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Kingston SSDNow V Series 40GB SSD Review

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AkG

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Kingston SSDNow V Series 40GB SSD Review





Manufacture’s Product Page: Click here
Part Number: SNV125-S2BD/40GB
TechWiki Info: Kingston SSDNow V 40GB SSD - TechWiki
Price:
Click here to check prices (Desktop Upgrade Kit)
Click here to check prices (Standard)
Warranty: 3 years



In the past we have concentrated a lot of our reviewing effort on the various Indilinx (and to a lesser extent Samsung) controller based Solid State Drives. The reason for this is because those types of drives are literally everywhere in the market these days. While we did have the privilege of taking a close look at the original Intel X25-M 80GB drive, that has been the extent of our involvement with Intel and their controllers. As we all know, the X25-M gen 2 has been out for awhile and it has been gaining an impressive track record (albeit one which is fraught with some dodgy firmware). Today’s review is going to help alleviate this imbalance somewhat since we are looking at a new drive from Kingston that incorporates some interesting Intel bits.

While this article isn’t going to be concentrating on the Intel X-25M Gen 2, but we are going to do the next best thing and review it by proxy. Indeed, the Kingston SSDNow V Series 40GB SSD actually does use the newer second generation Intel controller. However past iterations of the SSDNow V series drives used JMicron controllers and actually use the same naming scheme so make sure you pay attention to product numbers before purchasing one of these drives. All we can say is that the easiest way to tell the JMicron from the Intel units is pretty simple: the Intel controlled one is 40GB and ONLY 40GB and everything else in the V line is JMicron- based…for now.

With the exception of custom firmware, this SSD is for all intents and purposed an Intel X-25M generation 2 with only half the storage capacity. It is unfortunate but one of the major flaws with the X-25M g2 controller is that is doesn’t scale down as well with lower capacities as other competitors’ products. For this reason the write specifications of the Kingston SSDNow V 40GB drive are about half of what the X-25M 80GB’s are. On the plus side this drive, while new to the market and hard to find right now, this product has a down right anaemic online price of about $124 (though this is for the desktop upgrade kit, the standard version goes for even less at about $112!). In “Desktop Upgrade” mode, the Kingston SSD acts as a boot drive which can and will significantly increase the performance of older system.

All in all, this looks like the perfect drive for people looking to get their feet wet in the SSD pond. It should offer solid performance and a clear upgrade path for potential customers with lower-end systems.



 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications








 
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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


Before we begin we would like to note that we received the “Desktop Upgrade Kit” version of this drive. This version retails for a bit more than the bare bones version (about $12 extra) but the drive itself is the exact same; it’s just the accessories which accompany the drive which are different.


The box our SSDNow V 40GB came in was more a two part affair than a single homogenous package. In a nut shell 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).


While the front is concerned more with advertising its contents (with its big “redhead” image and model number in bold lettering), the back does contain a short marketing blurb on what is included. Unfortunately there is no drive benchmark data included, so while the information should help first time buyers make an informed decision about the accessories, the same can not be said about the drive itself.


When you slip the main cardboard advertising sleeve off we see a fairly good layer of protection and it would take one heck of a series of unfortunate events for both to be damaged.


By slipping off this second cardboard sleeve we finally can get a good look at the main real internal protection scheme Kingston has gone with. For all intents and purposes this is a super-sized two piece plastic box, with a smaller “lid” on top and a deeper bottom half. The upper lid portion has the Kinston “redhead” logo embossed into its center and is very easy to pry off, as it has not been heat sealed.


While we cannot comment on the bare bones version, we can say that this is one big box for a little 2.5” form factor drive and the shear size of it does improve it survivability. Heck, for that matter positioning the drive in the center with the accessories around, and then placing a Styrofoam block underneath also improves the drive’s chances of surviving some pretty serious blunt force trauma. All in all, it is very impressive the level of protection Kingston has bestowed upon such a frugally priced drive.


Even more impressive was the accessories the Desktop Upgrade version comes with since literally everything here is tailor made to assure even older computer systems can use this product. Do you have an older PSU without the necessary SATA connectors? Well, Kingston provides you with a Molex to SATA adaptor. Need help setting the SSDNow up as a boot drive without loosing valuable information? A CD is included which contains not only instructions but a copy of Acronis True Image HD. There is also a short red SATA cable and two drive rails to convert this 2.5” form factor drive to fit into a standard 3.5” HDD mount.

In the past we have seen a few solid state drives come with an SATA cable or a 2.5 - to - 3.5 converter, but this is the first time we have seen such a cohesive set of accessories included. In all reality, for the small $12 price premium, we HIGHLY recommend the desktop upgrade version over the standard drive. Blood good job Kingston.
 
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AkG

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First Impressions

First Impressions


The Kingston SSDNow V 40GB comes clad in an elegant all gray metal case. While it is a monotone colour scheme, the grey Kingston has gone with does help differentiate it from the crowd even though our hate for the usual “Dell grey” is deep rooted. It’s just nice to see a drive that isn’t black.


Also unlike most drives we have looked at in the past, this one only has a lone label adorning it. We can honestly say that we like the fact Kingston went with a frugal approach to their colour scheme and styling, but we really would have preferred to have seen two labels on this drive. Cramming all the pertinent information onto the one label is just not possible and it thus this one is a little sparse on details.


On the positive side the single label is colourful and does have mainly useful information on it. Taking up the majority of this white with red highlights label is the Kingston “redhead” logo. Towards the bottom we see the power specifications of this unit, which is .25A off the 5v line; this translates to a very frugal max power draw of 1.25 watts. While this drive is only half the size of the X25-M 80GB generation 1 drive we looked at a while back, it uses only one quarter of the power which is pretty amazing.


Where this is a Intel controller based Solid State Drive it came as no surprise that it is jumper-less. While it is unclear when Kingston will release firmware updates for this the SSDNow, one thing is certain: it will not require you to first remove the drive from the case, set a jumper and then place it back in your system. This is a lot easier than the older method Indilinx employs on some of their drives.
 
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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions


Before we continue: Please remember that opening any SSD will effectively void your warranty.


When we first peered inside the SSDNow 40GB, we were surprised to see absolutely no chips what so ever. As you can see in the above photo the green PCB has the pin outs for 10 NAND chips, but none were populated. When we flipped this board over we finally got to see what we were looking for. In grand total there are 5 MLC NAND chips, one RAM chip and one Intel controller chip. We really wish that Kingston had gone for smaller capacity chips as the Intel controller is set up for 10 channels and thus having only 5 chips means it can only operate in 5 channel mode. This is the reason for the abysmally low write speeds of this drive and it could have been easily avoided by going with cheaper and smaller NAND chips.


The I/O controller chip is of course none other than the Intel second generation System On a Chip PC29AS21BA0 controller. While details are slim, this controller is a 10 channel beast which unfortunately is not going to get to work at full capacity in this particular drive. If reports are correct this second generation chip is based on the same design as the previous generation, except it is now Halogen free (and thus is more environmentally friendly) along with a few small tweaks like reduced latency thrown in for good measure. This is not a bad thing per say as the first iteration was very impressive, but we were hoping Intel would have taken the time to really improve on the first generation’s write abilities.


Interestingly, the Ram which graces this board is made by Micron. To be more specific this tiny 32MB, 54-pin TSOP II lead free chip made by Micron is labeled as MT48LC16M16A2-75 IT. Where it is the “-75” variation of that model, this particular 3.3v SDRAM chip is rated to run at a maximum speed of 133MHz at CL3 or 100MHz with CL2 timing. Furthermore since it is the “IT” variation (and thus Industrial Temperature) it is rated for an operating range of -40°C to +85°C. In many ways this chip is inferior to that used by the competition as it is quarter the size as what Samsung uses for their drives’ onboard cache (128MB) and is only half the size of the ones found on Indilinx drives (64MB). Not only is it smaller than the competition it runs 20% slower as well as (133mhz vs. 166mhz).

Further compounding things is the fact that this memory is not only smaller and slower but is also based on a more energy intensive design than that of the competition. Usually we see 1.8V chips used in solid state drives yet this little slow poke uses the much older 3.3V standard. We are honestly puzzled by this move as while it is twice as large as the cache found on the first generation X25-M, it is slower (33mhz to be precise). Why take the time to increase its size if you are going to take away its speed? Heck, if you are going to take the time to source out a new chip why not go and drop in a 64MB (or 128MB or 256MB), 1.8V 166mhz one like everyone else does? Why hobble a kick ass controller with old and slow ram?


As expected, this SSD uses Intel MLC NAND, and while we were hoping to see lower density chips (and thus more of them), once we saw the 5 ships used on this board we instantly knew what these were going to be: 32nm chips with a density of 64gigaBIT (8GB). To be precise this chips are Intel 29F64G08CAMD1 Multi Layer Cell chips and are the EXACT same ones found in Intel branded X25-M generation 2 drives, just with half as many used.
 
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TRIM & Firmware

TRIM, & Firmware




Windows 7 has been out for a little while now, and this was the projected D-Day for many solid state manufacturers to stop resting on their laurels and get a “TRIM” enabling firmware out. Unfortunately, this drive does not support TRIM right now. Making things even worse is fact that if Intel sticks to their usual tradition, buyers of their OEMed drives will have to wait slightly longer for firmware revisions than buyers of their Intel-branded brethren. On the positive side Kingston has publicly said that firmware IS a priority for them and in some ways having Intel buyers acting as their unpaid guinea pigs can be considered a good thing. After all, when you look at it that way, the chances of Kingston releasing a firmware update that will brick your drive is slim.



In the mean time, the Desktop Upgrade version does come with Acronis, so the hassle factor of backing up your data and running a sanitary erase on it is not that extreme if your drive ever does get into a degraded state. Also on the positive side is the fact that Intel drives do not suffer as much as Indilinx or Samsung units from being in a used / degraded state. Even better is the fact that Intel based drives don’t fragment their files as badly as the competition and like all Intel SSDs, the SSDNow V 40GB has Intel's version of ITGC to keep things neat and tidy (though like all Idle Time Garbage Collection algorithms, it can be overloaded if you try). It would not surprise us much if most buyers don’t even reach a degraded state before Kingston releases a firmware update.


We also have to remember that since Intel has recently released their latest and greatest (TRIM enabling) firmware, this drive should get its version of the new firmware soon. For anyone wondering if they can simply flash their SSDNow V 40GB with a Intel branded firmware, the answer is NO. Kingston drives come with Kingston-branded firmware, Intel drives come with Intel branded firmware and the two are incompatible; or at least in as much as the firmware flasher will refuse to flash the wrong drive.
 
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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 Ability EX 60GB: 1.3 (AKA 1.4 for MLC Indilinx Drives)
Kingston SSDNow V 40GB: 02G9

Please note: The "G.Skill 64GB" listed in some of the graphs (the one with incomplete data) is the very first SSD we here at HWC reviewed. It does not have a name but its model number is FS-25S2-64GB and here is a link to our review of it.
 
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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.




Well one thing is for certain: this drive’s controller may only have 5 channels working, but that doesn’t stop it from posting some very good read speeds. Of course we have seen earlier models which (for their time) also posted great read speeds but have failed the test of time. If the write numbers are not too, too bad this drive may just be able to pull off some decent real world test results.


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.



There is no getting around the fact that these numbers stink. However, when looking at them you really do have to keep in mind that even though it is priced like a last generation drive, it still outperforms them in the all important minimum speed area. What separates a good SSD from a terrible one is stuttering, or to be more precise LACK of stutter and this drive's minimum number do offer it a chance at redemption. For now we are going to keep an open mind about this drive as raw performance doesn't always equate great real world performance.
 
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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




As we said earlier, raw performance is one thing but small-size readability is the foundation for a stutter free and peppy felling boot drive. While it is only middle of the pack, if you take a closer look at the numbers you will see that it outperforms the only other sub 128/120GB modern solid state drive (the Corsair P64) we have looked at, so its middle of the pack results are better than we thought they would be. More importantly, when looking at any boot drive in this price range you are usually looking at either last generation solid state drives like the Apex / Titan, or hard disk drives; all of which get easily beaten by the SSDNow in all three areas of read performance.


Write





As expected the write speed has been artificially limited and by the looks of those flattened results it hasn’t just been limited, but severely limited. On the positive side, the size of the data to be written does not appear to matter a whole bunch to the Kingston SSDNow V 40GB. To be honest, its small file write speed is impressive and since the “feel” of your operating system depends a lot on the small read and write speed it should make for a decently fast system.


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 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 gamut 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).



As expected the random access numbers this drive posts are impressive. We say that this came as no surprise as this is for all intents a purposes a cut down Intel X25-M generation drive and Intel did boast of improved latency performance of their (then) new gen 2 controller. Intel claims a latency as low as 65 microseconds and our numbers of .07ms do give credence to this boast. In any case, this drive may not be able to read or write as fast as some others, but it can start returning results even faster than any drive we have tested to date.
 
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AkG

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ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drive’s 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




Once again we see that this drive excels at reading small files but its high end has been artificially limited. In fact up until about 64KB sized chunks of data it is one of the best performers we have looked at and it is a crying shame there seems to be a cap in place due to a controller limitation. If we had to make an educated guess, it could be presumed that the use of 5 flash chips instead of 10 hampers the controller's performance.


Write




Once again, when it comes to write speeds of this drive we see abysmally low number and the tipping point where EVERY other drive we have looked at passes the SSDNow 40Gb is a meager 16KB data size. If you take out hard drives this tipping point scales back to 8KB and if you compare it against modern solid state drives (i.e. this generation of drives) it is more like 4KB. It really is disheartening to watch this kick ass controller banging against a glass ceiling that Intel themselves have imposed upon it.
 
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