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Introduction
 
Logo
Solid State Drives are one of the most desirable upgrades for modern PC users. No matter what your  hardware preferences are, or even what the main use of your system is for, pretty much everyone wants a Solid State Drive to power their system with.
 
Unfortunately the major stumbling block has always been the enormously steep price point that even the lowest end SSD comes in at. To purchase a tiny, slow, SSD for about twice the price of an enormous standard hard-drive is a decision that almost nobody makes, and certainly few who do so are satisfied.

The problem then lies in that to purchase a high-performing, sensible capacity drive needs a large outlay of cash, something most of us either haven't got to hand or would prefer to spend on something that has a more obviously visible improvement such as a graphics card or a beefier processor.
 
However, here at OC3D we consider an upgrade to an SSD to be about the most important upgrade you can make. Kingston agree and have given us their SSDNow V+ 64GB to test. Have they hit the price/performance sweet spot we all desire?
 
Kingston Technology
 
Kingston Technology are one of the most important names in the PC world. They employ over 4000 people throughout the world and provide over 2000 different memory products that support every electronic device that supports memory. With over $4 billion in sales last year they are at the forefront of memory technology.
 
If you have been living under a rock for the last 20 years and are wondering why the fanfare, Kingston started in 1987 by inventing the Single In-Line Memory Module (SIMM) from which all Memory modules since have been based. So the simple nature of our memory installations these days is wholly thanks to them.
 
SSDNow V+ 64GB
 
Today we are looking at their entrant into the mid to high end Solid State marketplace with the SSDNow V+ 64GB. Enough preamble, on with the show.
 


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External Views
 
SSDs tend to come in either elaborate packaging or, akin to most internal hard-drives, in very simplistic packaging. Kingston provide a few versions of their SSDNow products including those with notebook kits and a variety of cables. Todays review sample came as a pure SSD and therefore in a simple cardboard box with a well cut-out protective foam insert. By now we can all imagine a plain box so you're saved from a view of that.
 
One of the most obvious things about this that reminds you this is a memory product is the static precaution packaging it arrives in. Unlike the clamshell plastic containers a lot of OEM hard-drives arrive in, this lets you know loud and clear that you need to be as careful with this as you would be installing any memory product. So put away your nylon trousers.
 
Taking it out of its protective cover reveals a nice surprise. Most SSDs are shipped in a black enclosure, whereas the Kingston SSDNow V+ comes with a lovely grey, slightly textured, metal enclosure. It certainly looks the part alongside the very visible label and, whilst SSDs don't produce much heat at all, will help to dissipate what little heat is generated.
 
SSD in wrapper   Top out
 
Turning it over gives a closer look at this aesthetically pleasing covering, and also shows the pure nature of the product. Although USB connection kits are available as a separate package, the vanilla drive we received is solely supplied with the SATA connections that have become familiar to us all recently. Also nice to note are the four mounting points in the standard 2.5" position, enabling a very swift installation procedure.
 
Underneath   Sata No USB
 
As someone who is used to the heft that comes along with the 3.5" format the size and weight of the Kingston SSDNow V+ is a delight. At very svelte 70mm wide, 100mm long and only 9.5mm thick even the most space limited case will be able to find room for it, and as a notebook extension it will slip into a jacket pocket without issue. On that subject the weight of only 84grams ensures that you'll barely notice it there and anything that can trim some of the fat from our ever expanding systems has to be a good thing.
 
Finally if you do slip it into your pocket and forget it's there the drive can survive operating under 2.7g load and wont sustain damage up to a 20g impact when it's off. Unless you're a fighter pilot or a Formula One driver it's safe to say this will take any sensible hit you can deliver.

Time to undo the screws and see what the box contains.


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Under the Hood
 
It's a very simple procedure to open up the outer casing. Four simple screws are quickly removed and the top slides off without latches or strange plastic attachments.
 
The first thing that you see upon removal of the top are 2 of the 8 Samsung K9HCGZ8U5M SCK0 MLC NAND chips. As you can see from the photograph these look quite lonely in the centre of the board on the 64GB model but there is plenty of room for the additional chips used in the larger capacity models. This modular design helps to keep costs down as the boards are interchangeable throughout the entire range. Anything that helps reduce the cost of SSDs is always a good thing.
 
Turning the board over reveals the other 6 memory chips, alongside the Samsung S3C29RBB01-YK40 controller and the Samsung K4X1G323P0-8GC6 128MB cache chip, more on those below.
 
The Samsung NAND memory chips are very popular, being used in many SSD solutions. They are 48-pin multi-layer ICs rated at 2.7-3.6V and 25ns speed. By being lead-free they are RoHs compliant, ensuring that having been environmentally friendly during their life with low power requirements, they will also be safe to the planet when finished with.
 
Underneath   Top side SSD V+
 
 
Samsung Controller
Time to take a closer look at the Samsung controller, the heart of the Kingston SSDNow V+ drive.
 
The Samsung S3C29RBB01-YK40 controller is rated to a theoretical write speed of 200 MBps and a speed of 220MBps. Heady numbers indeed and it's clear why this is one of the most popular solid state controllers in the mid-range SSD market..
 
Most importantly the Samsung controller comes with a feature Samsung call "Self-Healing". This is very similar to the "Garbage Collection" that has recently appeared in some OCZ firmware. MLC NAND chips require the OS to clear the space before the data can be written if you're over-writing a previously written block, otherwise the drives gradually grind to a halt. The Samsung controller cleans these deleted portions automatically without an OS request, ensuring speedy drive operation even after years of use.
 
The Samsung K4X1G323P0-8GC6 128MB chip which is used for the cache is rated at 1.8v CL3 and in combination with the controller has proven itself to eliminate the stuttering that plagued early SSDs as they couldn't hand the data as fast as they were asked to.
 
In case this all seems a little familiar the combination of the S3C29RBB01 YK40 controller, K4X1G323P0 8GC6 cache and K9HCGZ8U5M SCK0 NAND chips are also available in the Samsung PB22-J, the OCZ Summit and the Corsair P series of SSDs. This means we already know that it should provide very good speeds indeed, good reliability and be free from the aforementioned stuttering problems.
 
With the Kingston drive coming in about £20 cheaper than the other three drives it could prove interesting if the main parts of the unit can attain the same performance level for a much lower price point.
 
In fact its theoretical performance is such that it could be the perfect balance between performance and price that will ensure we all seriously consider the move across to SSD.
 
Time for a look at the Kingston technical specifications and the test system we'll be using today.


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Technical Specifications and data-sheet
 
The Kingston SSDNow V+ series come with a three-year warranty and 24/7 technical support.
 
The Data sheet taken directly from the Kingston webpage, viewable here are :
 
Features :
 
o Innovative – Uses MLC NAND flash memory components.
o Silent – Runs silent and cool with no moving mechanical parts.
o Shock Proof – No moving mechanical parts so the SSD handles rougher conditions.
o Supports S.M.A.R.T. – Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology tells the user when a drive is about to fail
o Guaranteed – 3 year legendary Kingston warranty, 24/7 tech support
 
Data-sheet and Technical Specifications :
 
o Sequential Read Throughput – 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB - 220MB/s
o Sequential Write Throughput – 64GB - 140MB/s, 128GB - 170MB/s, 256GB - 180MB/s
o Form Factor – 2.5"
o Interface – SATA 1.5 Gb/sec. and 3.0 Gb/sec
o Capacity* – 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
o Storage temperatures — -40 - 85°C
o Operating temperatures — 0 ~ 70°C
o Dimensions — 69.85 x 100 x 9.5 mm
o Weight — 84 gram
o IOPS** (Input and Output Operations Per Second) —
   Random 4K read: 6300 IOPS
   Random 4K write: 64GB = 84 IOPS
   Random 4K write: 128GB = 158 IOPS
   Random 4K write: 256GB = 291 IOPS
o Vibration operating — 2.7G
o Vibration non-operating — 20G
o Power specs — 2.6 W - active / 0.15W Idle
o Life expectancy** — 1,000,000 Hrs mean time before failure
o Operating shock — 1500G
So far, nothing particularly earth shattering and about on par with other offerings using the Samsung combination.
 
Test Setup
 
For the battery of tests we're running today we're using an i7 system to ensure that the other parts of the PC can provide the data as swiftly as possible. We're also be comparing results against a Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB, to see if the speed increase is sufficient that the reasonable pricing makes it worth the jump to SSD.
 
CPU : Intel Core i7 920 @ 3GHz
Motherboard : Biostar T-Power X58A using the A13 BIOS dated 13/10/09
RAM : 6GB Corsair Dominator GT @ 1600MHz
GPU : ASUS 4870X2
OS : Windows 7 64 Bit
Drives : Kingston SSDNow V+ 64GB. Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB
 
Click on for the first of the synthetic benchmarks.


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Synthetic Benchmarks

HDTach
 
HDTach isn't the perfect benchmark for testing SSD drives as the results can be sporadic under certain circumstances. However, the benefit it does have is providing a result that is very clear to understand, especially in terms of pure sequential data read performance.
 
As you can see from the graph on the left, the Kingston SSDNow V+ stays around the 200MBps mark, which is very good for a drive around this price point. It also highlights the main benefit of SSDs (pure speed aside) in that regardless of where the information is held, the speeds returned are the same. In contrast the F1 remains typical with all platter drives in that it starts able to read the data quite quickly, although please note that the scale on the vertical axis is different to the SSD graph, but very obviously slows as the data moves to the outside of the disk.
 
Kingston SSDNow V+ HD Tach  Samsung HD Tach
 
 
Everest Random Read
 
Lavalys' Everest provides a better method than HDTach for testing the latest high-performance storage solutions. For the purposes of this test both the Samsung and Kingston were put under the Everest Random Read test. The Samsung results approximately mirrored those of the ATTO read test below, but as the graph is so jumbled as to be no use it has been left out for clarity.
 
The Kingston SSDNow V+ provided a very stable result across the entire drive with the peak read speed surpassing the magical 220MB/s barrier, and with the minimum read speed obtained only going down to the 162MB/s mark, another very impressive result for the Kingston here.
 
Everest Random Read
 
ATTO Benchmark
 
The ATTO benchmark tests multiple sizes from 512bytes all the way up to 8MB. However, really the important tests are tiny files and the largest one, as there isn't much performance difference to be seen between a 1MB file and a 8MB one.
 
The tests were run three times and the average result calculated. As you can see from our results the Kingston SSDNow V+ got within 2MB/s of the potential read speed of the Samsung layout with the 8192KB test, and the write speed even surpassed the manufacturers claims of 140MB/s in both the 8192KB test and the 32KB test. Highly impressive. Nearly double the performance of the Samsung in both read and write testing should help dispel the doubts of those who cling to their platters.
 
 
If the read speeds are impressive, the write speeds are fantastic.
 
 
So far in the theoretical tests the Kingston has performed as well as could be hoped. Whilst some of the sustained speeds haven't been as impressive as very high-end SSDs, nonetheless it's proving that under ideal conditions it is exceptional value.
 
On the next page we'll look at the last synthetic before moving on and seeing if PCMark's benchmark suite shows that these speeds are obtainable in actual use conditions.
 


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Benchmarks continued..
 
Crystal Disk Mark
 
The final synthetic we're going to look at is Crystal Disk Mark 2.2. Unlike our previous benchmarks this can run multiple data sets of a user-defined size. To ensure that the SSDNow V+ was put under the best possible strain five runs using 500MB data were run.
 
Firstly the sequential tests. Once again these show a fantastic level of read performance, although not as high as the tests on the previous page, and equally impressive writing performance. It's common that the read performances of drives are around the manufacturers claims, because people like the massive number than the read can produce. But it's rare to see a company consistently underestimate their writing performance. As the small size of the drive means it is best suited as an Operating System drive rather than data storage, write speed is equally important.

 
As we move down the scale towards the 512K test, it is clear that we are starting to reach the tipping point of SSD technology. They are always much faster than standard HDDs, but once you reach the smaller file sizes they start to slow down.
 
 
Finally the very small 4K size test results. These are much slower than any of the tests on the previous page led us to expect, and repeated runs and tweaking didn't improve matters. The speed of both the Kingston drive on test today and the Samsung drive being compared were much lower than anticipated, and so these results are more for completions sake as no other testing gave such an anomalous result.
 
 
Excluding the anomalous Crystal Mark 4K result, it's obvious that despite the smaller price tag than its contemporaries, the Kingston SSDNow V+ hasn't cut any corners or lacks for any ability.
 
Hopefully these speeds will translate to actual usage.


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PCMark Vantage
 
Unlike its Futuremark stablemate 3DMark, PCMark Vantage provides some real world performance figures by utilising common tasks that would be performed in the life of any computer. For this testing PCMark Vantage v101 0910a was installed on a clean Windows 7 installation and the HDD Test Suite run using the 64 bit variant.
 
If you're the type of person who just wants the final score and doesn't really mind how it's comprised, or maybe you're one of the people who were mentioned in the introduction as trying to be convinced that the upgrade to SSD, and particularly the Kingston SSDNow V+ SSD, is worth it, the following graph tells you almost everything you could need to know. The final score alone doesn't tell the whole story, but a quick glance at it and the words annihilated and trounced come readily to mind.
 
 
 
Luckily you aren't the type who want the quick answer otherwise you'd have skipped on to the conclusion, so it's time to take a look in some depth at the figures that make up that score. Once you start stressing the entire PC those incredible speeds we saw in the synthetic testing take a bit of a pounding. The Media Center test keeps closest to the transfer rate seen previously, but most of the results end up around the 130MB/s mark. Approximately a 33% drop from the potential speed to the achievable speed.
 
However as one of the aspects we're looking at today is if Kingston's low pricing makes the transfer to SSD a genuine possibility, the answer still remains an emphatic yes. The best that the Samsung Spinpoint managed was half the transfer rate, but in most cases it could only provide a quarter or less of the Kingston SSDNow V+s performance. Application loading and OS Startup appear to be the hardest affected, so we'll take a closer look at those over the page.
 
 
Just shy of 25000 in PCMark Vantage is a very impressive score. The popular combination of Samsung controller, cache and NAND Memory proving their worth.
 
 
7Zip
 
7Zip is a free compression and decompression utility that is available in both 32 and 64bit flavours. Supporting all archive formats and coming with a built in benchmark it's the ideal choice. The benchmark was performed using 5 passes on the 7Zip default settings of 32MB dictionary and utilising all 8 threads available on the i7 920. This is great proof that modern PC components have moved ahead of the 3.5" HDDs ability to keep up in both storing and reading data. The Kingston SSDNow V+ enables to processor to keep working at its full capacity and provides an extra 4000 MIPS over the Samsung Spinpoint. For anyone who finds themselves zipping and unzipping files on a regular basis the time savings cannot be denied.
 
 
We'll take a quick look at some pure loading performance and then head on to the conclusion.
 


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Loading Times
 
Obtaining accurate loading times is always difficult, especially when it comes to testing the Operating System. As you start getting into measuring tenths of seconds it is possible to introduce too many variables if timing solely from the power-on to the desktop, as the BIOS and similar things can vary too wildly to enable accurate timing.
 
To reduce this the system was set up as follows. Both the Kingston SSDNow V+ and the Samsung Spinpoint were freshly formatted and had a new version of Windows 7 64 installed. Identical drivers, Windows updates and the two games on test were installed so that the system was fully operational whilst having the minimum of extraneous programs. Each test was run 5 times with the slowest and fastest runs discounted and the average of the remaining three taken. The PC was rebooted between each run to ensure that any speed increase wasn't due to data caching in the memory.
 
Windows 7 Boot time
 
For testing the Windows 7 boot time the system was configured as a dual boot. This ensured that an accurate time could be taken between selecting either the SSD or the HDD, and awaiting the displaying of a text document that had been placed in the start menu. The Kingston SSDNow V+ was just under twice as fast as the standard drive. The fastest time seen was 20.1 seconds, which is very impressive. Having run the SSD tests first the HDD took an age. The time shown on the stopwatch felt wrong because it was just SO slow. As a reviewer who has to reboot a lot to obtain standardised test results this was a boon, but even when I was just using the PC normally, having the desktop appear so quickly was a delight.
 
 
Company of Heroes Tales of Valor
 
Company of Heroes makes an excellent testbed for all sorts of PC components. By utilising some very large maps, high detail large textures and an array of small files to load for each map it is especially good at testing storage devices. For this test we maximised the settings as high as they would go, set up a Skirmish on the largest map available with the default game, Route 13, which is an 8 player map. Both sides consisted of two British, two American, two Wermacht and two Panzer Elite, to further stress the loading needed. Timings were taken from pressing the proceed button, to the game showing the begin button.
 
Initially I was surprised with the small gain to be had. An average of a nine second improvement isn't to be sniffed at, but I expected slightly more. However if you extrapolate these gains across a more sensible map selection and perhaps an afternoons gaming, they quickly add up to quite a significant amount of time not spent twiddling thumbs.
 
Worthy of note was the extra smoothness the gameplay itself had. We're all familiar with large-scale maps or worlds in which the initial stages of gameplay are a little jerky as each texture and model gets loaded into the cache. Not so here. On the Kingston SSDNow V+ is was smooth as silk from the first Pioneer to the last burning Sherman.
 
 
Need For Speed SHIFT
 
EAs venerable franchise keeps rolling on. Shift marked a big departure from the pimping up of standard cars to race on rainy night-time streets, to a more adult measured approach reminiscent of Forza or GRiD. In this reviewers opinion it's much the better for it too.
 
In a similar way to Company of Heroes, the game was set to maximum details and the very large Nordschleife was chosen for a quick race with 15 level 3 cars. All cars were set to be "same" and a high-polygon Works Nissan GTR R35 Vspec was chosen. Timings were taken from the pressing of the accept button to the track appearing. The results nicely mirror those of Company of Heroes. Where that saved about 9 seconds over a minute load, this saved on average 4.6 seconds over a half-minute load. Two very different games, two similar results.
 
The gains one might expect to see in a game that takes an hour to play such as CoH, would naturally be exponentially larger in a title such as Shift in which races are short and being loaded on a regular basis.
 
 
Time to wrap this up and provide some thoughts on the Kingston SSDNow V+.


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Final Thoughts
 
The temptation when reviewing products such as the Kingston SSDNow V+ is to compare it against very similar products to see where it fits in the marketplace. With SSDs usually they are compared against RAID WD VelociRaptors or other expensive solutions.
 
During the initial testing phase though two things became apparent. Firstly that under the skin this is identical to many other SSDs that also use a completely Samsung based solution. Secondly, that the aggressive pricing Kingston have used alongside it's obvious performance, mean it's one of the first realistic SSDs that average people can upgrade to. We're very aware that most upgrades people purchase are large steps up in performance, and that the general user neither has extreme performance HDDs, nor often goes for incremental upgrades.
 
Therefore we decided to test the Kingston SSDNow V+ against it's manufacturers claims, and also use the kind of drive most people will own as the comparison.
 
As an upgrade from HDD technology
 
This is easily the briefest part of the review and the simplest to do. If you're still running a HDD and wonder if the upgrade to Solid State technology is good value, go now. Sell a kidney. Mortgage your granny. Whatever you need to do, get one. Sometimes we review things that the numbers show to be amazing, but in daily use doesn't quite pan out. This is the opposite. The numbers are very impressive, but how it performs all the time is even more impressive. Every single read or write action is vastly improved. Once you've got a virus checker and a couple of things running in the background, it still zips along. So should you upgrade to the Kingston SSDNow V+?
 
Conclusion
 
Yes you should. Kingston have done something pretty amazing. They've produced a SSD with identical components to three other SSDs, and brought it in around £20 cheaper. No corners have been cut though as it gets very close to the 220MB/s mark in read tests, and surpasses the claimed 140MB/s in many write tests.
 
One of the major stumbling blocks of early MLC NAND storage technology was stuttering, and the gradual degradation in performance. The Kingston SSDNow V+ gets around these two problems with a neat solution. Firstly a 128MB cache helps smooth the write and read requests, eliminating drive stutter. Throughout our 10 days of testing not once did the drive cough or hiccup at all. Secondly the inclusion on the Samsung Controller of Self-Cleaning technology removes the gradual degradation in performance that plagued early SSDs.
 
So it's very quick, cheaper than it's rivals, comes in a very nice looking case and has all the bells and whistles necessary to provide long-term stability. About the only things I dislike aren't specific to this drive and that's the small size meaning it's only really useful as an OS drive, and whilst Kingston have got the price below all its rivals, it's still quite an expensive upgrade.
 
No other upgrade though will provide you with such an enormous gain in performance no matter what you use your computer for.
 
Highly recommended.
 
    OC3D VFM
 
We would like to thank Kingston for the chance to test the drive. Discuss our thoughts and results in our forums.