Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB Review (Page 2 of 10)

Page 2 - A Closer Look, Installation, Test System

The Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB SSD is not about flashy looks or sharp appearance. Carrying its down-to-earth business appearance like the rest of the SSDNow line, this solid state drive features an aluminum housing to enhance heat dissipation, with a side benefit of being relatively lightweight for what you get. The SSDNow V300 is composed nothing more than a dark grey metal shell and a label for Kingston's branding in the middle, as shown in our photo above. Personally, I would consider that a good thing. Since there are no labels on the other side of the drive, this label carries miscellaneous information such as the SSD's serial number and place of assembly. Like many SSDs we have reviewed in the past, this Kingston drive is made in Taiwan.

Measuring in at 100.1 x 69.8 x 7mm, these are slim dimensions for a 2.5" internal drive. If you have a laptop with a 7mm slot, this is the drive you want. The Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB is also quite lightweight; slightly better than the SSDNow V+200 at 86g. This SSD will have no problems fitting into your laptop hard disk bay if you want to boost mobile computing performance, but you might want to buy the notebook upgrade kit instead, which includes a 2.5mm spacer for system with standard height drive bays. On the other hand, since this is the desktop upgrade kit, if your chassis has no 2.5" mount, a pair of 3.5” adapter rails is included right out of the box, so you can easily install this SSD in any standard desktop internal drive bay. This makes the V300 120GB quite convenient to deploy for the end user. Although the rails are probably more costly to manufacture, I think it is a better solution than traditional adapter brackets, simply because of better compatibility with different cases.

Turning the SSD around reveals a dark grey metal backplate. This is something users will come to expect from a solid state drive, as there are no exposed printed circuit boards like you would normally see with a traditional hard disk. The only thing that is common between the Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB SSD and a traditional hard disk drive is its SATA 6Gb/s and corresponding power connector at the end. As shown in our photo above, the back is completely blank, save for the warranty seal over one of the security screws. This is because all the miscellaneous information is found on the label on the top of the drive already, as discussed in the preceding paragraphs.

The Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB's shell is attached to the metal backplate by four security screws at the top. The Torx screws on the SSDNow have a protruding obstacle in the middle. Unless you have the tools at hand, it is not possible to disassemble the drive for a better look inside. Also, there is a warranty seal over one of the security screws as shown in our previous image above, so in order to take a peek inside the SSD, you will have to inevitably void your warranty, even if you have the right equipment. That said, what we have shown above is the heart of Kingston's SSDNow V300 120GB SSD is the tried-and-true SandForce SF-2281 controller, except it is Kingston branded this time around. As the drive controller is fundamentally very important to any SSD, what makes it so special is that it is capable of doing real time data compression to make extremely fast I/O performance possible without the need of external cache memory.

The second generation SandForce controller used in the Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB has been updated in several areas compared to its predecessor. Other than the obvious performance increases -- we will have lots of time to talk about that in just a second -- major updates include on-the-fly data encryption using a 256-bit AES algorithm, rather than an 128-bit AES algorithm by its predecessor. This cannot be disabled, but it lacks a password by default; it therefore functions as an unencrypted storage unit to the end user. As with the SF-1222, the SF-2281 also focuses on increased wear performance as part of the DuraWrite scheme. This has also been updated with better Error Correcting Code, or ECC. In the past, SandForce controllers used the Reed-Solomon algorithm -- it works well for correcting scattered errors, but has a high processing overhead, and therefore does not work very well for correcting concentrated errors. To overcome this problem, it is replaced by the Bose-Chaudhuri-Hocquenghem algorithm. Other than improved efficiency due to its straightforward implementation, it also works well in correcting both scattered and concentrated errors across the drive.

SandForce's DuraWrite system is especially beneficial to multi-level cell (MLC) based flash drives like the Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB. Unlike single level cell (SLC) flash memory, MLC flash memory stores four states, or two bits, per cell. It is cheaper to manufacture; unfortunately it also has significantly less write cycles before it wears out -- not to mention flash memory comes in different grades. There are two main ways to resolve this problem. The first one is to use a technique called wear leveling. Wear leveling manages data in a way that erasures and rewrites are evenly spread out across the drive, so not a single area experiences a high concentration of write activity. Secondly, unlike traditional magnetic hard drives, data cannot be directly overwritten in the world of flash memory. The write area must first be erased before new information can be written. This brings onto the topic the second technique, which relates to a phenomenon called write amplification. Write amplification is calculated by the data written to the flash memory divided by the data written by the host. Optimally, you will want this number as low as possible -- and it is probably makes sense to think the lowest value possible is 1. That is, until the SandForce controller rolled along and changed the rules of the game. By doing on-the-fly compression, this results in a write amplification of an astonishing low value of 0.5 according to the company.

As aforementioned, pages of flash memory need to be first erased before it can be written to again. Traditional magnetic hard drives do not exhibit this characteristic, so normally when you hit the delete button, the operating system simply marks the corresponding data blocks as free with the data still physically intact. All this means is new data is permitted to overwrite existing data in that area. This poses a problem for solid state drives, because it will significantly decrease write performance if the user needs to wait for the system to clear an area before new data can be written. With native TRIM support, it allows the operating system to tell the SSD which blocks of data are no longer needed. The SSD can then do garbage collection overhead, and make it available for new data to be directly written without delay. Kingston's SSDNow V300 120GB SSD has native TRIM support, but it will not work once you pair it with another drive in RAID. This is no different than any other solid state drive in the market today.

Lastly, the new SandForce SF-2281 controller has updated toggle-mode and ONFi 2.2 flash memory support in conjunction with processor power throttling. The former improves compatibility with different flash memory for improved NAND supplier flexibility for the drive manufacturer; whereas the latter increases power efficiency like SpeedStep on your desktop CPU. All in all, the SandForce SF-2281 controller does have a small microprocessor and a few undisclosed megabytes of memory inside to handle all the dirty work -- but with the elimination of the external cache, SandForce based SSDs have unprecedented random read and write performance. This adds on to the already excellent sequential data rates across the board makes it a winning combination -- but we're not talking about just about just barely edging out SF-1222 drives in benchmarks. Since we are all familiar with SF-2281 performance, the SSDNow V300's rating of 450MB/s max read, 450MB/s max write, and up to 85,000 input/output operations per second is rather -- I dare say it -- 'meh'. Of course, the truth is not revealed until we do the benchmarks, and this is a budget oriented drive. By the way, be sure to attach the drive to a native Intel SATA 6Gb/s port to achieve the best results.

A total of sixteen NAND flash chips are found on the Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB solid state disk, with eight on each side. The chips used are Kingston branded NAND flash memory chips labeled 'FT64G08UCT1', with a capacity of 8GB per integrated circuit chip. Actually, these are toggle mode multi-level cells manufactured on the 19nm fabrication process by Toshiba -- this is the first time we have seen this paired with a SandForce chip. 8GB out of the 128GB total capacity (Just under 7%) is provisioned for the drive controller for garbage collection and wear leveling algorithms, so the actual usable space is 120GB, as advertised. You will see 111GB in Windows. This is a small amount compared to other SandForce based SSDs; which can range anywhere from 7% to 28% in 34nm units for what the company refers to as Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements, or RAISE. SandForce claims RAISE is similar to a RAID 5 array within the drive that redundant data can be used to recover entire pages of corrupt or lost data within the drive, should problems arise with its memory cells over time. This is implemented in conjunction with a powerful error correction system and cyclic redundancy check protection to improve its uncorrectable bit error rate.

Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K @ 4.50GHz
CPU Cooling: Thermaltake WATER2.0 Pro (Noctua NF-F12)
Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 WS Revolution
RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws-X F3-14900CL9D-8GBXL 4x4GB
Graphics: Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 2GB OC
Chassis: Lian Li PC-B12
Power: PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 1200W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi Bravura
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64 SP1

Compared Hardware:
- Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB
- G.Skill Phoenix EVO 115GB
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB
- Kingston HyperX 120GB
- Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB
- 2x Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB RAID 0
- OCZ Agility 3 240GB
- OCZ Agility 4 256GB
- OCZ Octane 512GB
- OCZ Vector 256GB
- OCZ Vertex 2 160GB 25nm
- OCZ Vertex 2 60GB 34nm
- OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS 240GB
- OCZ Vertex 4 256GB
- Patriot Pyro 120GB
- Patriot Pyro SE 240GB
- SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB

Page Index
1. Introduction and Specifications
2. A Closer Look, Installation, Test System
3. Benchmark: AIDA64 Disk Benchmark
4. Benchmark: ATTO Disk Benchmark
5. Benchmark: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0
6. Benchmark: HD Tach
7. Benchmark: HD Tune Pro 4.60
8. Benchmark: PassMark PerformanceTest 7.0
9. Benchmark: PCMark Vantage
10. Conclusion