s fast enough” escape my lips. That’s why I poached the Plextor M6e SSD to kick around on my home PC, that is.
The M6e isn’t a traditional hardwired NAND-on-a-card PCIe solid-state drive that requires a driver, and it isn’t a SATA SSD mounted on a PCIe card, like the Apricorn Velocity Solo X2 we reviewed a while back. It’s a 3-inch-long M.2 SSD mounted on a PCIe 2.0 x2 adapter card. M.2 is an NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor) socket that supports storage via either SATA 3.0 or PCIe 3.0. Theoretically you could get speeds of 1 gigabyte per second (500 megabytes per second per lane) out of this arrangement. You won’t actually see such results, because SSDs aren’t that fast, but you will get better performance than what a SATA 3.0 device can deliver.
The M6e uses a dual-core Marvell 88SS9183 controller and has 512MB of DRAM cache on board. Neither seemed to hamper the M6e’s performance. We installed it in one of the PCIe 3.0 xl6 slots on the Asus Z87 Expert motherboard in the rig we use for all our storage testing.
When we ran the M6e through its paces, it turned in superior numbers, posting speeds of 667 MBps reading oursingle lOGB file and 509 MBps reading our 10GB mix of files and folders. (In our tests, we have the files read from a superfast RAM drive to eliminate any bottlenecks.)
Those test results are 170 MBps and 100 MBps faster, respectively, than the speeds of any SATA SSD we’ve tested.
It was also very fast when writing our single large file, with a speed of 521 MBps but that’s only about 10 MBps faster than the closest SATA SSDs. Reading our mix of small files and folders at 470 MBps, in contrast, left the M6e in seventh place among ail SSDs we’ve evaluated. So in the end the M6e offers superlative read speeds and merely excellent write speeds—boo hoo.
The boost in performance does cost you a bit extra. The 128GB version of the M6e costs $180, the 256GB version we tested costs $300, and the 512GB version is $550, although Plextor says that you can expect to see discounts from online sellers. The premium price is warranted given the performance: There’s a marked difference between the M6e and a fast SATA SSD. The performance delta between top-shelf SATA SSDs is neglible.
If you want a really fast, relatively affordable SSD, the Plextor M6e is it. Kudos to the company for getting there first. If you really want to go nuts, buy two and put them in a RAID 0 setup. Now that would be fast.