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This SSD plugs into a spare PCIe slot, but is it faster?

This SSD plugs into a spare PCIe slot, but is it faster?

This SSD plugs into a spare PCIe slot, but is it faster?

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The thing in the picture above is an SSD, which is also a hoof-shaped one. The Plextor M6e was my first M.2 SSD into the office, and it’s a 512GB drive designed to circumvent the limitations of current SATA connections by using the same PCI Express bus that’s been giving graphics cards a lot of bandwidth for years.

To be fair, some SSD manufacturers, like OCZ and Kingspec, are already making PCIe-based drives that plug in side-by-side with your graphics card. Those who have been using the combined performance of multiple SSDs to create extra speed, if this Plextor M6e does all the work by itself.

Most Z97 motherboards I’ve tested have a theoretical limit of 1GB/s for the M.2 port, while SATA is limited to 600MB/s. The advantage of using the PCIe bus is that in the future manufacturers can open up more PCIe lanes to achieve higher bandwidths around 4GB/s.

The Plextor M6e hasn’t hit those numbers yet. My preliminary tests showed that the 512GB version achieved sequential read/write data of 676MB/s and 620MB/s, respectively, in the AS SSD benchmark software.

While that’s better than any SATA-based SSD I’ve tested (including Samsung’s latest V-NANDtastic 850 Pro), the 4k random read/write results are far less impressive.

Read speeds of 31MB/s are among the best, but write speeds of only 72MB/s are significantly slower than the cheap Crucial MX100 512GB SATA drive.

So, while the Plextor M6e clearly broke the SATA barrier, it didn’t do much and didn’t make any headway in the 4k response test.

It’s early days for the M.2 interface, but once we get a proper SSD-centric NVMe standard instead of the current AHCI (the standard protocol for older spinning-platter hard drives), I think we’ll start to see things happen A huge change in the SSD world.

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Wilbert Wood
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