Kingston SSDNow V+ 64GB
For those who may be unfamiliar with Solid State Disk drives (SSDs), let’s have a quick recap to briefly explain some of the characteristics and benefits that differ from traditional mechanical hard drive counterparts.
First, it is important to note that SSDs are currently designed to meet connectivity standards of HDDs; they use the same SATA ports and power connectors, and may even fit the same drive bay racks and computer towers that we’re all accustomed to using. Many SSDs do, however, come in a smaller 2.5" form factor, same as notebook drives, which is a bit smaller than the traditional 3.5" size that most of us have. In short, SSDs can fit anywhere HDDs can, and in most cases the SSDs are even smaller. But most SSDs have mounting holes for adapters that can accommodate either a horizontal or vertical mounting position. Because the drive runs absolutely silent since there are no moving or mechanical parts, you can literally install the drive anywhere in your case with some double-sided tape or Velcro. You won’t need to worry about any vibrations or even heat being produced, so you could even just tape it to the bottom of your case if you’re so inclined.
The other advantage of an SSD over a HDD is its durability; solid state drives are far more rugged, able to withstand up to 1500G over a 5 ms time frame. So you don’t really need to worry about dropping it, though I didn’t actually toss any of our SSDs out a 7-storey window to test it. Call me unadverturous but running the risk of trashing a fast new SSD isn’t my idea of a fun time. Lastly, Solid State Drives have exceptionally fast response times which are almost instantaneous, while even the fastest hard disk drives on the market are downright sluggish by comparison. The Kingston SSD is supposed to have a response time of less than one millisecond, which is lightning quick and many times faster than even the most speedy hard drive on the market.
When pulling apart an SSD (which will void your warranty, so think twice before doing it) you’ll see that SSDs contain NAND Flash chips that are used with a wear-leveling algorithm to ensure the erase and rewrite cycles are spread across all of the storage chips. Therefore, should you have the misfortune of having a sector become corrupted, your previous data won’t be lost; it simply means that data can’t be written over again there. Consequently, this means that there shouldn’t be degradation of data in a physical sense, and when the drive’s lifespan is reached then you should have all your data still fully intact before the drive finally just wears out.
So we essentially have a drive that is smaller, faster, quieter, cooler, and draws less power. What’s not to like? The price. Solid State Drives are currently very expensive compared to mechanical hard drives, many times the magnitude of price per megabyte of storage. Even within the SSDs market, there is quite a range of prices, with the Kingston SSDNow V+ 64GB SSD costing approximately $185 USD at the time of this review. This represents a cost of approximately $2.90 per gigabyte, and is a bit more expensive than other larger capacity drives we’ve seen, though this is to be expected as cost per storage capacity improve with the larger drives. Currently the SSDNow V+ is in the middle of the pack in terms of pricing but at this range there is a variety of technologies available so do your homework! All SSDs are not created equal.
The SSDNow V+ sits in a rather confusing market segment, as a few early JMicron controller SSDs are still available on the market (these are to be avoided at all costs). Then there is Kingston’s own V-Series which features a modified/improved JMicron controller (better but performance is still handcuffed). Then there are a few Samsung-controller SSDs (much better). And lastly, there are the top performing but more expensive Indilinx-based SSDs (ideal). Perhaps the giant killer here is that there is one or two Indilinx SSDs available in this segment, offering outstanding performance for very little price premium. Clearly, the SSDNow V+ is in for a tough ride there, but when viewed against the lower performing (and cheaper) SSDs then we expect this V+ to blow them away. So be sure to take great care when deciding which SSD to purchase, and consider your needs, expectations, and budget.
Now that we have basic SSD technology and pricing out of the way, there is one other area of SSDs that requires a special mention: performance degradation. After many reads and writes, SSD performance will degrade due to the way that cells in the flash memory are filled and erased. This is not a hardware issue in the sense that something is broke, it’s more of a "data allocation" issue. Windows 7 will support TRIM, a feature that helps restore SSD performance. TRIM is not ready yet, but it is coming. In the meantime, several manufacturers use a "performance restoration" utility that helps keep the SSD in peak condition, essentially restoring performance levels to that of a fresh drive. However, the SSDNow V+ currently lacks any such feature, and given the critical importance of this issue, the V+ is severely handcuffed in this regard. We hope TRIM support will negate this problem but we won’t know for certain until Windows 7 retail (and further patches?) goes live.