Plextor PX-256M2S SSD – Preview

Test machine

For this review I will be using a computer with the
following configuration:

Hardware:

  • Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe (Intel P67 chipset)
  • Processor: Intel 2nd generation Core i7 2600K
  • RAM: 4GB GEIL Ultra Line DDR3 2133MHz (dual channel)
  • GFX: Sapphire Vapor X HD 5770 (1024 Megabytes GDDR5 HDCP compliant)
  • Sound: Onboard Realtek ALC889 HD audio controller
  • Hard disk OS: OCZ RevoDrive X2 240GB PCIe
    SSD, and Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB
  • Hard disk storage: 1X 500GB Samsung Spinpoint F3, and 1X 1TB
    Samsung Spinpoint F1.
  • Case: Antec 900
  • PSU: Enermax Liberty 620W
  • Display: Samsung Syncmaster 245B 24” widescreen LCD (HDCP
    compliant)
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit with Service Pack 1

 

The Plextor PX-256M2S SSD was connected to SATA 6Gbps (port 0)
on the P67 motherboard of our review PC and all tests on the drive were carried
out with the drive connected to this connector.

AHCI mode was also selected for all drives in the UEFI of
our test PC with “hot plugging” enabled, and all tests were carried out in this
mode.

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Plextor PX-256M2S SSD - Preview

The SATA 6Gbps drivers used on our review PC were the Intel
Rapid Storage Technology (RST) Version 10.1.0.1008.


Test applications

To test the performance of the Plextor PX-256M2S SSD, I will
be using the following test applications in this review.


Test procedures

I will start off our testing procedures explanation by
stating that I did not run many synthetic benchmarks on the Plextor PX-256M2S
series drive. You may ask why I have run so few synthetic benchmarks?

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SSD technology has moved so fast in the last couple of months,
that basic synthetic benchmarks alone are now of very limited use, as they don’t
really tell us much about performance and how the drive will behave in the real
world. I have therefore decided to show some basic benchmarks of the Plextor
PX-256M2S SSD, and will complement this with more advanced benchmarks using
IOMeter and AS SSD benchmark. I will also show how the Plextor PX-256M2S performs
in the real world with our real world tests, and the recently introduced MyCE Reality
Suite test.

Small file random IOPS vs sequential performance

IOPS

This is a fairly complex subject, but I will do my best to
explain things in a manner that is easy to understand.

The term IOPS is the amount of input or output transactions
that can take place in a one second interval, so for example, if an SSD is
quoted as being able to cope with 20,000 4K random write IOPS, then the SSD
should be able to cope with 20,000 input transactions in a period of one
second. If the same SSD is said to be able to produce 20,000 4K random read
IOPS, then the same SSD should be able to produce 20,000 4K random read output
transactions in a one second interval.

Ok, now we have some figures to work with, the next question
is how many IOPS are actually required?

This will depend on your usage pattern. If you are a typical
desktop user who browses the internet, does some word processing or perhaps
some audio or video editing, and perhaps plays a few games, then in actual
fact, you don’t need to have massive 4K random read/write performance. The
actual amount of 4K random performance that is required for a fast and smooth
running system for a desktop user with a usage pattern similar to the above
will be well under 1,000 4K IOPS.

On the other hand, if the SSD is being used for running a
large and complex database server, then 4K random performance is the absolute
measurement of how fast that server will run, as this type of application does
most of its input and output transactions in the 4K domain.

So why would I need an SSD with 60,000 4K IOPS for a
desktop?

In fact you don’t need this type of performance for a
desktop, but an SSD which is capable of coping with 60,000 4K IOPS will be
faster than an SSD which can only cope with 20,000 4K IOPS.

OK, I just said if under 1,000 4K IOPS are actually required
for typical desktop usage, why is an SSD with 60,000 4K IOPS faster than an SSD
with only 20,000 4K IOPS, confused?

You may ask, if I only require 1,000 4K IOPS surely the rest
is wasted?

While you may never need 60,000 4K IOPS, IOPS is all about
latency. The reason that an SSD can cope with as much as 60,000 4K IOPS is
because latency in this domain is very low. With 4K files, even if you require
to  process 500 of them at the same
time, you are not talking about a huge amount of data, it has far more to do
with how long it takes the SSD to process a single file, and the amount of time
required to process a single 4K is all about how long it takes for the SSD to
access or store that data before it can move on to the next transaction.

In other words an SSD with 60,000 4K IOPS performance will
handle those 500 files faster than the SSD with 20,000 IOPS.

So how will a desktop user even notice this faster speed if
so little 4K random IOPS and data are actually used?

Multitasking is a good example. The more tasks you run at
the same time, you more you will notice the speed difference.

Sequential performance

I have always maintained that sequential performance was
every bit as important as small random file performance for a desktop SSD. Some
highly regarded people on other sites found this statement quite funny a couple
of years ago when I made it, but my, how times have changed in the world of SSD
reviewing.

To me this was always so obvious for a desktop user. For
example, let’s say you want to launch an application or game. Both have some
fairly large files to load, and also a great many small files, but the point
is, even the smaller files are sequential in nature. Now let’s say you’re into
audio or video editing. Video files tend to be huge, and the files are written
or read sequentially. Isn’t this how many users are using their PCs these days?

Summary

So how does this shape up in the real world? Which is
better, massive 4K IOPS or massive sequential performance?

In an ideal world you want both, as an SSD with massive
random 4K IOPS and sequential performance will always be faster than an SSD
that has high sequential performance and moderate 4K random IOPS performance,
and the same applies to an SSD that has massive 4K random performance and
moderate sequential performance. The SSD which has high performance in both
patterns will always be the faster SSD.

However, you can still have an SSD that is very fast for
desktop use that has moderate random 4K performance and massive sequential
performance, the same can be said about a drive having massive random 4K
performance and moderate sequential performance, as it is about getting the
balance right if you have to compromise on one or the other.


Test drives

  • 120GB OCZ Vertex SSD (firmware 1.5)
  • 500GB Samsung SpinPoint F3 (HD502HJ)
  • Seagate Momentus XT 500GB (Hybrid drive)
  • OCZ Agility 120GB (firmware 1.5)
  • Intel X25-M 80GB (series G1)
  • OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
  • Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB
  • OCZ Vertex 3 240GB (engineering sample)
  • Plextor PX-256M2S 256GB

The Plextor PX-256M2S SSD came supplied with firmware
version 1.01


Drive preparation for running the tests

All the SSDs used in this article were in a clean and fresh
state when the testing period started. From then on, each drive had to rely on its
own NAND cleaning effectiveness for the remainder of the tests.

  • Both our spinning HDD drives were defragged before the
    start of each test.
  • All SSD and HDD used in this article had their partitions
    aligned to the Windows 7 x64 defaults.

Where I use graphs in this article to display results, I
will use the following colours to make it easier, for our readers to see which drive
we are reviewing.

Plextor PX-256M2S SSD - Preview Plextor PX-256M2S SSD

Plextor PX-256M2S SSD - Preview Comparison SSD

Plextor PX-256M2S SSD - Preview Comparison HDD

 

Now let’s head to the next page, where I look at some
synthetic benchmarks…

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