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Plextor joins titans of MLC flash at the 90,000 plus club

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Plextor has joined OCZ and SMART in the 90,000+ club, the providers of elite MLC SSDs that exceed 90,000 random read IOPs per second.

Fast single-level cell (SLC) flash is used to drive SSDs at speeds beyond 100,000 IOPS doing random reads of 4K data blocks. Multi-level cell (MLC) flash, with 2 bits per cell, is slower, shorter-lived and cheaper and SSDs using it offer 30,000 - 70,000 IOPS. With clever flash controller technology, the MLC stuff can be driven faster and reach more than 90,000 IOPS as well has having the number of endurance-shortening writes reduced.

SMART's Optimus Ultra Plus does 100,000 random read IOPS, 60,000 writes, and has sequential read/write bandwidth of 500MB/sec. It can also do 50 full drive writes a day for five years, belying MLC's short life

OCZ's Vertex 4 does 95,000 random read IOPS, 85,000 write IOPS and has sequential read/write bandwidth of 560/510 MB/sec through OCZ tweaking the firmware of its Indilinx controller. This SSD has a five-year warranty.

Now Plextor has joined the club. Its M5 Pro will do 94,000 random read IOPS, 86,000 writes, and has a sequential read/write bandwidth of 540 and 450MB/sec. It uses a third-generation Marvell 88SS9187 controller to reach these performance levels and says the drive won't suffer from performance drop-off as it ages. Plextor says its read technology, such as a "data hold-out" algorithm, enables the controller to get good read data over the long term, correcting for errors on the fly.

There is a five-year warranty, standard for this class of SSD, and Plextor claims the lowest SSD failure rates in the industry. IT pros should see the drive being used in servers and workstations.

Both Micron and LSI are making a push into MLC SSDs. How do their products rate?

Micron's C400 does up to 40,000 random read IOPS, and has read;/write bandwidth numbers of 415 and 260MB/sec; it's comprehensively outclassed in the performance stakes. We understand this uses a Marvell controller and it dearly needs an update.

Micron is bigging up its flash credentials, but – apart from its SLC PCIe-based P320h – it has no big performer to write home about. Micron has a ways to go to get the claimed advantage of flash foundry-controller technology integration.

LSI has MLC WarpDrive PCIe product, but does not have an equivalent SSD product.

Intel has MLC SSD product. Its 710 does 38,500 random read IOPS, 2,700 writes, and has 270 and 210 MB?sec read/write sequential bandwidth. It's not in the Plextor M5 Pro class at all.

For high-end MLC SSD performance product, a 90,000+ random read IOPS number and 500MB/sec+ bandwidth number – allied to five-year endurance – are becoming table stakes.

We wonder if Plextor has ambitions in the PCIe flash card area. If it did then a PCIe version of the M5 Pro could fly.

The PM5 Pro will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities in mid-August 2012, when pricing information will be released. ®

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