Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme review: Speed doesn't have to be expensive

Plextor's latest SSD, the M5 Pro Xtreme, is indeed the extreme version of the already-excellent M5 Pro without the high cost.

Dong Ngo

Dong Ngo

SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

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Fans of the Plextor M5 Pro, prepare to fall in love again! Showcased at CES 2013, its successor, the Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme, is not just faster, it also costs slightly less.


Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme

The Good

The <b>Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme</b> is very fast and inexpensive. Its included software and desktop drive-bay converter are useful bonuses.

The Bad

The Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme doesn't come with a USB-SATA adapter, or the kitchen sink.

The Bottom Line

If you're on a market for a high-end solid-state drive for your computer, be it a PC or a Mac, look no further than the Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme.

Other than the fact there's no included USB-SATA adapter, which very few SSDs come with, the new M5 Pro Xtreme has nothing else for me to complain about.

If you're looking to replace your computer's existing main storage device, be it a hard drive or a budget SSD, the Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme is an excellent buy, ranking near the top among the best internal drives to date.

Design and features

Drive type 7mm-thick, 2.5-inch standard internal drive
Connector options SATA 3 (6Gbps), SATA 2, SATA
Available capacities 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Product dimensions 7mm-thick, 2.5-inch standard
Capacity of test unit 256GB
Controller Marvell 88SS9187
Flash memory type
Toshiba Toggle NAND
OSes supported Windows, Mac, Linux

The new M5 Pro Xtreme looks almost exactly the same as the M5 Pro. The only difference in its appearance is the model number on the bottom, which is PX-xxxM5Pro (as opposed to PX-xxxM5P of the M5 Pro). The xxx represents the capacities, which are 128GB, 256GB and 512GB.

On the inside, the two drives are also almost identical. Both use the Marvell 88SS9187 controller and the high-end 19nm Toshiba Toggle NAND flash memory. The M5 Pro Xtreme, however, comes with an upgraded version of the flash memory, a new circuitboard design, and the Xtreme version of the firmware. All these should help it offer a random access speed of 100,000 IOPS, compared with 96,000 IOPS of the M5 Pro, and a sequential (data transfer) speed faster than the M5 Pro's.

The M5 Pro Xtreme (left) is almost identical to the M5 Pro.
The M5 Pro Xtreme (left) is almost identical to the M5 Pro. Dong Ngo/CNET

Similar to its predecessor, the Xtreme comes in the 7mm-thick, 2.5-inch standard design. The drive supports SATA 3 (6Gbps) and is backward-compatible with previous versions of SATA. The new drive also includes a 3.5-inch drive converter for you to use it with a desktop machine, the way you install a regular desktop hard drive.

And inside the compact package of the Xtreme, similar to the Pro, you'll also find an NTI SSD Utility Suite that includes drive cloning software and backup software. This helps you quickly update your existing computer from a hard drive (or an old SSD) to the new SSD. Unlike a few other SSDs, such as the Monster Digital, the M5 Pro doesn't include a USB-SATA adapter, so you'll have to get one by yourself in case you want to upgrade your laptop. For desktops, you can install the drive as a secondary drive for the cloning process.

And finally, again, similar to its predecessor, the Xtreme SSD also comes with a five-year warranty and offers the some 2.4 million hours of mean time between failure (MTBF), about double that of some other SSDs. This high MTBF means that the drive should have an exceptionally long lifespan.

Cost per gigabyte
During CES, Plextor Managing Director Darlo Perez told me that the M5 Pro Xtreme would be likely more expensive than other high-end SSDs on the market. For this reason, I was pleasantly surprised to find its current street pricing lower than $1 per gigabyte, which is the threshold for considering an SSD as affordable. The 256GB version, for example, is available for less than $250.

In fact, you can even find the M5 Pro Xtreme for a price less than M5 Pro's at times. The drive seems to be in high demand, however, and its availability, as well as pricing change day by day. Nonetheless, with what it has to offer, the M5 Pro Xtreme is a great deal with less than $1 per gigabyte.

Note that the M5 Pro Xtreme is not the most affordable SSD on the market, but among high-end drives, it's one that costs the least, for now.

The M5 Pro Xtreme comes in a similarly compact package as its processor.
The M5 Pro Xtreme comes in a similarly compact package as its processor. Dong Ngo/CNET

The M5 Pro Xtreme did very well in my testing and it was indeed slightly faster than the M5 Pro. I reviewed the 256GB version of the drive, and while it wasn't the fastest on all counts, it was easily one of the fastest SSDs on the market I've seen. (The drive was tested with version 1.02 of the firmware. Plextor released version 1.03, which promises to further improve the performance, at the time this review was published. Note that the new firmware works with the M5 Pro drive, too, though it won't turn it into the Pro Xtreme).

For sequential performance, I tested the Xtreme both as a secondary drive on a computer for it to show its top performance, and as the main drive that hosts the operating system on the computer. I test SSDs by copying some 50GB of data from one place to another. This test represents real-world experience and always yields a lower output than what vendors claim. This is because vendors tend to test SSDs using benchmark software that doesn't always represent how SSDs are used in the real world.

That said, the Xtreme was still very impressive. When used as a secondary drive, it registered about 270MBps for both writing and reading. When used as the main drive and writing and reading at the same time, it scored 168MBps. Overall it's about the second fastest drive on the market, just a tad slower than the OCZ Vector.

The drive improved the overall performance of the test computer a great deal. The test system took just about 11 seconds to boot up and and less than 5 seconds to shut down, much faster than when it used a standard hard drive as the main storage. Applications also loaded much more quickly. Compared with other SSDs, I could also see that it was slightly faster; for example, heavy applications such as games took a few seconds less to load. Unfortunately it's very hard to quantify the overall improvement in numbers. Still, the M5 Pro Xtreme was indeed one of the fastest SSDs I've seen.

Boot/shutdown scores (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Boot time

Data transfer scores (in megabytes per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
As Secondary Drive (Read Only)
As Secondary Drive (Write only)
As OS Drive (Read and Write)

OCZ Vector

Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme

Samsung 840 Pro

Corsair Neutron GTX

Plextor M5 Pro

Transcend SSD720

SanDisk Ultra Plus

The M5 Pro Xtreme is easy to recommend as a replacement drive, thanks to its excellent performance and low cost.


Plextor M5 Pro Xtreme

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Performance 9Support 10
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