Kingston Targets The Budget Minded Again
While Kingston has put out some enthusiast level drives under their HyperX brand, their bread and butter lies with the more cost conscious consumer oriented drives or 'value' drives as they are known in the industry. As such, they have a number of V series drives that are strong performers, yet are easy on the wallet. If it doesn't jump out at you already, we'll tell you that V stands for value and is exactly what Kingston hopes you see a lot of in their new V300 series of drives powered by the ubiquitous SandForce SF-2281 controller. We already know that this controller is a winner and it will now be paired with 19nm NAND flash which is not something we've tested before so it will be interesting to see how it performs.
Kingston has also taken on more of the fabrication piece to help drive down costs to offer the drives at a lower price point. As such, we find the 120GB bundle version (SV300S3D7/120G) they sent us selling on the open market at $124. Don't make the mistake of equating a 'value' product with poor performance and shoddy fabrication. Each drive comes backed with a three year warranty and Kingston's customer support. It also comes with some admirable read/write specifications of 450MB/s each, which you'll see later that we exceeded in some instances of our tests.
Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB features and specifications:
- Form factor:
- SATA Rev. 3.0 (6Gb/s) – backwards compatible to SATA Rev. 2.0
- 60GB, 120GB, 240GB
- SATA Rev. 3.0 up to: 450MB/s
- SATA Rev. 3.0 up to: 450MB/s
- 60GB — up to 85,000/ up to 60,000 IOPS
- 120GB — up to 85,000 / up to 55,000 IOPS
- 240GB — up to 85,000 / up to 43,000 IOPS
- 60GB: 39,000
- 120GB: 49,000
- 240GB: 57,000
- 0.640W Idle / 1.423 W Read / 2.052 W Write
- -40 to 85°C
- 0 to 70°C
- 69.8mm x 100.1mm x 7mm
- 2.17G Peak (7–800Hz)
- 20G Peak (10–2000Hz)
- 1 million hours MTBF
- Three-year warranty with free technical support
- 60GB: 32TB
- 120GB: 64TB
- 240GB: 128TB
The exterior shell design doesn't deviate from previous and others in the 'V' lines with a textured aluminum gray shell and the familiar Kingston red/black/white color scheme with the image of Redhead a.k.a. "Rex" featured prominently as always. It's a 7mm thick drive making it usable for most any mobile PC that uses a SATA connector.
The desktop bundle we received with the drive comes with all the niceties needed to install and migration your shiny new drive. First we have the installation DVD and the DVD containing the drive cloning software (very handy). Next, we have the rails for mounting the drive should your case not support the direct mounting of 2.5" form factor drives. Finally, they also supply SATA power and data cables should you need them. Overall, a very nice bundle that adds more value (there's that word again) to the purchase.
Under The V300 Hood
After performing the usual void sticker-ectomy, we were inside the drive in no time with the removal four screws.
Due to the thermal pads, the the PCB is stuck pretty well but peels off with careful pressure. Kingston is one of the few that actually use thermal pads in their drives which not only dissapate heat as the name suggests but further mitigates the risk of physical shock from damaging the components within.
The first side of the PCB contains two rows of four NAND flash modules and as is usual for SF-2281 drives, no cache is present.
Zooming in on the MLC NAND we see that though Kingston is screened on the chips with part number FT64G08UCT1 listed. These are actually Toshiba wafers packaged by Kingston which helps them control manufacturing costs and offer a better value to the consumer. In fact this is the first time we've seen the 19nm Toggle NAND on a drive we've which will make the testing a little more interesting. There are 16 total modules with each being 8GB in density so we end up with 128GB on board.
On the flip side, we see the remaining eight NAND modules along with the SF-2281 controller.
Unlike the usual images of the SF-2281 controller, this one is a little different because "SandForce" is not the dominant brand screened on it but rather the Kingston brand is the most prominent. From the dozens of drives we've tested as well as personal use, we know it's a quality controller that has been probably the most popular controller - in terms of units shipped - to date. It does a nice job of wear-leveling, maintaining low write amplification, and handling real-time data compression to bolster write speeds. All thanks to its proprietary DuraClass technology. Of course it also supports TRIM and idle garbage collection and though performance may vary by firmware and NAND it's paired with, it always performs very well.
New Test Platform - Intel Z77 Express
We felt it was time to upgrade to the Intel Z77 platform for our storage test bench, so we turned to our good friends at ASUS who have been kind enough to supply us with some hardware for our test benches over the years. We decided that for the time being, the Sandy Bridge Core i5 2500k processor will remain at the heart of this test bench since storage testing really does little to stress the CPU and it doesn't play into the overall test results. In other words, the old idiom applies - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
They came through in fine fashion again by shipping over a very nicely appointed Maximus V GENE LGA1155 motherboard with the Intel Z77 express chipset. This board carries the well-known Republic Of Gamers (ROG) brand that signifies high performance and designed with the gamer in mind.
Though a bit diminutive since it's designed in the uATX form factor, it's still large on features. For our storage bench we needed a board that offered a variety of storage configuration options to give us the flexibility we need for future considerations and this fits the bill nicely. Up front we are ahead of the pack since this board has the latest CAP UEFI format optimized for Windows 8 which positively impacts SSD performance and post times. The UEFI is super simple to navigate to tweak as needed. ASUS also relayed to us that they do extensive OROM validation for all ROG boards, giving them greater flexibility with enthusiast class storage devices (i.e. RAID controlled and PCI-E based drives).
The most obvious place to look first is the rear panel. First, we'll point out the integrated graphics outputs of both HDMI and DisplayPort so we can run the display directly from the board and not an external card which would add extra drivers and impact boot times. Same goes with the audio, having the SupremeFX III built in. Next, we have a variety of USB options, four each of USB 2.0 and 3.0. For USB 3.0 for systems running Windows 7 and 8, there's enhanced functionality with USB Attached SCSI Protocol (UASP) or turbo support for greater throughputs. Also available is an eSATA port which is losing its luster a bit with consumers since Thunderbolt adoption is rapdily growing but it still has its place with a large number of external devices still configured to leverage it.
Speaking of Thunderbolt, ASUS also sent us over a sweet ThunderboltEX PCI-E card that goes right into the PCI-E x4 slot. We're looking forward to giving it a try.
For mSATA needs, the board has a built in PCI-E combo header (PCH) which you can see pins for in the image above.
The provided mSATA adapter card accepts mSATA drives and then plugs right into the motherboard. Simple.
Then we have the SATA ports which will carry the bulk of the testing workload. The vertically stacked connectors on the left are 6Gbps capable running off of the ASMedia controller. In the middle are the Intel controlled 6Gbps SATA ports. The black ports on the right are 3Gbps Marvell controlled.
The Z77 express chipset is hidden behind this ROG logo adorned passive heatsink
Finally, while it plays zero role in performance for what we are using the board for, we love the red glowing stripe that runs circuitously around the back corner of the board. On an open test bench, it looks awesome and if using a windowed case, it will bling nicely. Technically, it exists to delineate the audio portion of the PCB from the rest of the board. This segregation is important to mitigate noise interference making audiophiles rejoice. For testing, we have the HD audio disabled since it is not used. With that, let's run through the rest of the test bench components.
Test System & Comparison Drives
Legit Reviews Stoage Benchmark Test System
All tests were performed on a fresh and up-to-date install of Windows 8 Pro x64 with no other applications running while using AHCI mode set through the BIOS. Synthetic Benchmarks were run with the OS loaded on a 120GB Corsair Force SSD. In between every test, the test drive was secure erased using an instance of Parted Magic. As such, all results should be indicative of optimal performance. All components were set to their default speeds and are listed below.
Z77 Test Bench
|Intel LGA 1155 Test Platform|
|Core i5 2500k|
|ASUS Maximus V Gene Z77|
|Kingston HyperX KHX16C9B1RK28 8GB|
|Corsair Force 120GB (FW 2.4)|
|Antec Basiq BP550W Plus-EC|
|Windows 8 Pro 64-Bit|
Comparison Drives And Other Models We Have Tested
Since there are so many SSDs out there now with different controllers, we started a reference table of which controllers are used by each drive to help you compare results. Different controllers definitely perform differently and each has various strengths and weaknesses. Like CPU's, even identical drives will have variations in performance and part of that variance may be attributable to the NAND flash used. Since the tests of the drives listed have spanned different test benches and represent different interfaces, we have listed the most recent ones for easy reference.
|Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB
||LAMD LM87800||Yes||SATA III|
|Intel 520 Series 240GB
||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||Yes||SATA III|
|OCZ Vector 256GB||Indilinx Barefoot 3||Yes||SATA III|
|Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB||SandForce SF-2200 (SF-2281)||Yes||SATA III|
|Samsung 830 Series 256GB
||Samsung S4LJ204X01-Y040||Yes||SATA III|
CrystalDiskMark 5.0.2 Readout:
For the Kingston V300 120GB drive, the readout on CrystalDiskInfo 5.0.2 shows that both NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. are enabled, as well as TRIM and the interface is confirmed at SATA III (6Gbps). This is a great free tool to see lots of detailed information about the drive such as the firmware version for which we are running the latest available at the time of testing 505ABBF0.
Let's look at some benchmarks...
ATTO & AS-SSD Benchmarks
ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 8192KB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.
ATTO - Intel Z77 Platform
Benchmark Results: Very solid scores on this benchmark for the V300 as is typical for drives with the SandForce controller since it employs compressible data. Considering that the read/write specifications are 450MB/s for each, these are some nice numbers.
AS-SSD (1.6.4237.30508) Benchmark - Intel P67 Platform
We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from two of them.
Benchmark Results: This time we see a different outcome when incompressible data is used on the benchmark test, most markedly the write sequential score which dropped considerably. However, the random scores on the smaller files sizes are very good which is where most real world usage would reside. Sequential read scores still exceed the specification of 450MB/s.
Benchmark Results: As evidenced by the graph, performance ramps up as compressibility of data increases as is how the SF-2281 controller operates.
CrystalDiskMark and Anvil IOPS
CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2 x64 - Intel Z77 Platform
Benchmark Results: Like the AS-SSD benchmark, the CrystalDiskMark benchmark uses incompressible data so the sequential write score suffers for the V300 but again the random scores are good and the sequential reads are dead on specification.
Anvil Storage Utilities 1.050 RC5- Intel Z77 Platform
Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 32. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.
Benchmark Results: The IOPS scores are great here on writes and a bit below the specifications on reads. It should be noted that this test uses 100% compressible data and when we ran the same with incompressible data, the write scores dropped to 40k writes and 20k reads.
Real World Copy & Boot Tests
File Copy Times Via Teracopy 2.27:
One of the most common operations performed on a PC is moving/copying files. Using a free application called Teracopy, we copied large numbers of two file types from one folder to another on the same drive. Teracopy allows us to objectively measure the time of transfer and using the same drive prevents other devices from tainting the outcome. The operation requires the drive to perform both sustained read and writes simultaneously. The first set of files is a 5GB collection of JPG's of variable size and compression levels with a few movie (.MOV) files thrown in for good measure since most cameras now take video as well as stills. The second is a collection of MP3 files of various sizes which totals 5GB collectively. These file types were chosen due to their wide use and mixture of file sizes and compression levels.
Install Results: As compared to some of the other drives, the file copy times were longer but to be fair the V300 is a more value oriented drives and most of the others are flagship enthusiast drives so given that it's not too shabby!
Windows Boot Times Via BootRacer:
Windows start up/shutdown time is always something people are interested in and we haven't done it in a while because there was little variation with the majority of the SSDs. We recently began using an application called BootRacer to objectively measure the startup times of the drives. All of the instances of Windows were identical and freshly installed with only the video driver installed.
Test Results: The V300 held its own on the boot test scoring very much the same as the similarly equipped Intel 520 series.
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
As is typical for the SandForce (LSI) drives, the Kingston V300 120GB drive has ~7% overprovisioning that offers the user 111GB of usable space. If you were to purchase the 240Gb version, you'd find yourself with 223GB. Overprovisioning is set by the manufacturer to assist with drive longevity by providing a supply of fresh NAND to use for maintenance duties to bolster overall NAND endurance.
In this article, we used the word value quite a bit and it's at this stage where we evaluate just that. First we'll talk a little bit about performance. Even though the read/write specifications by Kingston show 450MB/s performance for each, we were able to blow that out of the water on the ATTO benchmark by hitting speeds close to 100MB/s higher. However, we know that benchmark represents the best case scenario, especially for SandForce drives. When we moved to the benchmarks that use incompressible data we saw write speeds at sub 200MB/s and the read speeds meeting specification. Again, this is expected with the SF-2281 controller and represents some of the worst case scenarios. The true performance lies somewhere in between which is why we run our real world tests that showed the V300 to be no slouch against some of the best drives on the market. During normal everyday use, one would be hard pressed to tell the difference between this and the OCZ Vector depending on their activities. Adding credence to this is the excellent performance we saw on 4k file size tests as this is more a reflection of real world data usage. This is likely a product of the firmware employed which is the LSI version that's been worked over by Kingston; so it's not vanilla like we see from a lot of makers you just slap their sticker on the front.
In terms of cost, we have to look at the V300 a few different ways to determine value. You can purchase the bare drive for $110 or you can purchase a bundled 120GB drive (SV300S3D7/120G) for $124. For the bare drive we end up in the $1 per usable GB range which isn't the cheapest on the market but it's pretty close when compared to other 120GB SATA 6Gbps drives. Given the performance, it's a pretty good bang-for-your-buck sweet spot.
Since Kingston had a hand in the firmware as well as doing some of the NAND fabrication, they have rightfully branded the internal components with their moniker and passed the savings to the consumer. They also provide their usual customer support with a three year warranty against defects although we see companies trending towards the five year warranty mark. Power consumption is something we've started to focus on as well and the V300 is maybe a little better than where we see a lot of the SF-2281 drives with idle consumption rated at 0.640W and up to 2.052W in an active state. Owners of mobile PC's are most interested in these numbers and will also like to know that the drive comes in a 7mm z-height so it will fit an ultrabook.
Let's be honest, the majority of PC users do a whole lot of internet, mail, and light office document usage with a sprinkling of games and multimedia thrown in. Is a high-end, $400 SSD really going to make a big difference in use and feel? Coming from someone who has used them all - nope. So unless your usage demands it or you just have to have the fastest possible components, the V300 will fit your needs nicely.
Legit Bottom Line: The V300 SSD line from Kingston aims to offer performance at a price that won't makeyou weak in the knees and by what we were able to discern, they hit their mark.