So you've won the lottery and aren't too sure what to spend your money on. We're here to help.
Solid State Drives are something all of us should have by now, or at least be at the top of our wish-list, in some form of another. Even the bottom end models with tiny capacity are still a league ahead of the old mechanical models and just perfect for an Operating System.
But what if you want more? If there is one problem with a pure OS-sized SSD it's that the speed becomes addictive. Having your games and applications on your old drive definitely lessens the benefits and can feel like loading them off of a C90 in comparison to the SSD.
So what do you do? How can we combine the size of a mechanical with the speed of a Solid State? Why a high-capacity Solid State Drive of course.
Although for the true lottery winners it's possible to buy 1TB SSDs now, today we're looking at a big version of a drive we've reviewed before, the Kingston SSD Now V+. When we first reviewed it in 64GB guise we found it to be a very consistent performer at a reasonable price-point.
Being 256GB certainly puts it out of the range of a spur-of-the-moment purchase, but doesn't put it out of the range of a well-thought out upgrade. So, does the extra capacity over it's 64GB sibling help or hinder?
Innovative – Uses MLC NAND flash memory components.
Silent – Runs silent and cool with no moving mechanical parts.
Shock Proof – No moving mechanical parts so the SSD handles rougher conditions.
Supports TRIM – Enhances device wear leveling by eliminating merge operation for all deleted data blocks
Supports S.M.A.R.T. functions
Guaranteed – 3 year legendary Kingston warranty, 24/7 tech support
Cache – 128MB on-board cache
Garbage collection feature – Enables high SSD write performance even when operating system does not support TRIM
Capacity – 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Storage temperatures – -40 - 85°C
Operating temperatures – 0 - 70Â°C
Dimensions – 69.85 x 100 x 9.5 mm
Weight – 84 grams
Vibration operating – 2.7G (7-800Hz)
Vibration non-operating – 20G (20-2000Hz)
Sequential Read Throughput – 230MB/s
Sequential Write Throughput – 180MB/s
Form Factor – 2.5"
Interface – 3.0 Gb/sec (Compatible with SATA 1.5 Gb/sec)
Power specs – 3.5 W - 4.2 W - active / 0.065 W - 0.075 W Idle
Life expectancy** – 1,000,000 Hrs mean time before failure
Operating shock – 1500G
Today we have quite a pleasant surprise as Kingston have send us the full retain version of the SSD Now V+. Often we get the bare drive in some form of packaging so it's nice to get all the bells and whistles.
The box itself is very clean with the Kingston mascot head on one side and all the important information on the other.
Inside we have a marvel of compact design. Only an inch high and the size of a CD we are surprised at how much Kingston fit into the box.
We have the drive itself. A CD containing Acronis True Image software. A SATA to Molex adaptor. A SATA and USB cable. Two mounting brackets to allow the drive to be inserted into a 3.5" bay and a caddy should you wish to use it via the USB. Definitely a comprehensive package.
The V+ itself comes in the anti-static bag that all memory products come in and needs to be handled remembering that it's basically an enormous, and more complex, memory module. The housing is a textured aluminium that's finished in a very nice gun metal colour that suits most cases it'll find itself in.
As befits something costing the average of a fortnights full-time wage, the USB caddy is very well engineered with the SATA to USB mount fitting both easily, and snugly. There is nothing worse than either having to ram something in and fear breaking it, or have to find alternative methods to keep things tight. None of that is an issue with the Kingston.
With the lid in place it's very swish indeed. Onwards.
Today we're testing the Kingston SSD Now V+ on our recent award-winning MSI P55A Fuzion motherboard.
MSI P55A Fuzion
Intel Core i7 870
4GB G.Skill Trident
ASUS HD5850 Top
Windows 7 64 Bit Home Premium
Cougar CM1000 PSU
Kingston SSD Now V+ 256GB
The drive will be setup as a empty spare drive for the majority of our testing, and then used daily to assist in our conclusion.
Controller and Installation
Under the hood the Kingston SSD Now V+ is identical to the 64GB variant we tested. Therefore to save you re-reading the technical ins and outs twice, you can get the minutae from that review here.
However the major points of interest are that the Kingston uses the very popular combination of a Samsung YK40 Controller, a 128mb Samsung cache chip and Samsung SCK0 MLC NAND. Similar to the other major controller, the Indilinx Barefoot, the Samsung combination produces very smooth results throughout the performance spectrum.
Certainly it has proven itself across countless high-performance Solid State Drives and is more mature than the recent SandForce drives we've looked at.
In the package for the Kingston full upgrade kit we have here they have included a copy of Acronis drive cloning software so that you can painlessly transfer your OS from your current drive to the SSD Now V+ (assuming your drive is under 256GB obviously).
One thing that made us smile was in the PDF instructions. Despite the internals of the Kingston being wholly Samsung based, it still registers as a Kingston in the BIOS. Considering my main drive, like a lot of people I imagine, is a Samsung Spinpoint this could lead to a lot of frustration with less technically savvy users.
Smoother than Jims car after an afternoon with the wax. Both the 8MB and 32MB results give very good results across the board, even beating Kingstons claims.
Sequential Read 8MB Sequential Read 32MB
IO Meter is a new test to us and we're still working on how to present its results in the most useful manner. However the important thing to note is that using a small 4KB chunk read and write test the results mirror those above. This will become important below, and in the Crystal Disk Mark later.
Read 4KB chunks Write 4KB chunks
ATTO Disk Benchmark demonstrates the solidity of the results from the SSD Now V+. The moment we get to 64KB chunks, and above, the V+ is rock solid all the way through to 8MB.
Below 64KB though, we have a slight curiosity. Even given our knowledge that small data sizes always lead to a much slower transfer rate than the larger chunks, these are still very slow transfers. We'd expect something more in the 60MB/s bracket than 11.
HD Tune Pro
Now and again we mention about how flat a graph is. Normally it's akin to the write graph you can see on the right here. But let's stop a moment and have a look at the read graph on the left.
Seriously, is that the flattest graph it's possible to have? Barring a little spurt as the test began, it is flatter than a pancake, made in the Netherlands, imported to the Fens, run over by a steamroller and then ironed. Consistency almost doesn't do it justice.
Write speeds are, understandably, not quite as smooth as the read speeds. Although not much would be. Nonetheless there aren't any major troughs and it is all within 10mb/s or so.
In keeping with the smoothness we see above, the Everest Ultimate read test also gives us a very flat, albeit oddly purple, graph.
When we compare it to the current OC3D champion, the Corsair Nova, we see that although the Nova is faster, there is a marked fluctuation in performance. The Kingston is like a train, it just keeps ploughing onwards.
PC Mark Vantage
Whilst we've tested a swathe of drives here at OC3D Towers it makes the most sense to compare against the best, and so for PC Mark that's what we'll do. The best in this case being the Corsair Nova which is the fastest SATA 3Gbp/s drive we've tested.
A couple of odd things to note. Even after many runs the Windows Media Center and Windows Movie Maker results were consistently the same. Considering the rest of the results are above the Nova we really aren't sure what's going on there. The Media Center result is incomprehensible. However the key is that the rest of the results see the Kingston edge out the Nova.
Crystal Disk Mark
For our Crystal Disk Mark testing we're putting the V+ up against a variety of SSDs to give a picture of the general performance. We have the SandForce based Vertex 2 from OCZ. The Corsair Nova and the Mushkin Callisto. We're also using the results from the Kingston SSD Now V+ 64GB to see how much difference the extra capacity and maturity of the firmware makes.
In our read tests the results of our previous tests are replicated with the Kingston taking a stellar lead. Even more impressive considering the linearity of the performance.
Finally the write testing. There is even a larger disparity between the Kingstons performance with small block sizes as reported here by Crystal Disk Mark, and how it is in the rest of the tests. If anything it's quite linear in how it goes from very last at 4K, everything even at 512K and in second, just behind the Nova, at the Sequential test point.
At the start we wondered if the increased capacity of the 256GB version of the Kingston SSD Now V+ would lead to an increase or a decrease in performance over the 64GB capacity V+ we tested in December 09.
Clearly throughout our testing it shows a marked increase. Whether, as all drives perform better when they aren't full to the gunwales, this is due to the sheer available space or to tweaks to the firmware it cannot be denied that in all of our tests the SSD Now V+ performed admirably.
Two things most definitely left an impression upon me. Firstly how consistent the V+ is regardless of the task you are performing. Some extreme performance drives hit their numbers in a very limited environment, but the Kingston was rock solid doing everything from loading Windows, via shifting huge PSDs around, to game playing. It was all fast, all the time.
There definitely is a drop off with tiny blocks as we saw in the ATTO and Crystal Disk Mark tests, although this isn't replicated in the IOMeter tests or PC Mark Vantage and certainly isn't noticeable in daily use. Nonetheless if you work with billions of icons or tiny tiny text documents then it might be worth noting. It is a curiosity.
We test because first-hand impressions are unreliable between a long time span. This is especially true when you're dealing with tiny differences. However the Kingston definitely doesn't feel sluggish in the least with either large or small file sizes.
The second thing is how much of a boon the extra capacity is. Those of us on limited budgets are used to having an SSD as perhaps a OS drive with maybe one or two important applications installed too, and using a standard drive for games and storage etc. The increase in capacity allows all of those daily tasks to also see the benefit of such a instantaneous data retrieval system.
The fact that this is so fast, and it's basically memory, is also something that you have to keep in mind when you look at the pricing. Sure compared to a HDD it's expensive, but try and buy 256GB of super-fast DDR3 and see how much it is in comparison. Despite this being a storage device for price reasons think of it as memory and suddenly it's exceptional value. Logically at least.
Sadly we don't live in a logical world and we can't explain to our other half/parents/dog why we're eating beans on toast for the next year just because, logically, this was a bargain. No, out here in the real world this is eye-wateringly expensive at a touch over £500.
However for your money you get a drive that will hold pretty much anything you want it to, be as reliable as your dog and is faster than a march hare chasing a particularly cute bunny. It's an easy winner of our Bronze award. Just a shame about that price which, whilst on a par with its peers, is still a boat load of cash in anyones book.
Thanks to Kingston for providing the SSD Now V+ for todays review. Discuss in our forums.