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Kingston SSDNow V Series 40GB Desktop Bundle Review (with RAID!)

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Kingston
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Introduction and Packaging

Introduction

A few weeks ago Kingston announced a new addition to their SSDNow V series line.  This new drive, dubbed '40GB Boot Drive', is meant to try and get SSD performance in the hands of more users.  SSD enthusiasts like myself face a constant uphill battle when trying to explain and demonstrate the performance benefits of Solid State storage solutions.  The biggest counters end up being the high cost per GB, forcing most adopters to settle on the lowest cost solutions out there.  Before this 40GB Kingston unit hit the market, that area was populated by mostly JMicron controlled drives known to be plagued by stuttering issues brought about by small random writes.  Such is not the case with this new model.  Kingston worked out a deal with Intel to make their popular controller available in a package more appealing to those looking to dabble in Solid State without completely breaking the bank.


A bit of background on the Intel SSD controller series.  In 2008 we saw the release of Intel's first generation SSD.  This first offering literally walked over everything else being offered at the time (and continues to be highly competitive).  It did have a few long-term performance issues which were later corrected through a firmware update.  In mid-2009, Intel released the G2 product line based on a 34nm flash process.  The G2 launch promised lower prices and TRIM support via a future firmware upgrade.  Launch pricing was plagued by the simple rules of supply and demand.  The price drop put the G2 on-par with the competition in terms of cost/GB yet kept its performance advantage.  Everyone naturally flocked to the Intel camp, causing some pricing instability for the first few months of the launch (much better now).  Intel made good on their promise and released a TRIM firmware in conjunction with the Windows 7 launch, however this was short lived as Intel was forced to pull the firmware for issues they are still investigating.  That was actually the second firmware issue for the G2, as the initial shipping firmware had a bug related to changing or removing a BIOS HDD password (fixed in August). 
It might have been a bumpy ride for the Intel controller, but it remains the best consumer grade controller out there, and it was a smart move for Kingston to push out a lower cost implementation of it.

Along with benches of a single unit, we will be testing a pair of them.  This was a logical choice as our readership (and editors) tend to go to extreme and creative measures as to squeeze the most performance out of their hardware dollar.  With this 40GB unit selling for roughly half that of its 80GB older brother, there is a unique opportunity presented to power users willing to take the RAID plunge with their OS partition.  The advantages in IOPS might even be good enough to put it into X25-M G2 + TRIM territory even though the Kingston unit does not support TRIM.  Given that the current Intel ICH RAID drivers do not support TRIM either, users wanting to push beyond single SATA channel speeds would have to drop TRIM support anyway.  Since Intel revised the firmware of their G1 controller, it resists fragmentation over time and is not be as dependent on TRIM as other SSD's to keep write performance up to par.

Packaging:



The packaging includes a set of brackets for mounting the 2.5" SSD into a 3.5" bay.  Also included is a SATA cable, Molex to SATA power adapter, and software for cloning your existing Windows installation over to the SSD.  If you are tempted to migrate a Windows XP install, beware that default XP installations are aligned to sector 63, which is not on a flash block boundary.  If you want to stick with XP you should reinstall after partitioning using DISKPART with the ALIGN=1024 option (which is the Vista and 7 default).
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