The 120GB Kingston SSDNow V300 Series internal solid-state drive (SSD) is priced to appeal to ordinary consumers at £75, but it boasts a level of performance that sat at the top of the enthusiast’s market not so long ago.
Over the past 18 months, the price of SSDs has fallen dramatically, both in terms of the straight price and the cost-per-gigabyte. One of the downsides to this trend, however, is that the lower end of the market is flooded with products with very different performance characteristics. Conventional hard drives don't generally have this problem; models from the major manufacturers tend to perform similarly at the same capacity and price point.
Kingston's V300 SSDNow family of products is designed to simplify the selection process. All of the drives in this family pair a SandForce SF-2281 controller with Toshiba's most advanced 19nm NAND flash. Kingston has custom-tuned the firmware for higher performance and assembles the drive itself. Buying wafers directly from Toshiba and doing the back-end processing in-house gives Kingston better control over prices.
The 120GB V300 is available as a standalone drive for £75, or you can pick it up with a bundled desktop upgrade kit for around a tenner more – that gets you a 2.5-3.5in bracket kit, a SATA cable, molex-to-SATA power converter, and a bundled data migration program. For those who need the additional components, £10 or so is a decent price to pay for the upgrade.
Our review unit was tested using an Asus P877V-Deluxe motherboard with 8GB of DDR3-1600 and an Intel Core i7-3770K CPU. The P877-V Deluxe offers multiple SATA controllers from Intel and Marvell; the V300 was connected to Intel's 6G SATA port.
We compared the 120GB V300 against the older 256GB OCZ Vertex 3, the 256GB Plextor PX-256M5P, and the new 256GB OCZ Vector. The Vertex 3 and V300 use the same SandForce SF-2281 controller. The Plextor PX-256MP uses Marvell's 88SS9187 controller, while the OCZ Vector is equipped with an Indilinx Barefoot 3 chip.
The 256GB Vertex 3 is the primary point of comparison, but since larger SSDs tend to be faster than smaller ones, even this comparison is asking the 120GB V300 to fight above its weight class. Performance data on the Plextor and OCZ Vector drives is provided to highlight the difference between consumer and enthusiast products; the V300 isn't expected to win these comparisons.
In the AS-SSD benchmark test, the Kingston V300's sequential read speed of 471MBps compares well against the scores of the OCZ Vertex 3 (488MBps), Plextor PX-256MP (504MBps) and Vector (509MBps). Write speeds aren't as strong; the Kingston V300's sequential write performance hits 163MBps, compared to the Vertex 3's 223MBps. The Plextor PX-256MP and OCZ Vector both score well over 400MBps.
SiSoft Sandra's random read/write tests show the Kingston V300 nearly tying the OCZ Vertex 3 in reads (487MBps vs. 506MBps) and surpassing it for writes (177MBps vs. 144MBps). Again, the newer Plextor PX-256MP and OCZ Vector offer substantially better write performance. The Plextor PX-256MP scores 432MBps while the OCZ Vector scores 509MBps.
The real-world gap between the drives is significantly smaller than the synthetic tests imply. In PCMark 7, the Kingston V300 scores a respectable 5164. That's only five per cent slower than the 256GB Vertex 3's 5430, while the Plextor PX-256MP and OCZ Vector hit 5458 and 5419 respectively. PCMark 7's storage benchmark test measures performance by simulating virus scans, importing photos, launching games, editing movies, and simultaneously playing and recording HD video.
What these results show is that the real-world performance difference between the 120GB V300 and other drives is much smaller than the synthetic tests would indicate. Potential buyers don't need to worry about missing out on the performance that makes SSDs far superior to conventional hard drives.
The Kingston V300 isn't the fastest SSD on the market but it's based on proven technology at a great price point. Currently, 120GB is the sweet spot for entry-level SSDs – customers who opt for smaller 60-90GB SSDs may find their program installations sharply constrained. The firmware issues that plagued the first SSDs equipped with SandForce 2281 controllers have been long since resolved, and the three year warranty Kingston includes on these products matches the terms offered by other manufacturers.
An SSD upgrade is one of the best ways to breathe new life into an older system with a conventional hard drive. Even older, Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD-based systems that don't support the SATA 6G standard will see a huge speed increase when combined with an SSD. At £75, the Kingston V300 is cheap enough to justify, even in an older box.
Those who work with non-compressible data or need high write performance levels will want to consider other options, but such users are a distinct minority (and are likely aware of their own needs already).
For the vast majority of users, the SandForce 2281's weak points aren't weak points at all. This is the SSD cautious buyers have been waiting for. It offers excellent performance at a modest price using proven controller technology, from a vendor with decades of experience in the consumer market. As such, it earns one of our coveted Best Buy awards.