In the last couple of decades two technologies have revolutionized the personal computer –the graphical processing unit (the “3D” accelerator) and the more recently, the solid state drives.
Solid state drives (SSDs), like all technologies were expensive and had a somewhat rocky start. But over a very short span of time the technology has matured to something that won’t break the bank to buy and performs rather well.
Today we’ll be looking at the Kingston’s 30GB “V” series drive.
To get an insight into the technical details of how an SSD works please read this article.
The drive comes in a slide out cardboard box. The front of the box has the traditional Kingston logo as well as the basic product information.
The back of the box lists the contents in different languages.
The drive itself and the accessories come in a plastic shell (which is encased in another slide out cardboard box). The drive is well packed and will take the trauma of shipping with ease.
WHATS IN THE BOX?
The package contains everything you’ll need for installing the drive in your system. This includes the mandatory rails to fit the 2.5” profile drive into a standard 3.5” hard disk slot in a computer case.
A power cable (molex to s-ata) as well as the s-ata data cable is bundled with the drive.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the package (apart from the SSD itself) is the CD. This contains cloning software to port your operating system to the SSD (remember this is a boot drive) as well as the installation guide.
The drive comes in a petit slate colored metallic enclosure with a large label on the front.
The power and data connectors are visible from the bottom and are a standard affair.
INSIDE THE SSD
The actual SSD is in the form of an outrageously small printed circuit board with chips on both sides. The entire drive measures only 5cm by 4 cm.
The top of the board features the Toshiba controller (the large chip in the center) and the Micron 64MB cache chip (to the left).
The bottom of the board has 4 chips whose identity is covered by yet another label. The label reveals the drive’s firmware (AJXA0202).
Removing the label reveals 4 Toshiba flash memory chips. The total unformatted capacity of the drive (with spare area) is thus 32GB (8GB per chip for 4 chips).
The controller on an SSD makes or breaks the drive. A bad controller paired to even the best of SLC flash RAM will break the drive. On the other hand a good controller paired to average MLC modules will elevate the drive to a much higher tier.
The drive uses a Toshiba T6UG1XBG controller. For those of you in the know, Toshiba invented NAND flash modules used so ubiquitously these days. The controller supports TRIM command which improves garbage collection on an SSD. The controller also supports “spare” area to prevent extended write cycles as the drive nears its storage limit. In fact the drive uses a larger than usual 18% of its capacity as spare area. Of the 32GB unformatted storage only ~28GiB are available to the end user. Thus nearly 5.5 GB is used as spare area.
The controller doesn’t offer features that the recently reviewed SandForce’s SF1200 does. But at the same time this drive is aimed at the value and not the enthusiast segment.
TESTING AN SSD –WHAT NOT TO TEST
The most important parameter that defines SSD performance is the Random 4KB write numbers. As things stand today a SSD will primarily be used as an OS drive.
Another factor that needs to be kept in mind is how consistent is the performance of the SSD over time. Again the way SSD interacts with data causes it to slow down as you fill it up, delete stuff, and add more stuff to it.
The tests done on the drive will focus on:
- 1. Sequential read and write performance
2. Random read and write performance
3. New vs Old SSD performance
4. Simulated real world testing (PC Mark Vantage)
To test “New vs Old” SSD performance the drive will go through real world use and retested using ATTO disk benchmark V2.46
1. ATTO DISK –V2.46 BENCHMAKRS
ATTO disk benchmark is used by manufacturers to verify data transfer rates.
The important figures are shown in red boxes. The 4K performance is satisfactory for an entry level drive. The drive exceeds its specified sequential (4MB) transfer rates. However do note that the write speed of 50MB/sec is lower than magnetic drives.
The used drive performance indicates how well the garbage collection function (TRIM) works. The write performances between a new and used drive are shown below
Both 4KB and sequential write performances fall. The difference for sequential writes is more than 10%. These figures are very average and indicative of the drive’s placement in the value segment.
2. CRYSTAL DISK MARK –V3.0
These confirm the numbers generated by ATTO.
3. HD TUNE PRO V4.50 (SEQUENTIAL READ AND WRITE TESTS)
The drive achieves its specified write rate and exceeds the read speed.
4. PC MARK VANTAGE HARD DISK TESTS
PC Mark Vantage tests HDDs by running a series of “real world” scenarios. These tests are applicable to SSDs as well. The results here are approximates as to how the drive would perform every day.
Not entirely earth shattering especially when compared to the SandForce controller based drives. But then again this is an entry level drive
The drive’s numbers are inline with Kingston’s specification for the drive. The company is specifically targeting the value segment with this drive as is evident by the “V” on the box. Comparing this to an SSD powered by a SandForce controller won’t be fair.
With that in mind the drive does what it set out to do. At its current retail price of about US$90 and its performance is not bad either. From what has been seen the drive is a plausible purchase option for anyone looking to buy his or her first SSD.