Plextor first entered the PCIe SSD market in 2014 with the M6e, based on Marvell's 88SS9183 controller supporting PCIe 2.0 x2 but not NVMe. In 2015 they followed it up with the M6e Black Edition that simply provided an adapter card and heatsink for an unchanged M.2 module. They also announced then delayed and eventually cancelled the M7e, which was to use the Marvell 88SS9283 to support PCIe 2.0 x4 connectivity. This year, the M8Pe finally brings a true high-end NVMe SSD to Plextor's product line.

The M8Pe series is available in three different variants, all based on the same M.2 module. The M8PeGN is the simple bare M.2 2280 card. The M8PeG adds a heatspreader that covers the top and sides of the M.2 module. This heatspreader should help alleviate the thermal throttling that all PCIe M.2 SSDs suffer from during sustained heavy benchmarking, but the added thickness will prevent it from fitting in some laptops. Finally, the M8PeY is a half-height half-length PCIe x4 add-in card adapter to house the M.2 SSD under a hefty slab of metal acting as a heatsink, and red LED accent lighting is included along the top edge of the card and under the Plextor Logo on the heatsink.

Plextor M8PeG with heatspreader

The Plextor M8Pe series shares its hardware platform with parent company Lite-On's CX2 client SSD for the OEM market. The controller is Marvell's 88SS1093 PCIe 3.0 NVMe controller codenamed "Eldora", with 8 NAND channels and support for NVMe 1.1 and LDPC error correction. The controller is a triple core design fabricated on a 28nm process. The 88SS1093 was one of the first PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD controllers available on the open market, and it was quickly adopted for entry-level enterprise PCIe SSDs by companies like Seagate and Micron. The Plextor M8Pe is the first consumer SSD to ship with this controller. As usual, Plextor/Lite-On wrote their own firmware for use with the Marvell controller instead of adopting a reference implementation.

Gallery: Plextor M8Pe

The M8Pe uses Toshiba 15nm MLC NAND flash to provide drive capacities from 128GB to 1TB. Performance specifications are not as high as Samsung's latest generation of NVMe SSDs based on their Polaris controller, but are similar to the earlier Samsung 950 Pro and to Toshiba's OCZ RD400. The Plextor M8Pe has a five year warranty and endurance ratings that are only slightly below that of the Samsung 960 Pro.

Plextor M8Pe Series Specifications Comparison
  128 GB 256 GB 512 GB 1 TB
Form Factor M8PeY:  Half height half length PCIe add-in card (HHHL)
M8PeG: M.2 2280 with heatspreader
M8PeGN: M.2 2280 without heatspreader
Controller Marvell 88SS1093
Interface NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4
DRAM 512MB LPDDR3 1024MB LPDDR3
NAND Toshiba 15nm MLC
Sequential Read 1600 MB/s 2000 MB/s 2300 MB/s 2500 MB/s
Sequential Write 500 MB/s 900 MB/s 1300 MB/s 1400 MB/s
4KB Random Read (QD32) 120k IOPS 210k IOPS 260k IOPS 280k IOPS
4KB Random Write (QD32) 130k IOPS 230k IOPS 250k IOPS 240k IOPS
Endurance 192 TBW 384 TBW 768 TBW
Warranty 5 years
Price (M.2 only) $84.95 (66¢/GB) $163.16 (64¢/GB) $249.99 (49¢/GB) $516.57 (51¢/GB)

This review will primarily focus on comparing the Plextor M8Pe to other MLC-based PCIe SSDs, especially the similarly-priced Toshiba OCZ RD400 and Samsung 960 EVO. Our review sample is a 512GB M8PeY (add-in card with heatsink), so the drive has been tested both under the heatsink and as the M8PeGN in our usual plain M.2 adapter that offers no extra cooling.

Cooler drives tend to be a bit more power efficient, especially when they can avoid thermal throttling that would otherwise cripple their performance scores. However, the M8PeY's PCIe x4 to M.2 adapter wastes some power by drawing from the 12V supply and converting down to 3.3V, and spends even more on the flashing lights (about 0.5 W total). Thus, the M8PeY exhibits higher power consumption and worse efficiency on almost every test and only comes out ahead where thermal throttling most severely impairs the M8PeGN. The power efficiency comparisons in this review will focus on the M.2-only M8PeGN configuration that most laptop users would require.

Unlike Toshiba/OCZ, Samsung and Intel, Plextor has not provided a custom NVMe driver. The M8Pe has been tested with Microsoft's NVMe driver provided in Windows 8.1. As explained in our initial review of the Samsung 960 Pro, this driver has some peculiar behavior with regards to write caching performed by the SSD. The Windows default settings for NVMe drives are not comparable to the default settings for SATA SSDs or the default behavior of third-party NVMe drivers. This difference is most apparent when using benchmarking software that takes measures to ensure that it is testing the speed of the disk instead of the speed of the filesystem's cache in RAM, and the difference in behavior is seldom encountered by ordinary desktop applications. In order to provide a fair comparison against SATA SSDs and manufacturer-supplied NVMe drivers, our benchmarks of the M8Pe were run with write cache buffer flushing disabled. This is the setting that most closely approximates the behavior of other drivers.

AnandTech 2015 SSD Test System
CPU Intel Core i7-4770K running at 3.5GHz
(Turbo & EIST enabled, C-states disabled)
Motherboard ASUS Z97 Pro (BIOS 2701)
Chipset Intel Z97
Memory Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866 2x8GB (9-10-9-27 2T)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4600
Desktop Resolution 1920 x 1200
OS Windows 8.1 x64
Performance Consistency
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  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - link

    Considering your ADATA is quite small at just 1 GB, these will be a noticeable upgrade. Starting from a 1 TB drive, though, will likely not be noticeable (unless you're running significantly I/O limited workloads). Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - link

    Assuming you meant 1TB rather than 1 GB. Can the majority of humans tell the difference? I can't speak to what the majority can tell but I can state my personal experience. My main system drive is currently a 250 GB 850 EVO. I've also had an opportunity to (though briefly) to use a system with a 950 Pro in it. For anything that I personally do, no, I could not tell the difference. Of course I don't do anything particularly storage intensive either. I'm most concerned with boot up time and how fast programs open, etc.

    To me, given pricing as it exists today, there are only really three drives mentioned that I would even think about. Assuming you need an m.2 form factor (which I currently don't so will stick with my 850 EVO) 960 Pro if you want the best performance available, 960 EVO if you want great upscale performance at a reasonable price, and the Intel 600 P if you don't need great performance but do need the M.2 form factor. But if the prices change it may well be possible to just buy the cheapest in the particular performance class you want.
    Reply
  • sinPiEqualsZero - Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - link

    Thanks to both of you. I did mean 1 TB, my bad. I have one of the DAN cases and will be building it out in Jan/Feb, that's why I asked. Looks like I'm sticking with SATA unless prices come down. Mayyyyybe the 960 EVO. Reply
  • Bruce427 - Friday, December 16, 2016 - link

    ** [get] the Intel 600 P if you don't need great performance but do need the M.2 form factor. **

    Currently, the MyDigital BPX NVMe drives will significantly outperform the 600Ps, and for less money.

    They also use MLC flash and have a full 5 year warranty.

    I have several 950 Pros. I recently bought/installed a 240GB BPX for benchmarking/testing and at $107.85 (what I paid) it's a great little drive.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Sunday, December 18, 2016 - link

    MyDigital doesn't have European retailers it seems? At least nothing but one listing in Germany for a BP4. :/ Reply
  • ddriver - Saturday, December 17, 2016 - link

    No, 99% of the use cases won't show tangible improvement. SATA SSDs are already fast enough to eliminate storage as a bottleneck. You may have TB\sec and it will still not make a difference if the bottleneck is somewhere else. Reply
  • peterfares - Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - link

    Why is there a power connector on top? Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - link

    I think it's just an alternate power delivery path for situations where the PCIe slot doesn't provide enough. I didn't bother using it, since I was measuring power consumption through the PCIe slot. Reply
  • XabanakFanatik - Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - link

    When are you going to redo new drives like the 960 Pro/Evo and RD400 with the angelbird wings PX1 so we can see how and if oerformance improves with a heatsink?

    Last year AT had redone benches from the 950 pro this way.
    Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - link

    At the moment, I'm more concerned with putting together an updated test suite for 2017. Once that's ready and everything's been re-tested, I'll go back and test the 960s with a heatsink. It'll probably be February, and probably won't be worth an article of its own.

    We already have the RD400A results in Bench, and the one thermal pad behind the controller that it uses was enough to eliminate thermal throttling (with one possible exception).
    Reply

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