19-nm flash, PCI Express connectivity populate Plextor's M6 SSD family

Plextor has introduced a new family of M6 solid-state drives at the Consumer Electronics Show this year. The lineup uses Toshiba's latest 19-nm NAND, and it includes a couple of PCI Express options in addition to the usual SATA fare.

The PCIe versions carry the M6e moniker. They're based on Marvell's 88SS9183 controller chip, which appears to have two lanes of gen-two PCI Express connectivity. The extra bandwidth provided by those lanes allows the M6e to hit transfer speeds of 770MB/s for sequential reads and 625MB/s for writes. Plextor quotes random I/O rates of 105k/100k IOps.

The M6e is recognized as a standard AHCI device, so it should work without additional software or drivers. It's bootable, too. Two versions will be available: an M.2 implementation for notebooks and a half-height, half-length PCIe card for desktop systems. Based on a picture posted at StorageReview, that second option appears to be little more than a PCIe adapter card for the M.2 drive—not that there's anything wrong with that. Much of the demand for consumer-grade PCIe SSDs likely comes from notebooks equipped with M.2 slots, and the adapter card shouldn't affect performance.

Serial ATA models are also part of the M6 family. The M6S and M6M both have 6Gbps SATA interfaces; the former comes in a 2.5" case, while the latter sits on a mini mSATA card. Expect identical performance from the two drives, which carry 520/440 MB/s performance ratings for sequential reads and writes and 94k/80k IOps ratings for random I/O. These drives use the same Toshiba NAND as the M6e, but they're almost certainly based on a different controller chip—one with native SATA rather than a PCIe interface.

Somewhat surprisingly, Plextor doesn't clarify whether the M6 family employs two-bit MLC or three-bit TLC NAND. Toshiba should be able to produce both on its 19-nm process. However, the write performance ratings suggest the drives are based on MLC chips. I'd expect Plextor and other SSDs makers to be forthcoming about any models that rely on three-bit flash.

Plextor says the M6 family will be available in the spring in capacities up to 512GB. There's no mention of pricing in the official press release, which at least confirms that the M6e has a five-year warranty. Warranty details aren't provided for the SATA-based models, though. Those drives are likely limited to three-year coverage.

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