As with our last SSD evaluation, this is not going to be the usual Solid-State Drive (SSD) review touting the theoretical advantages of the SSD over the mechanical Hard Drive (HDD). Instead, our evaluation is going to focus on Kingston’s improved 96GB SSDNow V+100 SSD. Our follow up review of the 128GB (not “+”) SSDNow V100 Series was itself a follow-up of MrK’s evaluation performed last year on the SSDNow V (not “100“) Series. Over a year ago, he concluded that Kingston was making performance progress with their SSD lineup and now we have the 96GB plus (“+”) series to review as our third ABT article evaluating Kingston SSDs.
We also toured the Kingston Fountain Valley California headquarters factory this Spring and we watched RAM modules and flash drives being made.
The 96GB SSDNow V+100 is a 100% Kingston-branded solid-state drive using the same JMicron 618 controller as the previous 128GB SSDNow V Series drive that we evaluated a few months ago. The new V+100 uses Toshiba’s 32nm NAND as the V100 series, therefore it has also received a firmware upgrade plus performance enhancements in order to be optimized for the 32nm die shrink. However, instead of concentrating on the technical, we are going to be looking at the advantages that a PC gamer might have using a SSD over a fast mechanical hard drive.
During our Kingston Factory tour, we heard about a large corporation that needed the exact right size SSD for their employees notebooks and found that 60GB was just too small and 128GB was too large. They found that their employees tended to store their own personal videos and pictures on larger-storage capacity SSDs on company notebooks. So they came to Kingston with a special request and found that 96GB was ideal for their employees. Since 96GB is a great size, Kingston has made them generally available to regular users including this editor.
Our evaluations of SSDs vs HDDs are ongoing as we expect to shortly do a complete notebook “makeover” as we dump our slow 5400 rpm HDD for a speedy Kingston Vnow series SSD and upgrade our system memory from 2GB to 4GB and our OS from Vista 32 to Vista 64.
Of course, we shall briefly rerun many of MrK’s synthetic and real world testing as well as our own, to see if we can notice the performance improvements that Kingston promised over the older version last year as well as using the benches from our latest 128GB Kingston SSDNow V100 SSD review. To properly bring you this review, we used the same two Seagate 500GB 7200.12 HDDs that we purchased from Buy.com for $40 each earlier this year. We payed $80 total costs for 1TB of total storage in two separate mechanical HDDs! Compare this to our 96GB Kingston SSDNow v100 which now retails for $199.99 and we would still have to say, the SSD had better be much faster.
We have also noticed that SSD pricing has been slowly dropping and currently this same 96GB SSD was on sale at NewEgg last week for $154.99. There is a current $50 mail in rebate which brings the price down to $104 which is very near the $1-per-gigabyte storage costs that have long been considered breakthrough low-pricing. It will probably be at least a couple of years before SSDs are regularly at this price point.
From past testing, we concluded that a SSD certainly did make our PC noticeably much faster – especially for loading and shutting down Windows and for launching applications. We also concluded that if you are a gamer, you can still be served well by a fast mechanical hard disk drive if storage and expense is an issue. Evaluating the Kingston SSD from a gamer’s perspective means finding the practical advantages of the SSD over the HDD, and we have had more than three months of daily comparing SSD performance with our mechanical drives.
Because a Solid-State Drive’s performance tends to degrade over time, many reviews are carried out with the SSD in a completely brand new state each time every single benchmark test is run. That means the SSD is secure-erased after each test is run. To be fair, we made sure to start out with our SSD drives brand new, and then we used our drives in normal day-to-day usage and tested them against each other for the benchmarks that you will see. Read on as we share our continued three-month journey into the further practical advantages of the SSD over the HDD from a gamer’s perspective.
The SSDNow V+100 is targeted as an upgrade path for mainstream consumers including gamers as a cost-effective performance upgrade option in upgrading a desktop or notebook. The older KingstonNow V-series 128GB SSD that MrK reviewed last year had a good price to performance ratio. With an updated controller and 32nm NAND, read and write performance has markedly increased from the previous-generation Kingston SSDNow V Series SSD. The older drive was capable of up to 200MB/sec. read; 160MB/sec. write whereas the new one can manage up to 250MB/sec. read; 230MB/sec. write; a solid improvement for the same list price. And now we have a 96GB newer “+” series to evaluate which shows itself to be slower in some areas and faster in others; overall, it is expected to give better user satisfaction.
The “+” Series
Kingston has also introduced a 256GB capacity SSD with the SSDNow V+100, giving consumers a higher-capacity option at a good price point. There are two kits available for our 96GB version: Stand-alone and Bundle. The 96GB SSDNow V+100 is available with the bundle upgrade kit which includes cloning software along with a 2.5″ hard drive enclosure (in this bundle which we are evaluating now and was not included in the 128GB SSDNow V100 desktop kit) and 3.5″ brackets and SATA and power cables.
A firmware upgrade with the older SSDNow V Series such as our MrK evaluated last year, is not possible due to a process shrink. MrK’s older V Series uses 43nm NAND and our new V100 SSDNow uses 32nm NAND Flash. Any attempt to upgrade the firmware of the older drive with the new would probably end in disaster and a useless drive. However, the older drive is very fast and it also supports TRIM and garbage collection found in the newer series which will keep your SSD running near its optimal performance over its long lifetime. It is also important to check for updates as our 128GB Kingston SSDNow V100 has had a firmware update which is critical to install.
Important: If you have the same 128GB SSD (including other SSDs in the SSDnow V100 series) that we evaluated a few months ago, you will need to upgrade the firmware from Kingston’s site to insure proper running of your drive. As always, back up your drives before doing this update.
Pictured below is the 96GB Kingston SSDNow V+100′s competition – four mechanical drives – two 250 GB 7200 RPM drives of Seagate’s tenth generation and two newer 500 GB drives of their latest, the 12th generation. Notice how much thinner the newer drive’s cases (left) are compared with the drives (right) from just two years ago. The new Seagate Barracuda HDDs are quieter and faster than the older series although the rotation speed remains the same at 7200 rpm. Mechanical HDDs have become much cheaper and a 2TB drive may now be purchased for about the same costs as a 250GB drive just two years ago! How does a Solid-State Drive stack up in terms of price/performance to these mechanical drives in a practical way for gamers?
Here are the specifications from Kingston’s own web site that covers the entire Kingston SSDNow V+100 series.
SSDNow V+100 are ideal for demanding corporate environments and for system builders and integrators. It uses a standard SATA interface but unlike a regular hard drive, it’s built with no moving parts. It provides durability and reliability to meet the needs of professionals in the office or on the road. Business travellers in any industry will appreciate its performance gains, as will medical professionals, software developers, video editors, designers, IT workers and law enforcement officials.
SSDNow V+100 feature an independent garbage collection function that maintains a system at optimum performance level. This is especially important for systems running on Windows XP, which doesn’t feature TRIM, and it will also help organizations extend the software cycle on their systems, delaying upgrades of operating systems and compatible applications.
SSDNow is backed by a three-year warranty, live 24/7 tech support and legendary Kingston® reliability.
- Innovative — uses MLC NAND flash memory components.
- Silent — runs silent and cool with no moving mechanical parts
- Shock-Proof — no moving mechanical parts so the SSD handles rougher conditions
- Supports TRIM1 — Ensures maximum performance on compatible operating systems
- Supports S.M.A.R.T functions
- Garbage collection feature — ensures maximum performance on Operating Systems not supporting TRIM
- Guaranteed — three-year warranty, live 24/7 tech support
- Form factor — 2.5″
- Interface — SATA 1.5Gb/s and 3.0Gb/s
- Capacities 2 — 64 GB, 96 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB
- Dimensions — 69.85 x 100 x 9.5 mm
- Weight — 128 – 151 grams
- Storage temperatures — -40 ~ 85°C
- Operating temperatures — 0 ~ 70°C
- Vibration operating — 2.7G
- Vibration non-operating — 20G
- Sequential Read Throughput 3 — 230 MB/s
- Sequential Write Throughput 3 — 180 MB/s
- PCMARK® Vantage HDD Suite Score 4 —
- 64 GB – 35,04696 GB – 34,971
128 GB – 35,073
256 GB – 34,795
512 GB – 34,697
- Power specs — Active – 3.4W (TYP) Idle – 0.05W
- MTBF — 1,000,000 Hrs
Kingston SSDNow V+100 Part Numbers:
- SVP100S2/64G (stand-alone drive)SVP100S2/96G (stand-alone drive)
SVP100S2/128G (stand-alone drive)
SVP100S2/256G (stand-alone drive)
SVP100S2/512G (stand-alone drive)
SVP100S2B/64GR (upgrade bundle kit)
SVP100S2B/96GR(upgrade bundle kit)
SVP100S2B/128GR (upgrade bundle kit)
SVP100S2B/256GR (upgrade bundle kit)
SVP100S2B/512GR (upgrade bundle kit)
Differences between the bundle and stand alone units
The V+now Series bundle is a bit different than the Vnow Series bundle; last time Kingston sent ABT the 128GB SSDNow V100 desktop kit which was bundled a bit differently then the 128GB SSDNow V100 notebook kit, and now we are evaluating the V+100 “upgrade” kit (as now differentiated from the V+100 “Stand alone” drive).
With the V+Series, Kingston includes the brackets and SATA and power cables for the end user along with the cloning software so we also have the option of making the SSD the C drive and putting the bulk of the data on a mechanical storage drive.
In one scenario, the SSD becomes a boot drive for the PC and it is an option that can work well. If we have a notebook HDD (or another SSD), we can use it as storage inside the USB 2.0 case that Kingston provides in the upgrade kit. So you basically get both the notebook kit and the desktop kit in one great bundle. The only reason we can think of getting the stand alone drive, is if you already have a upgrade kit and don’t need the hardware or software included in a duplicate bundle.
Setting up a SSD and a HDD together is beyond the scope of this article, but you will be able to access anything on the SSD lightning-fast to take advantage of your favorite applications and games and still use the mechanical drive seamlessly, just as it would be without the SSD as boot drive. Not all SSDs have great read and write times, so not every program will benefit from being on a SSD, but all will benefit from the lightning-fast response from the seek times that a SSD enjoys over the HDD.
If you choose to do a notebook upgrade – as we will do in our upcoming notebook “makeover” article – we will use the 2.5″ enclosure and the SSDNow V+100 and cloning software. In that case, we would install the SSD into the notebook, plug the old 5400 rpm HDD into the supplied USB 2.0 enclosure, pop in the disc and clone the HDD onto the SSD. When finished, the old notebook HDD will now become an external hard drive to give more storage. Or one can remove the notebook’s optical drive and use the SSD together with the old HDD inside of the notebook. If you choose to do a desktop upgrade, you can use the SATA cable and the rails instead from the same ‘+’ kit.
Let’s open the box.