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Kingston M.2 2280 SATA 120GB SSD Review

AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Thanks in no small part to Intel and their Z97 motherboards, the new M.2 storage form factor is quickly gaining attention. There are a number of reasons for this surge in popularity like the diminutive size of these SSDs being perfect for small form factor systems and the actual performance being brought to the table. Despite what may seem like an oddball interface, these are PCI-E based drives so throughput is typically quite impressive. Kingston has seen an opportunity in this niche and have created the 2280 in an effort to capitalize on what will likely be a growing segment.

Past its obvious size and performance advantages, M.2 actually has a lot of different modes that an attached drive can use. For the purposes of this review the main three are: NVMe which will be used by future drives, PCIe mode that SSDs like the Plextor M6e series use and a final Legacy SATA mode. The M.2 2280 120GB drive makes use of the latter and Kingston hopes it is also a great example of what SATA M.2 drives have to offer consumers: low cost, high value, and acceptable performance.

intro.jpg

This 'legacy' mode of the M.2 standard is what has allowed new entry level and value-oriented drives like the M.2 2280 to be quickly built and brought to market. This is because these drives don’t rely upon a new and expensive PCIe or NVMe based controller. Instead any SATA controller will work since SSDs like the 2280 are for all intents and purposes smaller and cheaper to produce SATA drives, just ones that use the M.2 form-factor instead of a 'classic' 2.5" form-factor. The only caveat to using Legacy mode is that the M.2 socket has to be capable of Legacy SATA mode (not all motherboards are) or otherwise the new drive just won’t work.

board1_sm.jpg

With a model name of '2280' some consumers could easily be forgiven for thinking this was SandForce-based device but Kingston’s nomenclature refers to the form-factor of the drive itself. Just as M.2 drives can use various modes that have been laid out in the standard so too have numerous lengths and widths been baked right into this standard.

To break down a four digit M.2 form-factor designation you have to first understand what the various digits means. The first two digits state the device’s width (in millimeters), and the second set of two numbers tell you how long it is (also in millimeters). For the time being all M.2 consumer grade models will be 22mm wide and thus the 22 can be safely ignored so that second set of numbers is what matters for motherboard and notebook compatibility. In this case '2280' means Kingston’s drive is 22mm wide and 80mm long.

board2_sm.jpg

Thankfully since it is a M.2 device, just one look at the naked PCB will remove any questions over what controller Kingston uses. Also as mentioned this is a dual-sided, maximum height, 80mm long M.2 drive. As such it uses four NAND ICs, a single RAM module and an SATA controller. In this instance Kingston -for the time being - opted for four Toshiba 19nm Toggle Mode NAND modules. These are high performance NAND chips and it’s great to see them being used on a budget drive. The single RAM IC is a Nanya branded DDR3-1333 256MB IC and it is fairly par for the course.

controller_sm.jpg

Sadly, while Kingston did have the freedom to choose from any SATA controller available (SandForce, Marvel, Intel, Samsung, etc) they opted for the low priced Phison PS3108 which can be found in entry level SSDs like the Corsair Force LS. Considering this drive has a somewhat expensive MSRP of $95 -or a good ten dollars more than Kingston's own highly capable entry level 2.5" SATA drives- it does put into question what it’s supposed to compete against. However, if the performance is high enough maybe the M.2 2280's unique blend of features and price will be enough to create an entirely new market niche for entry level M.2 SSDs.
 
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AkG

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Test System & Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our test-bed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Windows 7 load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being an Intel DC S3700 800GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

For all testing a Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or OCZ SSDToolbox and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Processor: Core i5 2500
Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory: 8GB Corsair Vengeance LP “blue”
Graphics card: Asus 5550 passive
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel 910 800GB
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB
: 1.33
Intel 520: 400i
SanDisk Extreme 240GB: R211
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB: M206
Intel 335 180GB: 335
SanDisk Extreme 2 240GB: R1311
Seagate Pro 600: B660
OCZ Vector 150 240GB: 1.2
Angelbird Adler 640GB: AA3.15
Vertex 460 240GB: 1.0
ADATA SP920 512GB: MU01
Intel 7230 240GB: L2010400
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB:DXM06B0Q
Crucial MX100 512GB: MU01
Crucial M550 512GB: MU01
Plextor M6e 256GB: 1.03
Plextor M6s 256GB: 1.03
Kingston HyperX Fury 240GB: 5.60


Samsung MDX controller:
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

SandForce SF1200 controller:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

SandForce SF2281 controller:
Intel 520 - Custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND
Kingston HyperX Fury 240GB - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

LAMD controller:
Corsair Neutron GTX - Toggle Mode NAND
Seagate 600 Pro - Custom firmware w/ Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9183 controller:
Plextor M6e 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9188 controller:
Plextor M6s - Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 9187 controller:
Crucial M500 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
SanDisk Extreme 2 - Custom firmware w/ 19nm eX2 ABL NAND

Marvell 9189 controller:
ADATA SP920 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
Crucial M550 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND
Crucial MX100 - Custom firmware w/ 128Gbit ONFi 3 NAND

Barefoot 3 controller:
OCZ Vector 150 (M00) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
OCZ Vertex 460 (M10) - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Novachips NVS3600A controller:
Angelbird Adler - ONFi 2 NAND

Intel X25 G3 controller:
Intel 730 - Custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


<i>For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/m2_2280/read.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


Write Performance


<i>For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/m2_2280/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Firstly we need to point out that Kingston's M.2 2280 is a <i>Legacy Mode</i> M.2 drive and not a PCIe based M.2 drive. This means it will never be able to outperform classic 'SATA' drives. It also means PCIe mode M.2's should prove to be much faster.

With that being said this isn't a quick SSD by any stretch of the imagination. While the read performance is decent if not spectacular, the low average write numbers are a tad worrisome. Hopefully, this is not a sign of things to come and rather is simply one quirk of the M.2 2280 that consumers will have to get used to.
 
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AkG

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Messages
5,270
ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.

atto_w.jpg

atto_r.jpg

Once again the Kingston M.2 2280 120GB is not exactly posting great numbers throughout the tests but these results were to be expected considering the budget-oriented nature of this drive.
 
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AkG

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Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB.

cdm_w.jpg

cdm_r.jpg


PCMark 7


While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.

pcm7.jpg

The numbers certainly aren't great and any serious 'budget' class 2.5" SATA drive will beat it. Even Plextor's M6S is able to pull ahead and that drive costs no more than $75.
 
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AkG

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IOMeter

IOMETER


<i>IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per HDD (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/m2_2280/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

To be fair this is an entry level drive and certainly should never be used in one of these workstation-class scenarios. For this reason, we can overlook these results.
 
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AkG

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Windows 7 / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance


<i>When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. Where Windows 7 has become nearly ubiquitous for solid state drive enthusiasts we have chosen Windows 7 64bit Ultimate as our Operating System. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/m2_2280/boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Adobe CS5 Load Time


<i>Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/m2_2280/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

We had hoped that the synthetic test results were simply being too hard on this drive. After all, budget SSDs are meant for real world scenarios above all else. Sadly, while there is <i>some</i> improvement in the overall performance standings, these results are rather terrible by 2014 standards.
 
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AkG

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Firefox Performance / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance



<i>Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worse case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/m2_2280/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found. </i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/m2_2280/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/m2_2280/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Once again you could classify these results are mediocre, but taken as a whole they are rather poor. This drive may cost less than $100 but even for the sub hundred dollar range, these results are disappointing.
 

AkG

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Partial and Full Drive Performance

Partial and Full Drive Performance


<i>While it is important to know how a drive will perform under optimal conditions, more realistic scenarios are just as important. Knowing if a solid state drive will behave differently when partially or even nearly full than when it is empty is very important information to know. To quickly and accurately show this crucial information we have first filled the drive to 50% capacity and re-tested using both synthetic and real world tests. After the completion of this we then re-test at 75% and 90% of full capacity. </i>

Synthetic Test Results

<i>For our synthetic testing we have opted for our standard PCMark 7 test.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/m2_2280/data_pcm7.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Real World Results

<i>For a real world application we have opted for our standard Windows 7 Start Up with Boot Time A/V Scan Performance test.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/m2_2280/data_boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Disappointing is how we would classify these results since performance literally plummets as the drive fills up. Legacy SATA M.2 SSDs are all about value and yet in order to be considered a viable option, any drive needs to have a certain amount of performance. It is only by - maybe - 4 year old performance standards that Kingston's drive would be considered a good "value".
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


In many ways the Kingston M.2 2280 is an exciting SSD with a ton of potential, especially with the amount of positive press the M.2 form factor received during the Z97 launch. Other than the obvious benefits derived from a diminutive form factor that ensures compatibility with everything from Ultrabooks to small form factor PC’s, M.2 has a number of other benefits as well. Its compatibility spans SATA, PCIe and NVM Express, on-paper performance potential is impressive and manufacturers are already working hard to keep prices reasonable.

With all of this in mind, Kingston’s M.2 2280 could have written a new chapter in affordable SSD performance. It could have offered something immensely interesting to everyone who is busy looking for a compact built-in SSD for their latest SFF build. It could have driven additional interest towards the M.2 form factor, in particular the immensely affordable Legacy SATA-derived sub-category. Unfortunately, none of those things were achieved.

Before we start focusing on why there are better options available, there are some aspects that Kingston needs to be commended on. First and foremost, they need to be commended for taking a risk by offering consumers a true budget M.2 drive. The performance on offer here isn’t all that bad either considering it competes against several mainstream drives.

Where the Kingston’s M.2 2280 stumbles is how it’s priced relative to the performance it actually delivers. While the M.2 form factor may be appealing to alone who wants compactness, this drive is actually more expensive than Kingston's own Fury SSD line, their imploding V300 line, a Crucial MX100 128GB, Plextor’s M6s, and even a Samsung 840 EVO 120GB. In fact, it costs about as much as Crucial's excellent M550 128GB drive. Meanwhile, literally every one of those options can outperform the 2280 by a wide margin. To be perfectly honest, there is absolutely no compelling reason besides its small form-factor to purchase this SSD.

As it stands, consumers interested in purchasing their very first M.2 form-factor drive will be better served by saving up for Plextor's more expensive M6e line. Conversely, anyone looking for a great 'value' drive or entry level SSD will also be much better off with any of the various 2.5" SATA 6Gb/s SSDs already on the market.
 
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