Memory durability with purpose.
Consumers are starting to get to the point that value is seen in placing solid state drives (SSDs) into their home based computers. Not only do they offer a sizable upgrade over a standard hard drive (HDD), but the technology behind them allows for the potential of extended life and even easier data recovery. Even the price has dropped to be more reasonable for even budget builders to include them as a boot drive in their current configurations. But which drive is right for you? As no one company has a stranglehold on the market (or two in the case of HDDs), there are a slew of SSDs in the marketplace from everyone under the sun. Kingston is one such company, who you might already be familiar with due to their place in the PC memory market. Stretching their solid state drives across enterprise and consumer markets, Kingston has something for every application. The V+200 SSD is aimed specifically for the consumer market, but is it something that would be right for you?
The Kingston V+200 120Gb SSD offers a consumer friendly SSD in an easy to install shell. Of course installing a new drive is relatively simple, so there isn’t much to mess around with there. Perhaps one of the best things about SSD is their design simplicity when it comes to their fit and finish. The Kingston features a matte, metallic finish in a lightweight aluminum shell housing the single board of NAND chips. Inside padding is included to make sure that the board stays in place just in case something happens or to prevent vibrations knocking anything loose on the inside. As modern computer cases are a whirl of moving parts, this is an important thing to include. Fans, video cards, even hard drives can put out enough force to cause soldiering junctures to pop loose or chips to be knocked free in extreme cases. Everything on the inside of the Kingston appeared to be properly connected, without any issues of anything knocking loose during testing. It will be noted that around the connector points, gaps in the casing could allow dirt or other debris to settle inside of the SSD.
Looking at the configuration of the board of the Kingston offers another simple design. Attention is first drawn to the SandForce controller that drives the entire drive. Eight memory chips are installed on each side of the board in a symmetrical fashion. If you have never opened up an SSD, the idea of how simple the internal design can be is almost a shock. When consumers have grown accustomed to moving metal disks inside of a thick metal shell, this simple wafer board containing all of your important documents can be a shock. While it shouldn’t be in this age, it is a sign as to just how far our technology has come. For those worried about the use of the SandForce controller, Kingston offers a three year warranty on the drive to help ease your mind.
Kingston also offers a few perks to the V+200 that wouldn’t be seen on the surface either. The drive offers a self encryption at a AES 128 bit level (changed to reflect the error that SandForce first reported as AES 258 on their chips). It also offers DuraClass technology with Redundant Array of Independent Silicone Elements (RAISE) and DuraWrite to help extend the life of the drive. These features come with the SandForce chipset of course. DuraWrite is stated to extend the life of flash by 20x of over other controllers, while RAISE offers RAID like reliability without having to use two drives or other pitfalls of RAID arrays. The review drive sent by Kingston was a bare drive, so make sure you select one with a kit if your case isn’t setup for mounting a 2.5” form factor drive.
So at what point will you begin to see the benefits of using an SSD like the Kingston V+200? First a few things need to be explained. The nature of SSDs mean that no longer will you be reading data over physical platters that will deteriorate over time, after numerous writes and re-writes over the drive. Instead SSDs use a different method that consists of storing data on NAND chips. Depending on the drive data is compressed and written over in order, thus meaning that data cannot be written over an existing block allocation until garbage collection has been performed on the drive. TRIM commands inform the computer which spots are no longer needed to trigger garbage collection while the drive is in an idle state. This means that data isn’t necessarily deleted until the space is needed on the drive. This leads to a more efficient reading and writing process for files that are already placed within the SSD’s memory. However, this also means that writing through the drive for the first few times leads to skewed results.
It is the testing standards from the SNIA that state that performance measure need only to be measured once a drive has been put into a “steady state” where garbage collection and TRIM functions have been triggered. This differs greatly from standard hard drives which allocate to open platter space without consideration of placement to adjoining data, thus being less efficient than SSDs. According to those standards, the following criteria must be met for each test:
- Purge: Put SSD into a near-FOB condition, by erasing data.
- Workload Independent Precondition: Write prescribed data to entire SSD to facilitate reaching steady state.
- Workload Based Precondition: Run the Test loop itself until SSD is in steady state.
- Test: Take measurements when SSD is in steady state.
An example here pits the Kingston V+200 on the left with fresh results to a three year old Western Digital Raptor 10,000 RPM HDD on the right. As you can see the read and write results rise quickly after the 2kB mark. This is a result of the access speeds and minimal latency observed within the SSDs. Remember, that this records the data from a “fresh” drive, which is what most manufactures will states as on box performance. This isn’t a true representation of the performance of the drive over time. If this test were to be ran again after the Kingston had reached steady state, the results would begin to change as we see below. Too fair, ATTO uses compressible data which gives an even stronger advantage to SSDs using SandForce controllers like the Kingston over standard HDDs. Thus, it is used for measurement purposes and not included in raw benchmark scores.
HD Tune Pro offers a look at the performance of the entire drive, writing and reading the entire span of memory. This is important to test since SSDs won’t reach their full potential until all data bits have been written over to allow TRIM and garbage collection to trigger. This will distance itself from the numbers revealed in the ATTO benchmark as the data is written sequentially without the possibility of burst results due to empty blocks to smaller file sizes.
As expected results drop once the Kingston has reached its steady state. While the fresh versus steady results don’t draw any huge decrease in read results, only seeing an 8.7% decline in average speed, the writing is where the real difference kicks in. Average speed drops 11.2% once the drive has reached its expected operating level. It is also important to draw attention to the maximum write speed as it holds at essentially the same level from fresh to steady. This is something that over time, a HDD will not be able to do due to its mechanical nature.
AS SSD offers a benchmark specifically aimed at measuring SSD performance on a number of levels. Besides testing read and write operations, AS SSD also offers a look at copy performance across some standard, everyday operations. This offers insight into copy actions from one large file to many smaller files during a normal actions. In addition AS SSD offers a look at compression to different degrees across the drive it is testing. As with ATTO, AS SSD offers a disadvantage when benchmarking read/write statistics as it uses incompressible data to gain measurements. However, the various tasks the application performs outweighs the lower performance that some drives might see because of their reliance on compression for performance.
Much like the results from HD Tune Pro, the Kingston drive sees negligible difference in the scores for reading operations. The largest gap comes from the 4K-64K Thrd test with a 8.8% drop in speed from fresh to steady. There is a small increase in the read speed for sequential reads, but that is within tolerable limits given the nature of the test.
The real surprise from AS SSD testing is the extreme drop in write speeds once the Kingston hits steady state. Sequential reads drop 49.9% from fresh to steady. Tests for 4K-64K Thrd also see the Kingston decrease performance by 41.1%. As the SandForce controller uses compression, this valley can be understood by the reminder that AS SSD doesn’t use compressible data for these read/write tests. Still, that is a quite a drop in performance.
The Kingston V+200 SSD starts to run some results that start to counter the idea of the steady state performance seen so far once the benchmarks for AS SSD copy and compression are run. This begins to reflect the parts were SSDs shine since the same data is being accessed over and over again. All of the tests take a shorter amount to complete, with the greatest change in the Program duration from 81.12 seconds to 28.01. Write operations are taking a on a faster rate since the conditioning of the Kingston has completed.
The AS SSD compression test shows the real truth behind drives using the SandForce chipsets. Since the benchmark is testing data at different compressed levels, the Kingston is allowed to stretch its legs. In doing so, the steady state performance of the drive easily outperforms the overall fresh data collected. At points the fresh catches up to levels that the Kingston can hit when it is conditioned, but overall the fresh numbers are trailing behind. As the SandForce compression is key to keeping the speed of the drive competitive, it is no wonder that this test would show such different results
Iometer offers the greatest workload testing when benchmarking a storage device. With numerous types of tests to measure to figure out the true capabilities of a drive, the program offers a realistic look at everyday file performance across a specified span of the drive. By testing 4k file rates as small, randomly accessed files make up the basis of most file transfers and access rates at every operational level, they can tell a lot about the level of performance that can be expected from the Kingston. To that end, SSDs are notable for their low latency times to accessing data. As operations stack up the queue depth (QD) increases as the request list grows, leaving a SSD to show off that low latency speed.
Stacking the numbers up against the different steady and fresh tests of the Kingston V+200 during 4K testing shows exactly why pushing a drive into steady state for testing is important. Every single run sees the input/output operations per second (IOps) decline in the steady runs. Random write operations reach a difference of almost 10,000 at times, going from a 15,000 to 5,000 IOps after the Kingston reached steady state. After a QD of 8, there isn’t much point in spanning out the test, but as we are testing other operations that might throw into that sort of line, they are included for completeness sake. Realistically a consumer will rarely see a QD of 32 or greater happening with an SSD due to their ability to handle operations as such a high speed.
Of particular note during these 4K tests is the 0% random sequential write test results. After reaching a QD of 16, the numbers steeply decline to steady state testing levels. Across different testing runs (not including initial fresh testing), this curve appeared over and over. As this was the last test run in the 4K series, it is most likely that garbage collection was triggered to continue testing a sequential write in the allocated space.
Database and Workstation testing show different results than the initial testing of the 4K operations for the Kingston. Database and workstation tests are meant to illustrate a real world environment when files of differing sizes and access rates are written and read over and over again. In most business applications, this is where an SSD will be an advantage over using a traditional HDD array. The Kingston shows mixed results here as it was expected that fresh level testing would have been better than the steady state numbers. In terms of read and write pacing, both sets of results show a similar trend. Even though the fresh numbers leave something to be desired for a true comparison of out of the box specifications, the steady state numbers (compiled over five tests after the drive was placed into steady state) paint an accurate picture.
Trace Based Testing
Testing with PC Mark of any kind represents a testing standard that anyone can replicate on their own without needing to know the specifications of that each tester used. As a standard traced based benchmark that covers various Windows operations including adding files to media center, gaming, and running Windows Defender, PC Mark offers real world measurements within their own scoring standards. PC Mark testing will show more of an overall performance of the machine, not just its storage components.
Interesting enough, it is hard to decode a real advantage one way or another for the Kingston when comparing steady state and fresh state data. All fresh scores are higher than their steady state counterparts as testing would suggest thus far. We’re talking a 1% or less variance in each score. It is important to note that PC Mark runs each test three times during the duration of the benchmark to reach its overall score for the test. Still, the overall variance is less than 0.0025% in the overall storage score. For comparison data, the same Western Digital Raptor used in the ATTO contrast only scores an overall score of 2256. This measures as a 53.1% performance decrease in what would be considered average consumer operations for a home based PC. As with the ATTO data, even at first glance it can easily be seen that an SSD will speed up daily computer use.
As with PC Mark, we wanted to include application based testing that anyone could replicate without much trouble. All of the applications can be downloaded without an associated cost to test the same files and types of tests. Again, these tests will show an overall system performance not just a storage standard. Because of this, we weigh the results lower in the overall scoring of the drive in conjunction with the PC Mark scores. The scores listed are arbitrary for now, but give an example of some standard performance to be seen with applications running from an SSD system drive. Disk cloning was also done with the Kingston V+200 through Clonezilla, with a full clone at 75% capacity completed within 21 minutes and 10 seconds. Timing of an install for Crysis 2 was done due to its reputation for a lengthy install from DVD. This test clocked in at 15 minutes and 16 seconds from launching the setup to window close after install completion.
Game load times will be dramatically affected by running on an SSD. As more studios start to use the technology to their advantage, having as system running an SSD will become mandatory if one wishes to get the full experience of the game. The Kingston was tested using the first load point in Crysis 2 and a set teleport from one busy zone to another in World of Warcaft. Crysis 2 is notorious for its long load times, so it was no surprise to see that the first loading point took over 16 seconds to complete. World of Warcraft saw a mage teleport from the Tillers’ Inn in Valley of the Four Winds to the Mage Tower in Stormwind in 8.1 seconds.
Power consumption is a tricky thing to measure down to each component level. Instead of trying to match exact numbers to each component that would change with each system, power draw was measured at the outlet during each of the Iometer 4K tests and PC Mark 7 benchmarks, at startup, and during idle with and without the drive. As SSDs are relatively low in their power requirements, it wasn’t expected to see results that show wide distances in wattage draw from the socket. Perhaps the most surprising result was seeing the a 11 watt difference with the PC sitting at idle. As using SSDs effectively means disabling all sorts of hibernation options and preventing the drives from shutting down, part of the issue may lie in the comparison points of using a standard HDD as a system disk. Kingston claims that the idle power draw should only be 0.565W for the V+200, so it is curious to see that sort of difference.
Lucky, SSDs are starting to make more headway in the market. Their dollar to gigabyte ratio is close to or under a dollar depending on the manufacturer. The construction process, chipsets, and failure rates have drastically improved since their initial offerings. You won’t to be able to pick up a 500 gigabyte for under $75.00, but they became a viable alternative when hard disk drive prices rose after the nuclear accidents in Japan in 2011. Specifically the Kingston comes in at $1.03 per gigabyte, which is pretty good within the SSD marketplace. However, much about their durability, lifetime, and dependability is still in question since most of the consumer owned drives haven’t reached their full life expectancy. That doesn’t mean that you should dismiss the possibility of using an SSD, as the Kingston V+200 120Gb could be a perfect upgrade to speed up any system. The only question left up to you is how much are you willing to spend on the performance upgrade an SSD will offer. Paying only $124 for probably one of the most cost effective computer upgrades in the modern era makes the Kingston V+200 SSD a sweet spot that anyone should be able to obtain.
SSD provided for review by manufacturer. Testing was conducted on an Intel i7 920 2.67GHz CPU, EVGA x58 FTW3 motherboard, 6Gb OCZ Platinum RAM, and EVGA 660Ti 2Gb video card.