Articles: Storage

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Last year we could witness how easily major corporations could oust smaller players from a market. You can see such examples everywhere as soon as an industry shows some growth and promises good profits, but we're talking specifically about solid state drives. It is in 2013 that the semiconductor giants that manufacture flash memory got interested in the consumer SSD market. We mean Samsung and Micron in the first place. Pursuing a very aggressive strategy, these two companies significantly increased their market share thanks to users switching to SSDs and to other companies reducing their SSD shipments. Having inexpensive flash memory of their own making at their disposal, Micron and Samsung have released attractive products that are generally cheaper than competing offers but ensure good performance.

It is hard to beat such major players who can get flash memory at its production cost and invest heavily into research & development. There are only three companies, namely Intel, Toshiba and SanDisk, that manufacture their own flash memory and might compete with Samsung and Micron in terms of pricing. The rest of SSD makers have to rely on their engineering potential and attract the customer with niche solutions. So we shouldn't be surprised that there is a trend for SSDs to be available in fewer models. This background makes nonstandard solutions from second-tier manufacturers stand out even more conspicuously, though. One of the most illustrious examples is Plextor which used to be considered one of the main suppliers of consumer-class SSDs just recently.

Plextor’s older M5S and M5P solutions, which had used to be among the best SSDs for desktop PCs, got outdated eventually, so the company had to update its model range. Plextor needed a product with unique features and it has released the M6e, an SSD with native PCI Express interface.

As a matter of fact, consumer-class SSDs with PCI Express interface are about to get mainstream in the near future. The modern trend is for PCI Express to replace SATA 6 Gbit/s everywhere. It is even written in the latest SATA 3.2 specification. SSDs have become so fast that they are almost limited by the SATA 6 Gbit/s bandwidth, calling for a replacement to that interface. It is impossible to speed SATA up in an easy way without redesigning its connectors and cables and making its controllers more expensive, so the entire industry is now set to transition all SSDs to the faster and more versatile PCI Express bus.

Thus, the Plextor M6e is a kind of a first experiment on implementing a new bus in consumer-class SSDs. It is going to be followed by lots of other similar products. Plextor has decided to transition to the new bus prior to modern PCs acquiring the necessary infrastructure in the form of new-generation SSD ports and slots. Instead, the manufacturer has implemented its flash drive as a regular PCIe card. We’ll check out the result in this review.

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