An SSD is one of the high-grade upgrades you can make today – a machine booting and working with files from an old hard drive with spinning platters often sits waiting as the drive seeks away. By using flash memory, where there are zero mechanical parts, noise, reliability, power consumption, and speed can all be enhanced.
Early SSDs experienced performance inconsistencies due to differences in flash wear-leveling algorithms, limited embedded controller performance, fewer flash memory channels, and slow flash memory interfaces. Beginning adopters also experienced failures, which has soured the SSD experience for some, due to firmware bugs, which can render the data on a drive unreachable.
Sadly, SSDs have been costly, and the size capacities are still relatively limited compared to hard drives, as flash memory demand has remained high, and manufacturing is energy-intensive. Over the past few years, the SSD has hovered between AU $ 90-120 for 120/128Gb models and AU $ 180-240 for 240/256Gb models.
Earlier this week, mwave held a group buys where they were offering the Kingmax SME35 Xvalue 240Gb SSD for AU $ 139 with free shipping. There was not much information available except for press releases.
Crucial specifications are as follows:
- Read: up to 540Mb/s
- Write: up to 300Mb/s
- Consumption: 3.5W (max), 0.4W (idle)
- Weight: 71g (max)
- Form-factor: 7mm
- Global Wear Levelling
- 55-bit BCH ECC
- SMART Monitoring
- 3-year Warranty
I was intrigued – What chipset does it use? What are NAND chips used? How does it perform? Is it worth the buy? So I bought one!
I ordered the product on Sunday, and it arrived Saturday morning. It came in a large (for an SSD) color cardboard box.
The box is a desktop upgrade kit, rather than just the bare drive. The front side lists some of its most essential features; interestingly, it says RAID capability, which implies it has some wear-leveling and garbage collection that is satisfactory even in non-TRIM applications.
The rear has extended specifications. Kingmax has been a Taiwanese brand that has been around for a while – I know them best from their flash memory cards and DRAM products, which have always been valuing priced.
Included is a tiny user manual leaflet, which features some warranty information. It also has small screws to secure the 2.5 inc SSD and large screws to secure the 3.5 inc bracket to the computer. Indeed, the bracket is also provided, as well as a black SATA cable and Molex to SATA power adapter cable. This is a complete kit, specifically for the price, although in my case, the SATA cable seems to be broken – the SSD does not connect when the included cable is used, but an alternative spare cable works fine.
The SSD itself is housed in a black metal shell, which feels a little hollow. The shell itself is in 2 parts, secured by regular Philips head screws. There is a warranty label over the seam and screw itself.
The underside does have a 5v 2A rating, which is a little high.
It’s a new product; it’s got a warranty label, so what the hell? Well, I could not resist the urge to find out what it was made of, so I took it apart and nulled the Warranty on the first day.
Internally, it’s got a label that says five years warranty, oddly. The Warranty for this product is only three years, though. Maybe the SME series has standard drives with different labels outside …
The memory itself comes from Micron Technology and appears to be 20nm MLC 128Gbit NAND from the markings. Near each flash package, there are four ceramic capacitors to buffer the power, which is excellent.
The rear also features a Nanya NT5CB128M16FP-DI 256MiB DDR3-1600 DRAM cache, made on Week 52 of 2013.
Nearer the SATA converter appears to be a switching converter to derive the lower voltages for the flash, DRAM, and controller.
The underside follows the same pattern with a total of 16 NAND packages on the board. There are diagnostic jumper pads as well for programming the controller, and a space for an EEPROM that is not populated.
The controller itself is a Silicon Motion SM2246EN. It appears to be dated week 33 of 2013. I have not had any experience with Silicon Motion SSD controllers, however, I have used them in flash memory cards, USB memory keys (earlier Corsair Flash Voyagers), and in the CF-controller that powered the original Asus EeePC701 and that seems to have performed fine. As it has no real heritage, I cannot comment on its long term reliability or whether there are any bugs.
The PCB itself appears to be made by Tak Yan Electronics Shenzhen (TYE) and is dated 27th December 2013 with a code of SSD-S3B3-S14A. It’s a very original product!
The input side seems to feature a fuse for catastrophic failure protection, but the spaces for the population of a Zener diode for transient overvoltage protection are not fitted. Also, to note is that there are no thermally conductive pads to sink the heat from the board, and it is likely a choice to keep the price down.
Some of the pads near the controller appear to be used to fit surface mount resistors to configure the controller.
There’s no more mystery now!
I think the thing buyers want to know most is how does it perform? Well, I hope to answer this by testing the SSD using some of the most popular synthetic benchmarks. It was installed in a system using an AMD Phenom II x6 1090T BE @ 3.90Ghz, in a Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 running Windows 7 Professional. The AMD SATA drivers were used, and the SSD was attached to the onboard chipset-hosted SATA III ports.
The comparison benchmarks are the Kinmax SME35 Xvalue 240Gb with firmware M1024E, Samsung 840 Pro 256Gb, which was secure-erased and updated to the latest firmware (DXM06B0Q) and the OCZ Vertex 3 120Gb (SF-2281 based, Sync NAND) which was also running the newest firmware (2.25). Unfortunately, as the OCZ Vertex 3 is running the system, and is not a new state, the performance benchmark results for the Vertex 3 are not directly comparable. Likewise, the Samsung 840 Pro is an entirely different caliber of drive, representing the performance end of the market, so it isn’t directly comparable either.
If I had a dedicated SSD test rig and dedicated test SSDs, I might be able to do a better job. The use of the AMD controller may also reduce performance results compared to testing with an Intel SATA3 port, so just be aware of that. This is the performance that I get – your mileage may vary!
Fresh out of the box, the SSD shows the SMART data on the left. After all of my testing has been run, the SMART data appears on the right.
The main values that have changed appear to be C3 (0 -> 15), A4 (1->3892), A5 (1->6), F1 (0->24104), F2 (0->47640). From the values, I would have to assume that C3 may be a wear level delta or wear leveling value. A4 might be related to data written. A5 might be related to the number of whole-media cycles used. F1 and F2 seem to be related to data written and read, respectively, although increasing at about 30 counts per Gigabyte.
Without help from the manufacturer, we won’t know any of this for sure, which is a little annoying. The only variables that are failure predictive are C4 Reallocation Event Count, C7 Unknown, A5 Unknown, and A6 Unknown. The rest are informational, as their thresholds are zero.
It also seems that the smart data logging is not entirely accurate either – the temperature’s worst value is not logged. Still, depending on how it is mounted, under heavy loads without ventilation, I have seen the temperature get to 59 degrees C.
It seems to show performance in-line with its specifications, and it’s not too shabby when it comes to 4k performance.
By comparison, here is the OCZ Vertex 3 (note, as it is my boot SSD, and it is dirty, not directly comparable). Because the SandForce controller implements data compression, the results are different for incompressible (default, on the left) versus compressible (on the right).
The Samsung 840 Pro, our performance reference, does not seem to be too much faster in any regard and is even slower sometimes. It looks like this Kingmax value series SSD is putting up quite respectable performance figures.
AS SSD Benchmark
The results are slightly different from CrystalDiskMark but very respectable.
In comparison, here is the Samsung 840 Pro – considering the price difference, the Kingmax is not too bad.
The Vertex 3 is badly battered, though … and that’s because its performance is best only with compressible data, which some of the boot SSD data is. It’s also in a dirty state – but there’s another thing which can explain the poor synthetic performance …
AS SSD Copy Benchmark
Another decent result from the Kingmax.
The Samsung 840 Pro for reference, is slightly faster.
Vertex 3, however, started behaving inconsistently.
H2testw was used to ensure the SSD does not corrupt any data. I also manually filled the whole SSD with random data and ran multiple MD5 passes to ensure consistency. In no case did the SSD show any inconsistencies.
The read performance on H2testw was a bit low – but this is a limitation of H2testw. The same test runs on a faster Samsung 840 Pro showed it hitting the limitation on both reading and writing.
The power consumption of the drives was made by cutting apart a Molex to SATA adapter, and plugging it into my secondary machine with the Keithley Model 2110 5.5 digit multimeter performing the measurements under the control of a computer.
A plot of the current consumption was made during a run of CrystalDiskMark with the SSD attached to a SATA2 port, as this computer had no SATA3 ports. For comparison, the OCZ Vertex 3 was replaced by my Kingston SSD now V300, another SandForce based SSD, as I could not pull the OCZ out for test purposes. I also compare a 2.5 inc rotating platter hard drive, a Western Digital WD16000BEVS 160Gb drive I had in spare.
Despite the 2A rating on the label, the Kingmax does turn in a perfect power consumption figure. This test is primarily of interest to people seeking to install the SSD into a laptop, as it will give you an idea of whether you will gain any battery life benefits.
The summarized average power consumption in Idle, Read, and Write are as follows:
Drive Idle Read Write Kingmax SME35 Xvalue 240Gb 60.5mA 216mA 513mA Kingston V300 120Gb 119mA 372mA 590mA Samsung 840 Pro 256Gb 59.7mA 300mA 386mA Western Digital WD1600BEVS 220mA 680mA 700mA
It’s not a clear victory between the Kingmax and Samsung 840 Pro, but it seems the Kingston SSDNow V300 trails behind. Of course, the hard disk idles at much higher power, consume much more power when reading, and a little more when writing. It makes good sense to change to an SSD in a laptop!
The package inclusions are high, and the price is very attractive. Some corners have been cut, but in general, it does everything it says on the tin. Internally, it is powered by a Silicon Motion SM2246 controller with Micron 20nm MLC NAND. It passed every test I threw at it, so at least when it is fresh, it’s a reliable product. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell for sure if there are any bugs which might impact on the stability or performance over time, or whether there might be any reliability issues.
A direct comparison between the Kingmax and the Samsung 840 Pro can be made, performance-wise, but it has to be kept in mind that the 840 Pro is a performance SSD commanding close to AU$1/Gb, whereas the Kingmax is commanding only AU$0.58/Gb. The OCZ Vertex 3 as it was “dirty” as my boot SSD, was not able to show its best side and can not be directly compared.
There are higher-performance options, but you are paying AU$1/Gb or more. For a value SSD, it does appear to be a decent performer, likely to be sufficient for many users, and at an excellent price. The SMART data is not very descriptive, but it seems to show that the SSD did not suffer much throughout the testing regime and should have some level of endurance (unlike some former value options – e.g., OCZ Petrol).