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Kingston SSDNow V+ (gen.2) 128GB SSD Review

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AkG

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SSDNowV_kingston-logo.jpg


Kingston SSDNow V+ (gen.2) 128GB SSD Review



Manufacturer's Product Page: SSDNow V+ Drive
Part Number: SNVP325-S2B/128GB
TechWiki Info: Kingston SSDNOW V+ G2 128GB SSD - TechWiki
Warranty: 3 years



There is one thing which has become abundantly evident in the SSD market over the last year or so: while there may be a near-infinite number of companies who want to get into the lucrative SSD market, there is a fairly limited number of OEMs qualified enough to build a decent drive or release a proper controller. In the past we have looked at many solid state drives from many different manufacturers, but when we took a closer look at them a few key names kept reappearing: Intel, JMicron, Samsung and Indilinx. These are some of the few companies that have succeeded in penetrating the market with high performance or value-oriented controllers and OEM solutions. There is however another company that is making some serious inroads into the controller market: Toshiba.

In today’s review, we will be taking a much closer look at the Kingston SSDNow V+ 128GB Solid State Drive which just so happens to sport one of these new Toshiba controllers. To make matters even more interesting, Kingston decided to deck out their new SSDNow wwith Toshiba NAND as well. While this may seem interesting, Kingston holds an interesting place in the SSD landscape simply because we are not aware of any other company who has sought out, and marketed so many different controllers (Intel, JMicron, Samsung and now Toshiba). While it may cause some confusion when going from generation to generation, they do seem to be striving towards giving their customers the best possible bang for their performance dollars, no matter what the budget. All in all, the inclusion of Toshiba into the mix looks like a more than interesting solution from a performance standpoint.

Toshiba may not be as well known in the Solid State arena as Samsung, Intel, JMicron or Indilinx but this does not mean they are rank amateurs at it; in fact, they were the inventors of NAND flash. While other companies may be more recognized in SSD circles, Toshiba is considered by many to be the very definition of “innovator” in many circles. The fact that their NAND-related patent portfolio is quite literally larger than anyone else’s out there and other companies come to them to negotiate cross licensing agreements does underscore exactly how much knowledge and experience Toshiba has in this arena. These are the people who push the envelope and were real trailblazers in the world of NAND manufacturing. Does this instantly translate into praise-worthy solid state drive controllers? That is open to debate as newcomers such as Intel, Sandforce and Indilinx are dominating right now in that corner of the market, but we wouldn’t bet against Toshiba no matter how good our bookie’s odds were.

This new revision of the SSDNow V+ 128GB is starting to become readily available at retailers and e-tailers alike and the lowest price we have seen the 128GB version advertised for was around $280 Canadian but it seems to fluctuate up and down from week to week. This price point certainly places this new drive at the very edge of the value orientated spectrum and some could argue it crosses over into the more enthusiast end of the market. You could make this argument as this is almost what a high end Indilinx-based SSD like the Corsair X, Patriot Torqx or the original G. Skill Falcon goes for. With this in mind, Kingston’s new Toshiba-based drive has some heavy competition stacked against it. Let’s see what it can do.


Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_mfg.jpg

 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_specs.jpg

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_specs2.jpg

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_mfg2.jpg

 
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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


Before we begin we would like to note that we received the “Bundle Kit” version of this drive. This version retails for a bit more than the bare bones version (about $20 extra) but the drive itself is the exact same; it’s just the accessories which accompany the drive which are different.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_box_f_sm.jpg
Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_box_b_sm.jpg

As with the SSDNow V 40GB, the V+ 128GB comes in what is basically a two part affair instead of the more typical homogeneous external package. Like we said in that previous SSD review the outer cardboard “box” is nothing more than two advertising sleeves, designed to get your attention and keep the internal plastic container from separating into its two parts (and scattering its precious cargo all over the place). The only issue we have with this two part sleeve is it lacking one crucial and easily identifiable piece of information: the fact that it contains the new Toshiba controller. Earlier V+ drives (the SNVP225) used Samsung controllers, and while we have no issue with that, we do take issue with anything which makes you the consumer’s job more difficult. The package should have had a large sticker, label or something else to differentiate it from the last generation.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_box_b2_sm.jpg
Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_box_f2_sm.jpg

While the front is concerned more with advertising its contents (with its big “redhead” image and model number in bold lettering), the back contains a short marketing blurb on what is included. To help distinguish this products from the other drives in their lineup, Kinston uses a slightly different colour scheme.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_box_o_sm.jpg
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After slipping off the second cardboard sleeve we finally can get a good look at the internal protection scheme Kingston has gone with which is for all intents and purposes the same as the SSDNow V 40GB. This super-sized two piece plastic box (with a smaller “lid” on top and a deeper bottom half) is a good way of protecting the contents while still keeping things easy to open.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_access_sm.jpg

As with the last Kingston SSD we reviewed (the V-series 40GB), you get a Molex to SATA adaptor, an SATA cable, drive rails to convert this 2.5” form factor drive to fit into a standard 3.5” HDD mount and a CD which contains not only instructions but a copy of Acronis True Image HD. To add the proverbial cherry to the dessert, you also get an external 2.5” drive enclosure and the USB to mini-USB cable to go with it. Can you say “Impressive Overkill”?
 
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AkG

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First Impressions

First Impressions



As with the Kingston SSDNow V 40GB, the V ”+” generation comes clad in an elegant all gray metal case. As we said before, it may be a monotone colour scheme but the grey Kingston has gone with does help differentiate it from the crowd. We just wish they had chosen something other than “Dell grey” to make their own.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_top_sm.jpg
]
Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_label_sm.jpg
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The majority of this drive’s label is taken up with the model name, capacity and Kingston’s usual “redhead” logo, but the bottom section (running the length of the label from the front of the drive to the back of the drive) has been sectioned off. This section contains all of the usual details like, standards compliance, where it was assembled and the all important power numbers.

For some (maybe even most) consumers the amount of power draw a solid state drive demands isn’t too important as they will be using it in a desktop PC. However, if you are planning on using it in a laptop the amount of power it consumes CAN be crucial in your decision making process. This drive is rated to draw a maximum of 0.5 of an amp off the 5v line which translates to a moderate power draw of 2.5 watts at most. While this is not anywhere near as frugal as the SSDNow V 40GB was, 2.5 watts is very respectable when you consider other 128GB units like the G. Skill Falcon 1 & 2 use more power. Heck when you compare this 128GB unit to an Intel 80GB unit which sucks down a full amp the V+ can be considered downright frugal. Of course, Samsung based SSDs like the OCZ Summit do consume less power (.35A or 1.75 watts) but all in all, half an amp is a very respectable number for a drive of this size.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_pins_sm.jpg

Since this is our first Toshiba-based SSD we were interested to see if Toshiba went for an Intel-like (jumperless) approach or an Indilinx (jumper pin) approach to firmware updates. As you can see, the Kingston SSDNow V+ 128GB does indeed have jumpers; however, there are two sets of jumpers instead of one. Why there are two sets is not clear and it also isn’t clear if either, both or even neither set are used for firmware updating (though we cannot imagine why they would be included if not for updating firmware). Once updated firmware is released for this drive we will let you know how the process goes.
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions


Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_board_sm.jpg
Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_board2_sm.jpg

Unlike every other board from every other solid state manufacturer we have looked at, it appears that Toshiba has taken a much more streamlined approach to their layout and design. This board has been designed so that only one side will ever be populated with flash modules. The upside to this is it makes assembly much easier and faster (which usually translates to “cheaper”) but it also mean sthat Toshiba will have to either go with double stacked (or more) NAND chips or higher density ICs for drives with more capacity as there is simply less room to put chips.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_heatpad_sm.jpg

When we gently pried the casing away from the PCB, it became crystal clear that Toshiba includes a thermal pad. This means the V+ 128GB is the first SSD we have ever seen which takes a more active approach to thermal management. It is a myth that Solid State Drives are cool running and after a round of IOMeter they do get downright toasty. In a nut shell this thermal pad connects the chips of the board to the metal case which in turn makes the case into a giant heatsink.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_controller3_sm.jpg

The I/O controller chip is of course none other than the recently released Toshiba T6UG1XBG controller. We were slightly surprised by this as Kingston was using Samsung for their V+ series. Unlike Samsung or Indilinx, Toshiba is not as forthcoming with details on their controllers and are much like Intel in this regards. This controller is the same as the one used in the Toshiba HG2 SSD, so it is a 43nm, SATA 2 controller which is capable of 230MB/s sequential read speed and 180MB/s sequential write speed.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_ram2_sm.jpg

Just like the SSDNow V 40GB, the RAM which graces this board is made by Micron. To be more specific this tiny chip is labeled as “9LA17- D9HSJ”, but this is NOT the real part number for this 128MB ram chip. This is a FBGA chip and due to space limitations, FBGA-packaged components have an abbreviated part marking that is different from the actual part number.

This 1Gigabit(128MB), VFBGA 90-ball, Low Power DDR SDRAM 1.8v chip is rated as "Industrial" so it has an amazing operating temperature range of -40C all the way up to +85C. It is a RoHS complaint and runs at 167MHz (DDR333, aka PC2700) @ CL 3 but we have to wonder why Toshiba decided to include a massive amount of cache like this. We know for a fact that Samsung went with 128MB to help compensate for a less than optimal controller so we do wonder if Toshiba went with a similar line of reasoning. To be fair, the Samsung controller was a very decent and if the Toshiba unit is even slightly better, this new V+ gen 2 will be a worthy successor to the original Samsung-based V+ line.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_nand_sm.jpg

As we said in the introduction, Toshiba is the granddaddy of the NAND world and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t even have NAND. Needless to say, we are not surprised to see the NAND used on this board is indeed made by Toshiba. To be specific the Kinston SSDNow V+ 128Gb used Toshiba MLC NAND, model number TH58NVG7D7EBAK0. Since these are relatively new, there really isn’t much information available but we can still make some educated guesses. We believe they are 64gigaBIT (8GB) multi-layer cell NAND, 3.3v 48 pin chips which are most likely built using a 32nm process.
 
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AkG

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TRIM, & Firmware

TRIM, & Firmware


T13.jpg

Since this is a recently released drive it would have deeply surprised and saddened us if it did not come with a TRIM-enabled firmware; this goes double because this drive was released after the issues Kingston had with Intel and the SSDNow 40GB V. However, are glad to report that Toshiba may be new to the SSD controller business but they are not amateurs and this drive does indeed ship with TRIM built in and came with the latest available firmware AGYA0201.

Kingston_SSDNowVPlus_CD-Info_sm.jpg

As with all things life, just because the V+ series has the ability to receive and execute TRIM commands does not necessarily mean it can in all situations. You need to not only be running a TRIM aware SSD, but also you need an OS capable of sending the TRIM command like Windows 7. So while TRIM is all well and fine in theory, what about about the millions of users who are running operating systems?

This is usually where Idle Time Garbage Collection (ITGC) comes into play. Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on the effectiveness or even speed of this function but Kingston has confirmed the V+ 128GB does indeed have a dynamic garbage collection process built in.

If ITGC does prove to be less than optimal on Toshiba drives, AS-Cleaner with the “FF” option enabled will write 1’s to all the free cells on any solid state drive and then delete the file. Since 1 is the same state as the empty state (i.e. its virgin state) this is basically the same as doing a manual TRIM. If you combine this with an SSD-aware defragmentation program which can run a “consolidate free space” option AS-Cleaner is the first shot in a great one-two punch which will not only clean all the free cells but also any that were partially used. This one two punch is colloquially called “Tony-Trim” and while it has been this reviewer’s arsenal for awhile now, not everyone knows about it. It certainly is not as good as automatic TRIM but if you simply do not have TRIM as a viable option, this work-around has been shown in most cases to be the next best option.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


Testing a hard 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 to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for SSDs to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our testbed 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 XP 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 a WD 320 single platter drive.

For these tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HDTune, Cystal Disk Benchmark, h2benchw, SIS Sandra Removable Storage benchmark, and IOMeter for synthetic benchmarks.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long XP startup took, Adobe CS3 (w/ enormous amounts of custom brushes installed) took, how long a single 4GB rar file took to copy to and then from the hard drives, then copy to itself. We also used 1gb of small files (from 1kb to 20MB) with a total 2108 files in 49 subfolders.

For the temperature testing, readings are taken directly from the hottest part of the drive case using a Digital Infrared Thermometer. The infrared thermometer used has a 9 to 1 ratio, meaning that at 9cm it takes it reading from a 1 square cm. To obtain the numbers used in this review the thermometer was held approximately 3cm away from the heatsink and only the hottest number obtained was used.


Please note to reduce variables the same XP OS image was used for all the hard drives.

For all testing a Gigabyte PA35-DS4 motherboard was used. The ICH9 controller on said motherboard was used.

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

Processor: Q6600 @ 2.4 GHZ
Motherboard: Gigabyte p35 DS4
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: Asus 8800GT TOP
Hard Drive: 1x WD 320
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):
G. Skill Titan: 0955
G.Skill Falcon: 1571 (AKA FW 1.3)
OCZ Apex: 955
OCZ Vertex: 1.3 (AKA FW 1571)
Patriot Torqx: 1571 (AKA FW 1.3)
Corsair P64: 18C1Q
OCZ Summit: 1801Q
A-Data S592: 1279 (AKA PRE 1.1 FW)
OCZ Agility EX 60GB: 1.3 (AKA 1.4 for MLC Indilinx Drives)
Kingston SSDNow V 40GB: 02G9
G.Skill Falcon 2: 1881 (AKA 1.4)
Kingston SSDNow V+ 128GB: AGYA0201
 
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AkG

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Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


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 this goes double for SSD based drives. The main reason we include it is to show what under perfect conditions a given drive is capable of; but the more 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.


read.jpg


As you can see the read performance of this drive is a little on the low side and is lower than even the OCZ Summit (a drive which has the same Samsung S3C29RBB01 controller in it as was in the previous SSDNow V+ drives). However, we would go as far as saying that this drive is still much, much faster at reads than any hard disk drive out there; but to be honest we have to wonder if this lower than expected read speed hints at an unrefined firmware. If this is the case, a couple tweaks will improve things and give early buyers a noticeable improvement after running a firmware update.


Write Performance


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.

write.jpg


Now results like these are interesting! You have to impressed when the minimum speed is this good as it does mean this SSDNow V+ has the potential to make one solid state drive which can beat even enthusiast class MLC drives in write speed. This was great and impressive to see but what was actually very interesting was how close the minimum speed was to the average speed. Seeing this tells us the NAND and more importantly the controller/cache combination this unit sports is as good (if not better) than other current generation drives out there.
 
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Crystal DiskMark / Random Access

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. When all 5 tests for a given section were run Crystal DiskMark then averages out all 5 numbers to give a result for that section.


READ


cdm_r.jpg

The 512K results are certainly impressive, but both the sequential and all important 4k read tests are a little low. Once again, this may be an inherent limitation in the controller, or it may just be due to an unrefined firmware. Nonetheless, we are being picky to a certain extent.


WRITE


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This is what we were really interested in seeing as to our way of thinking the Crystal DiskMark small 4k write test is one of the best synthetic benchmarks out there and it is here that the all new Toshiba controller shines. It may only be in third place, but it is the first serious contender we have seen which can challenge the Intel controller on its “own turf” so to speak.


Random Access Time


To obtain the absolute, most accurate Random access time, h2benchw was used for this benchmark. This benchmark tests how quickly different areas of the drive’s memory can be accessed. A low number means that the drive space can be accessed quickly while a high number means that more time is taken trying to access different parts of the drive. To run this program, one must use a DOS prompt and tell it what sections of the test to run. While one could use “h2benchw 1 -english -s -tt "harddisk test" -w test” for example and just run the seek tests, we took the more complete approach and ran the full gamout of tests and then extracted the necessary information from the text file. This is the command line argument we used “h2benchw 1 -a -! -tt "harddisk drivetest" -w drivetest”. This tells the program to write all results in english, save them in drivetest txt file, do write and read tests and do it all on drive 1 (or the second drive found, with 0 being the OS drive).

random.jpg

While it is a little bit lower than other current generation controllers out there, the V+ 128GB is still light years better than older generation controllers and is still a completely different league when comparatively slow moving hard disk drives. We truly doubt you would notice a difference in the real world between .08ms and .12ms as that is a smaller slice of time than we can realistically perceive.
 
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AkG

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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.

Read


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

The read curve of this drive is very good and while it cannot compete against Intel controlled solid state drives (with Intel NAND) it is still very impressive. As you can see it has for all intents and purposes a slightly better read performance curve than the Samsung controller it replaced (as seen by the OCZ Summit performance curve).


Write


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

In the synthetic world, this drive certainly has an impressive power curve and it will certainly be interesting to see if this translates to real world performance. Once again it has slightly better performance than its predecessor but as with all other drive - be they spindle and platter based or solid state- real world tests will make or break this drive.
 
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