As well as its well known line in computer memory, Kingston Technology is now becoming as recognised for its wide range of solid state storage drives.
Relatively affordable drives such as the Kingston SSDNowV+ were never intended to be state-of-the-art. Instead they did a great job of popularising the technology through more accessible pricing, along with upgrade kits to simplify the job of exchanging internal drives, bundling external drive enclosures and software.
Standing proud now at the top of the company’s range though is a formidable looking flagship model, the Kingston HyperX SSD. And this slab of storage does promise the kind of performance to blow even the fussiest of enthusiast’s socks off.
Among the standout specs we see touted for the Kingston HyperX SSD 240GB are sequential reads of 555MB/s and writes of 510MB/s. Those figures are very close to the measured performance of another drive we recently tested, the Patriot Memory Wildfire 240GB, with its 559/508 megabytes per second recorded results for read and writes.
If those advertised and measured results for the competing drives look similar, it’s because they share the same key technology.
While the provenance of Patriot Memory’s NAND flash is not listed, we believe it to be Toshiba 25nm MLC type. The Kingston HyperX SSD 240GB here is said to be using Intel 25nm MLC NAND flash. But the greater influence on actual handling comes from the SSD controller. Both drives take exactly the same processor, the SandForce SF2281.
As such, it carries our standard caveat concerning manufacturers’ favoured results versus actual speeds: the SandForce controller uses a fast compression/decompression DSP to accelerate its data transfers and thereby hit those impressive speeds.
This technique may benefit certain real world files such as system dll and plist files, text documents and spreadsheets, but these are tiny files compared to the video and music and ISO images that most demand and should realise these scorching sequential read/write transfers.
Such media files and disk images are not readily compressible any more than they already are, for example throough MPEG or JPEG lossy compression coding schemes. The data pattern within these files is quite random, so they do not squash down like the continuous 0s or 1s datasets favoured by many synthetic benchmark apps.
Marketed at enthusiasts, including gamers who seem to like a little bling to their hardware, the Kingston HyperX SSD comes in a stylish chassis of blue plastic with brushed metal top plate and heavier die-cast base. As such, at 110g, it’s a little heavier than some SSDs that capitalise on their freedom from motors and spinning discs to present a lower overall weight.
The Kingston HyperX SSD is available as a bare drive for around £360 or as part of an upgrade kit for £400. Select the kit, and you receive an external enclosure for your old drive. This is a smart plastic case with USB 2.0 interface, and a handy finger-lockable sliding cover on the back.
Also in the box is a metal mounting plate in matching blue, to install the drive in spaces made for 3.5in disks, a blue SATA cable and a natty screwdriver with three hex-mounted tips, two cross-head and one flat blade.
A software CD-ROM adds Acronis True Image HD software for Windows. This can be used to help clone an existing system drive onto the new SSD.
In a simple sequential transfer test with the ATTO benchmark tool, the Kingston HyperX SSD scored very close to the Patriot Wildfire. Reads peaked at 558MB/s while writes hit an even quicker 525MB/s, just giving the Kingston the edge here in large-file data writing.
HD Tune Pro showed a familiar signature in its graph plots of write speed versus capacity, little spikey waves rising above a level 451MB/s, the small spikes nudging 485MB/s. Compared to wild oscillating plots that some SSDs record under stressed sequential writing conditions, such as the Crucial M4, it’s a steadier transfer characteristic in that benchmark’s standard dataset.
CrystalDiskMark reported transfers closer to the 500MB/s point using compressible data, specifically 507MB/s for reading and 491MB/s for writing. And smaller-sized 512kB data was not far behind, at 444 and 462MB/s respectively.
Using randomised data here to more closely mimic files from the real world, the Kingston HyperX SSD showed a read speed of 492MB/s but now just 302MB/s when writing.
While circa 300MB/s is significantly lower than the circa 500MB/s reported when writing a string of 1s (0xFF dataset), a 65% drop in performance, it wasn’t quite as conspicuous a difference as we saw with the Patriot Wildfire, which plummeted from 475MB/s to 256MB/s in the same test (a 85% reduction in performance, when comparing compressible to randomised data).
At the very small file size level, revealed by CrystalDiskMark’s ‘4K QD32’ test, the Kingston HyperX SSD also held up very well. Even with random data, the benchmark reported 265MB/s writes and 228MB/s reads. Those are terrific speeds that really bode well for a fast-feeling computer interface.
Perhaps the best indicator of actual file-juggling agility under pressure is the input/output operations per second figure. While not as fast in random writes as the Crucial M4 we tested, the Kingston HyperX SSD nonetheless could reach 60.4k IOPS in writing and 52.6k IOPS in reading, as reported by the AS SSD benchmark’s 4K-64Thrd test.
The Crucial M4 came in with 84.2k and 40.3k IOPS in the same test, suggesting a swings-and-roundabouts trade in performance between the drives’ read and write capabilities.
Whichever way you cut it, the Kingston HyperX SSD 240GB is one fast SSD. In our tests it had read speeds nudging 500MB/s, as quick as the Patriot Wildfire that uses the same SandForce SF2281 controller, yet had faster write speeds of 308MB/s. In IOPS tests, its read and write performances were more closely aligned with each other, peaking at a worthy 60.3k IOPS for 4k random writes.
In most lab tests, it proved more capable than the similarly specified Patriot Wildfire. It’s not a decisive win for the Kingston though; the Crucial M4 had superior write IOPS, if slower peak sequential performance and small-file juggling. But the Crucial is around £100 less expensive and so provides much better value. But if you want speed at all costs, the Kingston HyperX SSD could be your best bet today.