Is it Bait and Switch or not?

Subject: General Tech | June 17, 2014 - 10:59 AM |
Tagged: kingston, pny, ssdnow v300, optima

There is a wee bit of outrage in the community over the internals of Kingston's SSDNow V300 and PNY's Optima SSDs.  In both cases the internals being sold at the moment do not match the internals that were originally benchmarked and people are outraged that the same product with a different model number has changed internals.  The two drives are marketed towards value conscious purchasers and represent two different cases of modifications; Kingston with a flash change and PNY with a controller change.

The complaints against PNY are a little odd, it would seem that the 4-channel SMI 2246en controller was swapped for an 8-channel LSI SandForce SF-2281 with no price change and the only way you can be upset by that is because of a ridiculous level of brand loyalty.  On the other hand Kingston has switched from Synchronous to Asynchronous NAND flash memory which does have a noticeable impact on performance and the stamina of the flash and also happens to be less expensive to manufacture.  If Kingston had left the price as it was originally and specified the use of Synchronous Flash in the V300 series then you would have a good argument that they had intentionally mislead customers.  The reality is that the type of flash was not specified and the price of a 120GB SSDNow V300 has halved since its release which makes this more of a slightly shady product refresh.  It is not the best way to update your product line but considering the specifics of this particular case it really does not show intent to deceive.

If you really want something to be upset about then consider the example provided by The SSD Review; ASUS's swapping out of the SSD in their ZenBook with utterly no warning or price change.  Now that is Bait and Switch!

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"It seems that the world of technology has stopped with allegations that some SSD companies are pulling the old ‘bait and switch’ routine in their SSDs by switching off components that many had recognized through initial SSD reviews. We have read several reports and forums, most of which simply repeat the original information, and finally have decided to clarify things just a bit from our perspective. Get ready though as many may not like our viewpoint; it goes against the grain somewhat."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

June 17, 2014 | 11:45 AM - Posted by ZoA (not verified)

I disagree that changing SSD hardware without changing the name and the label of the product is something that should be tolerated or dismissed as trivial. Product designation and labeling has to be changed even when hardware change is is an improvement, and is outright consumer fraud if is not done when product performance is downgraded.

If one wants to be responsible consumer he will use product name to check reviews and performance benchmarks before purchase. In fact good part of the traffic on pcper itself is people checking reviews for potential purchases. But if hardware reviewed under some name does not perform same as hardware sold under that same name what is the point of review in the first place?

This kind of mislabeling undermines trust of the consumer, and makes informed purchase harder, therefore it should not be tolerated under any circumstance. I am already boycotting Kingston products, and seeing what you are saying about ZenBook I think I'll be avoiding ASUS hardware too.

June 17, 2014 | 12:12 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Actually the Zenbook thing is done by a lot of manufacturers. You have no idea which specific brand of SSD you're getting in a laptop. Samsung puts other brands (i.e. non Samsung) in their notebooks. Apple uses several brands. At least the Zenbooks had a small label on the box indicating which SSD was inside (this is actually more info than the others have given, meaning ASUS is being better about it than most).

June 17, 2014 | 12:47 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

Kingston doesn't technically hide it, Rev 505A is the Synchronous and 521A is the Asynchronous.  For most users that is certainly not enough of a change to be noticeable but for many enthusuiasts it would be.  It is certainly sneaky but not really illegal especially since the 505A was not only sent to reviewers, it was available to consumers.  At least they did pass on the savings, for what that is worth.
 

June 17, 2014 | 04:13 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

V300 is not an enthusiast SSD. It is a low cost, entry level HDD replacement for the average consumer.

June 18, 2014 | 03:06 AM - Posted by cosminmcm (not verified)

And that is exactly why it is perfect for them, with the low price, no matter the specifications.

June 18, 2014 | 09:59 AM - Posted by JohnGR

No matter the specifications? You mean they could replace the controller with, for example, an ultra slow old problematic Jmicron controller, but never mind because the price will be low? Wrong!

June 17, 2014 | 12:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Any reviews using samples, directly obtained from the manufactures of the part, should be taken with a grain of salt. Only products chosen at random from a retail outlet would be better, and more that one sample tested from more than one randomly selected retailer would be best. No laptop reviews can be fully trusted, as the driver details are never reviewed to the level of the gaming rigs, and Laptop OEM are known to customize the Intel HD graphics drivers, leaving the OEM responsible for updating the customized HD graphics drivers, which the Laptop OEMs rarely do. If the laptop buyer is lucky enough the purchase a laptop with generic Intel HD graphics drivers, as it is only by pure random luck, then the user can get the updated generic HD graphics drivers from Intel's website, there is no way to tell if a laptop has Intel generic HD graphics drivers short of purchasing the laptop, and using administrative privileges, to go to the Intel graphics driver website and download and install the software that will tell the user if the drivers can be updated or not by Intel.

Most laptop reviews are little more than ad copy masquerading as a review, the only PCs that get thorough reviews are the Gaming Rigs, there really is no such thing as a laptop review, have you ever read a laptop review that lists the graphics driver version number, let alone the fact that most laptops come with customized drivers that must be updated by the OEM. This is especially true for Intel graphics drivers, and Laptop OEMs are not big on service after the sale.

Review samples not randomly obtained from the retail channel, Cue the Cherry Picker sound effect, Beep Beep Beep.......

June 17, 2014 | 12:46 PM - Posted by Gunbuster

Super shady how they had the one cherry-picked ATTO benchmark printed on the packaging. Seems like they planned to do the NAND change after reviews from the very start.

June 17, 2014 | 01:41 PM - Posted by John Q. Public (not verified)

"...the price of a 120GB SSDNow V300 has halved since its release which makes this more of a slightly shady product refresh..."

Actually since the price has dropped at around $10 a month since the asynch change became more widely publicized maybe that is what has helped bring it down. Not that their practices are and less shady just that market forces reacting and devaluing them accordingly.

What shows their intent to deceive was that the asynchronous change had to be dragged out of their customer support team long after inquiries about the performance issues started.

June 17, 2014 | 01:47 PM - Posted by John Q. Public (not verified)

"Kingston doesn't technically hide it, Rev 505A is the Synchronous and 521A is the Asynchronous."

They do not label them with the 'A's. That is a naming convention that they came up with in their document being used to try and climb out of this mess. You will still find no indication of what ships are inside and in fact Jewel who pa'trolls Newegg and Amazon still will not state definitively what you will get if you buy one today.

June 17, 2014 | 04:27 PM - Posted by JohnGR

Kingston is finished as an SSD manufacturer for me, after reading the article in Anandtech.

And I really do not understand why you are trying to defend them here. If AMD for instance replace Hawaii with Tahiti in the 290/290X cards and starts selling them for the price of 280/280X are you going to defend them also? Wouldn't they be deliberate misleading consumers who would be thinking that they are buying a real 290/290X is an amazingly low price? They would be thinking that with $200-$300 they will be beating GTX780 and maybe GTX780Ti.

Not to mention that pointing at a price that it is more than 1,5 years old it is at least ridiculous. Prices in SSDs the last two years where drop like a rock with NO tricks like these from Kingston.

June 17, 2014 | 08:25 PM - Posted by vector (not verified)

They're just killing their ssd businesses with this fraudulent nonsense. Who's going to trust any third party manufacture after this? Kingston might as well pack it in along with anyone else who doesn't own their own foundry.

Without vertical integration you're dead to me as an ssd manufacturer, and you only have yourselves to blame.

June 17, 2014 | 08:25 PM - Posted by vector (not verified)

They're just killing their ssd businesses with this fraudulent nonsense. Who's going to trust any third party manufacture after this? Kingston might as well pack it in along with anyone else who doesn't own their own foundry. Without vertical integration you're dead to me as an ssd manufacturer, and you only have yourselves to blame.

June 18, 2014 | 12:02 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If I had bought the PNY SSD, it would have been after making sure that it was NOT using a SandForce controller.
I'd be really pissed off to discover that they silently changed the controller into a brand that I do everything I can to avoid due to reliability issues.

June 18, 2014 | 06:08 AM - Posted by Martin Trautvetter

I almost got caught out by Kingston's questionable actions (got an async V300 in shortly before the poop hit the fan), and I certainly decided that that was enough to never, ever consider their SSDs again.

Why even chance it when you can just as well go with proper companies like Samsung, Micron/Crucial and Intel?

June 19, 2014 | 05:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Cherry-pick the best!
Send them out to test!
Sale crap to the rest!

They are watering down the Rum in Kingston town, and treating the customer like a drunken sailor! Yes we'll give'em a shot of the gov'nor's best, those what doing the reviews, but the rest 'll get bog substandard hooch 'n H2O, with a wee bit more agua in each new shot.

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