Review Kingston SSDNow V 128 GB (SNV425-S2/128GB)
Those wanting to upgrade their notebook or netbook are often restricted in what they can do, because only the RAM and the hard drive can be replaced. Conventional hard drives are generally the weak point in these systems, and even fast drives, like the Samsung SpinPoint hard drives for instance, turn out to be not fast enough.
Kingston has now come out with the second generation of the successful SSDNow V series, which appeals to both entry-level users and well-versed users who appreciate a good price-performance ratio. We took a look at the top model with its 128 GB capacity. The new generation is now equipped with the latest Jmicron 618 controller, and supports the TRIM command for Windows. This promises to extend the lifetime of the Toshiba MLC memory. But Mac users will be disappointed to find that the TRIM command is not (yet) supported for Mac OS X. All versions of the SSD are available either as a single item without accessories, or as a notebook/ PC upgrade kit. These kits include additional mounting materials, cables and screws.
To establish the performance level of the Kingston SSD we installed the drive into a machine with the following specs:
- MacBook Pro (13-inch, mid-2009)
- Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 (dual-core, 2.53 GHz)
- 4 GB DDR3 RAM
- Nvidia GeForce 9400M
We also considered how the performance felt subjectively running Mac OS X 10.6.4, as well as with Windows 7 Ultimate (using Bootcamp). How does it perform as a system drive under Windows 7, and how does it compare with the SSDs of other manufacturers?
The first benchmark was put together by the c’t editorial staff and is called h2benchw. We used it to determine the Kingston SSDNow V’s transfer rates. The maximum read rate in Windows was 160 MB/s, considerably higher than with conventional notebook hard drives, but the small Intel X25-V offers 11 MB/s more. Modern drives with a Sandforce 1500 controller are in a league above that; for example the new OCZ Vertex 2, which costs a lot more than the Kingston SSD. Sadly the Kingston’s average read rate of 135 MB/s falls into the lower range for an SSD, although subjectively the performance under Mac OS X and Windows 7 was convincing. The performance gain compared to a conventional HDD is enormous.
The access times are within reasonable bounds but are a little higher than you would want. The average is around 0.4 milliseconds, whereas properly fast SSDs only need 0.1 to 0.2 milliseconds. Again, to make the comparison to a 2.5-inch, 5,400 rpm hard drive, there is a difference of about 16 to 18 milliseconds, which is extremely noticeable during normal usage.
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The ATTO disk benchmark determines the read and write transfer rates of the SSD in packets of 512 KB up to 8 GB. This tool is often used by the manufacturers, and so the results are generally very close to the marketing claims made about the drive.
The read transfer rates lie close to the middle of the pack at 210 MB/s, with the Kingston being bested by the faster Runcore V with the Sandforce 1200 controller or the dual SSD system in the Sony Vaio Z11X9E. Overall the Kingston SSDNow V’s curve stays a very ordinary shape, with practically no big moves upwards or downwards. Our test model achieved its maximum reading performance at a packet size of 1 GB. At this point there is a small outlier, the value being around 223 MB/s. The Toshiba hard drive comes in last place in this test, as before.
The write transfer rates, as you would expect for an entry-level SSD, are rather weak. Up to a packet size of 2 MB our hardware was still keeping pace with the others, but with greater sizes the divide got ever larger. The maximum the Kingston SNV425-S2/128GB could achieve was around 122 MB/s. The faster Runcore V SSD provides write rates of 270 MB/s, more than double.
An important test is the 4K writing and reading benchmark, which is offered by CrystalDiskMark amongst others. This operation is frequently used in everyday use. Our hard drive was not entirely convincing in this area, with the faster hard drives having a considerable advantage over it. In writing too, the Kingston lagged behind the Runcore V or Intel X25-V.
HD Tune Pro is another benchmark that we use regularly in our reviews. The HD Tune scores can sometimes fluctuate wildly and so we ran the test three times. To our astonishment the Kingston’s maximum transfer rate (read) of 185 MB/s took the first-place position. In this case the Intel SSDs could not keep up. The access times are, as we found in the h2benchw analysis, slightly higher than you would want, and twice as high (at 0.4 milliseconds) as the Intel drives in this test, which only took 0.2 milliseconds.
The AS SSD benchmark is specially designed for SSDs and offers reliable results. The relatively high access times were evident in this test too. The Kingston SSD secured a good position for itself thanks to the limited write transfer rates of the Intel X25-V, but the Runcore V and Sony Raid system were significantly faster.
The overall score given by the AS SSD benchmark is also useful. With only 89 points, the Kingston SSDNow V is ranked in last place behind the Samsung SSD. This result reflects the target performance and market that the drive was designed for.
The AS SSD Copy benchmark is a small sub-test of the tool; it simulates everyday usage using three operations which measure the data transfer rate. The Kingston SSDNow V is faster in this test than the small Intel X25-V, but the Raid and high-end SSDs again show a clear lead.
The 'IOMeter' tool provides the last of our benchmarks in this review. We deliberately chose the 'IOMix' profile created by the c’t editorial staff, as this simulates everyday usage.
With 60.9 MB/s the Kingston SSDNow V is once again in the middle of the pack, with faster SSDs like the Runcore V or the Intel X25-M (first generation) fighting it out for the lead. Only the Samsung SSD and Patriot Torqx trailed behind our hard drive, along with the conventional HDDs.
The Kingston SSDNow V made a good impression on us in most respects. Our review model (SNV425-S2/128GB) with 128 GB offers a very good price-performance ratio, starting at €257 (RRP including tax) for just the SSD. The current price online for this model is €1.63 per GB. In a price comparison, 1 GB of the Vertex 2 costs around €2.44. A Samsung SpinPoint M (HM160HC) is much less expensive with a price per GB of only €0.27. Overall, compared to other SSDs the Kingston gives you average performance. But compared to conventional HDDs the speed will be significantly faster during everyday use.
The Kingston hard drive cannot keep pace with the high-end SSDs by Runcore or OCZ (Vertex 2, Agility 2), and is not supposed to. The SSDNow V is a reasonably priced performance boost for your netbook or notebook. Of course, SSDs have other advantages which also come into play, such as their silent running and durability. Because of all these reasons we rate the Kingston SSDNow V hard drive as 'recommended'.