Techgage logo

Kingston SSDNow V Series SNV425 128GB

Date: May 5, 2010
Author(s): Robert Tanner

Like so many other memory vendors on the market, Kingston offers a wide array of solid-state disks for your perusal. For the low-end segment, it has the SSDNow V series, which at current time offer the best GB/$ on the market. We’re taking a look at the latest release here, combining a recent JMicron controller with Toshiba NAND.



Introduction

Solid-State Drives have become one of the most recommended upgrade options to increase performance and general system responsiveness, with good reason. In the time required for a regular hard disk to boot an operating system, an SSD can have the system and several frequently used programs open and waiting on the user for input. In today’s world where consumers demand instant-on devices and immediate responses to their actions, an SSD is the single best upgrade to make it happen with a desktop or especially a laptop.

Performance is just one aspect, but responsiveness may even take precedence for some consumers that prefer to constantly perform tasks one after the other, without having to wait for the computer to complete the previous tasks before the system is usable again. As one extreme but potent example, no sane individual would consider playing a game with an anti-virus scan running in the background, but with a well designed anti-virus program and a good quality SSD a computer user would never even know it was occurring. There certainly wouldn’t be any telltale clicking from the drive to give it away either. And yes, I have put this example to the test myself several times; SSDs are just that good.

If you are reading this review then suffice to say you already know that the single-most hurdle preventing widespread SSD adoption has been and still is simply, price. The market for SSDs began to expand quickly once they fell below the $4 per gigabyte level. More recently Intel shook up the market pretty hard with the introduction of high-performance SSDs priced below $3 per gigabyte, but prices still need to drop significantly more to enable widespread adoption. Even so, the demand for SSDs is strong, and basic economics tells us as prices continue to drop demand will only continue to grow.

Kingston 128GB SSDNow V Series

This brings us to the Kingston “V” series, specifically the SNV425. What sets this SSD apart is that it for the last several months it has been one of the absolute cheapest SSDs available. With only a little deal hunting a “V” series drives can be found just a little below the magical $2 per GB mark, making them the most affordable SSD upgrade out there at this time. Of course it is affordable for a good reason, and not because it is the best performing drive on the market! For this review we will explore if the performance is “good enough” and if so for what applications we might recommend it for.

The SNV425 “V” series uses the revised JMF618 JMicron controller and Toshiba NAND. As many enthusiasts fondly recall, it was the JMF602 controller that gave JMicron a bad rap and a reputation to avoid. It will be important to gauge how much abuse this SSD can withstand before the controller starts to become overwhelmed, the result of which being stuttering and inconsistent performance. JMicron has gone through great strides to improve its controllers, and Western Digital feels that way also as they appear to utilize the nearly identical JMF612 controller (with proprietary, custom Western Digital firmware) in its SiliconEdge Blue series.

Series
Model
Class
TRIM
Controller
Density (GBs)
Price
SSDNow E
SNE125
Enterprise
No
Intel (Gen 1)
32 – 64
~$380+
SSDNow M
SNM125
Mainstream
No
Intel (Gen 1)
80 – 160
Discontinued
SSDNow M
SNM225
Mainstream
Yes
Intel (Gen 2)
80 – 160
~$250+
SSDNow V+
SNVP325
Value+
Yes
Toshiba
64 – 512
~$200 (64GB)
SSDNow V+
SNV225
Value+
No
Samsung
128 – 256
~$350+
SSDNow V
SNV125
Value
No
JMicron
64 – 128
~$149+
SSDNow V
SNV425
Value
Yes
JMicron
64 – 128
~$149+
SSDNow V
SNV125
Value
No
Intel
40
Discontinued
SSDNow V
SNV125
Value
Yes
Toshiba
30
~$90

We have put together the above chart to illustrate (and try to make sense of) the wide variety of SSDNow V series SSDs Kingston offers. This review is for the SNV425 model, but please be aware the very similar SNV125 models are nearly identical but use an older JMicron controller that does not support TRIM.

Kingston adds a “S2” designation to their model names, presumably to indicate SATA 2. When viewing models online, it will help to remember “B” is the Bundle, the desktop kit that includes a bracket, SATA cable, and accessories. “BN” is short for notebook bundle and is the kit intended for notebooks. Put it all together and the SNV425-S2BN is the drive in this review, is a SATA 2 drive, and happens to be the notebook bundled version. See, wasn’t that easy? Okay, maybe not so much.

SSD & Packaging; Test System & Methodology

As we mentioned previously this is the notebook bundle, although the only real difference is that it lacks the metal mounting brackets that are included in the desktop bundle for use in 3.5″ drive bays. The CD includes the installation guides, and a basic, bootable program for cloning one drive to another. Kingston also includes a nifty small plastic case that can turn any 2.5″ SSD into a portable, external USB 2.0 hard drive.

Kingston 128GB SSDNow V Series Kingston 128GB SSDNow V Series

Kingston 128GB SSDNow V Series Kingston 128GB SSDNow V Series

Test System & Methodology

At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate and real-world applicable as possible. We list most of the steps and processes involved in setting up and conducting our benchmarking process below, but in the interests of brevity we can’t mention every last detail. If there is any pertinent information that we’ve inadvertently omitted or you have any thoughts, suggestions, or critiques, then please feel free to email us or post directly in our forums. This site exists for readers like you and we value your input.

The table below lists the hardware used in our current storage-testing machine, which remains unchanged throughout all of our testing, with the obvious exception of the storage device. Each drive used for the sake of comparison is also listed here.

Component
Techgage Hard Drive Test System
Processor
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 – 2.4GHz Quad-Core
Motherboard
Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS4
Memory
4GB Corsair 800MHz CAS 4
Graphics
Foxconn 8800 GTS 320MB
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Intel X25-M G1 80GB
Kingston SSDNow V Series 40GB
Kingston SSDNow V Series 128GB
Kingston SSDNow V+ Series 128GB
OCZ Summit 60GB
OCZ Vertex Turbo 120GB
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 320GB
Western Digital SiliconEdge Blue 256GB
Power Supply
PC Power & Cooling Quad Silencer 750W
Cooling
Arctic Freezer 7 Pro
Et cetera
Lite-on DVD-RW
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit


Our Windows 7 Desktop for SSD Testing

When preparing our SSD testbed for testing we follow these guidelines:

All solid-state drives start in a factory fresh or HDDErase fresh state prior to testing. Windows 7 is manually installed and then SYSmark 2007 Preview is installed. Due to the nature of SYSmark, Windows 7 must be reinstalled upon completion of testing in order for many programs to function normally and benchmark consistently. As not all SSDs support TRIM technology, this process is important and ensures all of the drives are in a “dirtied” state before we collect the benchmark results.

For the time-being, cloned test images are not used as these can result in non-aligned partitions, which if it occurs will result in degraded SSD performance. Just as with Windows XP’s default sector offset causing degraded SSD performance, non-intelligent cloning software can have the same effect.

For testing, we ran all tests five times, dropping the highest and lowest results to finally average the middle three. And who said that college statistics class wouldn’t prove useful? If any anomalous results were seen, the test was run again. Given the complexities of modern computers, and especially today’s operating systems, we feel this provides the most accurate results possible.

Finally, we are seeking to constantly improve and expand upon our SSD testing methodology. We are activity seeking real-world workload scenarios that are bottlenecked by hard drives, so if you have any suggestions whatsoever or there is a program you would like to see included in our SSD content, then please drop by our forums and let us know! We are always looking to expand our SSD benchmarks and provide more useful and real-world results, and not just synthetic numbers.

Synthetic: PCMark Vantage

There are few PC enthusiasts who are unfamiliar with the name “Futuremark”, as the Finland-based developer has been producing quality benchmarks to help us gauge our computer’s worth for years. Originally known as Madonion, Futuremark has expanded its focus to go beyond its bread and butter, graphics and gaming, and tackle other areas, such as full system performance. That’s where PCMark comes into play.

The company’s most recent addition to the PCMark family is Vantage. For most users, a full suite would be run, but because we’re focused on storage performance only, we instead run only the storage-specific tests. Fortunately, Futuremark makes this easy for us to do as it has split up the entire suite into seven separate sub-tests, one being the aptly named “HDD Suite”.

PCMark’s HDD Suite may look simple on the surface, but it’s actually quite exhaustive. While the benchmark does deliver a simple “overall” result, it actually tests I/O performance based on a variety of scenarios, from adding music to Windows Media Player, to loading applications in succession, to editing video, to running a malware scanner, and more. It even includes metrics to evaluate a simulated Windows Vista boot time, so Futuremark has done a fine job of combining many useful scenarios into a single button press.

Before jumping into the results, keep in mind that the SiliconEdge Blue uses the identical JMicron drive controller as the SNV425. The only difference is Western Digital wrote its own custom firmware. To date all other SSD manufacturers that use JMicron’s controllers use the firmware supplied by that company. Therefore while it would be easy to dismiss the controller outright, the SiliconEdge Blue results do show what optimized firmware can do with this controller.

With that over with, onto the results!

Unfortunately the results aren’t so hot for the SNV425, as it delivers the worst score for an SSD we have seen in PCMark’s overall score and their HDD suite score. Nonetheless in comparison to the hard drive it manages to score rather well.

Synthetic: Iometer & AS SSD

Iometer 2006.07.27

Originally developed by Intel, and since given to the open-source community, Iometer (pronounced “eyeawmeter”, like thermometer) is one of the best storage-testing applications available, for a couple of reasons. The first, and primary, is that it’s completely customizable, and if you have a specific workload you need to hit a drive with, you can easily accomplish it here. Also, the program delivers results in IOPS (input/output operations per second), a common metric used in enterprise and server environments.

The level of customization cannot be understated. Aside from choosing the obvious figures, like chunk sizes, you can choose the percentage of the time that each respective chunk size will be used in a given test. You can also alter the percentages for read and write, and also how often either the reads or writes will be random (as opposed to sequential). I’m just touching the surface here, but what’s most important is that we’re able to deliver a consistent test on all of our drives, which increases the accuracy in our results.

Because of the level of control Iometer offers, we’ve created profiles for three of the most popular workloads out there: Database, File Server and Workstation. Database uses chunk sizes of 8KB, with 67% read, along with 100% random coverage. File Server is the more robust of the group, as it features chunk sizes ranging from 512B to 64KB, in varying levels of access, but again with 100% random coverage. Lastly, Workstation focuses on 8KB chunks with 80% read and 80% random coverage.

Because these profiles aren’t easily found on the Web, with the same being said about the exact structure of each, we’re hosting the software here for those who want to benchmark their own drives with the exact same profiles we use. That ZIP archive (~3.5MB) includes the application and the three profiles in an .icf file.

Scenarios such as these are pretty much the bane of hard drives and illustrate why 15,000RPM SCSI drives exist. Ironically, despite Iometer and these tests being created well before SSDs began entering the desktop market, the nature of the tests are going to inherently favor them due to their rapid, near-instantaneous random access times. While we do not have a 15,000RPM or VelociRaptor drive to use for reference, the numbers generated by them would only be little better than the desktop drive here due to the large number of tiny reads and writes to be made often randomly across the platter surface.

If looking for a perfect test to illustrate the potential strengths of random access, this would be it. That said, the large number of 512B to 4KB mixed reads and writes in the File Server scenario will also be the anathema of any SSD controller that was designed primarily for large sequential read & write performance. We can gauge which candidates have the highest potential to suffer from performance stuttering with these tests. Very small, random file operations are the worst offenders as they stress the controller the most.

If the SSD controller becomes backlogged, it will exacerbate the stuttering, causing file operations that should take milliseconds to instead take up to a full second or more to complete, thereby only compounding the problem. Unfortunately, the Summit happens to use a Samsung controller optimized solely for large, single sequential writes and makes for a good example as a warning of what to look for. The 40GB SSDNow drive uses a G2 Intel controller, hence the unusually high results for that drive.

The Kingston SNV425 performs close to or slighter better than its SiliconEdge Blue sibling here, but neither drive delivers a strong showing in any of the testing regimens. The Intel G2 and Indilinx controllers are both much more aptly suited for small random file access workloads, especially when write operations are involved.

AS SSD

As the name might hint, AS SSD is a nifty little program written exclusively for SSDs. It can be run on mechanical hard drives, but be warned that what should take minutes will take over an hour to benchmark! This handy little tool provides several read/write tests at important file sizes, but also includes a benchmark to simulate the transfer of three types of large files.

We selected this program for its precision, ability to generate large file sizes on the fly, and that it is written to bypass Windows 7’s automatic caching system. The tool does not bypass any onboard cache.

Again we see the pattern develop where those controllers optimized for small file operations gain an advantage. This is reflected in the real world as the majority of operating system and programs involve small 4KB sized files, with the emphasis on reads being performed more often than writes.

The Kingston SNV425 128GB SSD is clearly optimized for sequential reads and writes, but when switching to random small 4K writes the JMicron controller is not as optimized as the other drives. Interestingly the SiliconEdge Blue sibling does better, showing firmware optimization does make a difference. The custom firmware lets the drive power through the rest of the tests, when in comparison the Kingston drive is left trailing back in the pack. The V series drive again posts the lowest scores we have seen to date for an SSD, which again are still drastically higher than the hard drive was able to manage.

For access times, nothing should need to be said here. Access times are exactly why a RAID array will never be the equal of any decent SSD, as adding drives together in RAID does not decrease the access latency involved with a (or each) drive seeking to the data.

Synthetic: SYSmark 2007 Preview

Synthetic benchmarks have typically been favored for performance testing, but the results they provide can be fairly abstract, and the methods they use to assign their scores can be dubious at times. By contrast, real-world application benchmarks provide performance metrics that apply directly to real-world usage, and we endeavor to apply both in our performance comparisons.

SYSmark 2007 Preview from BAPCO is a special case, because its synthetic scores are derived from tests in real-world applications. However, we still believe that synthetic benchmarking scores are best used to directly compare the performance of one piece of hardware to another, and not for developing an impression of real-world performance expectations. SYSmark is more useful than most synthetic benchmarking programs in our opinion, because its tests emulate tasks that people actually perform, in actual software programs that they are likely to use.

The benchmark is hands-free, using scripts to execute all of the real-world scenarios identically, such as video editing in Sony Vegas and image manipulation in Adobe Photoshop. At the conclusion of the suite of tests, five scores are delivered: an E-learning score, a Video Creation score, a Productivity score, and a 3D Performance score, as well as an aggregated ‘Overall’ score. These scores can still be fairly abstract, and are most useful for direct comparisons between test systems.

A quick note on methodology: SYSmark 2007 requires a clean install of Windows 7 64-bit to run optimally. Before any testing is conducted, the hard drive is first wiped clean, and then a fresh Windows installation is conducted, then lastly, the necessary hardware drivers are installed.

SYSmark’s exhaustive battery of recorded real-world usage tests is an important factor when trying to gauge drive performance. According to BAPCo, differences of 3 points in the final scoring should be considered meaningful. Given the age of this test suite, the “Preview” part of the benchmark’s name, however, is definitely not.

The Kingston V 425 Series drive falls in the middle of the pack here, delivering mixed results that allow it to finish in the middle of the pack. If there was any doubt about the JMicron controller though, then just look at the SiliconEdge Blue’s results at the top of the pack. Given the plethora of SSDs Kingston offers, they should consider licensing WD’s firmware or potentially investing in developing their own.

We are now fairly certain our test system is capping performance and hindering these drives from pulling away from each other in the individual tests. Even so it is clear that the traditional platter hard drive still has no hope of keeping up.

Synthetic: HD Tune Pro 3.5, HD Tach RW3

HD Tune Pro 3.5

HD Tune has long been one of our favorite storage benchmarks, thanks in part to its ease-of-use, and its ability to deliver consistent results (which is obviously important). Since we are using HD Tune on storage devices that also house our OS, we’re unable to test the write performance, so here, we stick to both Read and Access Times.

Again as the file sizes involved decrease, so does the performance of the SNV425 SSD. While nowhere near as bad as the hard disk, it again sets a new low in the 512B, 4KB, and 64KB file size tests. Still, between 2.3MB/s or 0.036MB/s (36.8KB/s) with the hard drive, there doesn’t seem to be much comparison.

Yet again we show access times as these are the hallmark of solid-state drives, and I can’t underscore this point enough. The dirty state of the G1 leaves it with a particularly high result here, but even the G1 and other SSDs all put in results an order of magnitude better than the platter-based drive with small file reads.

HD Tach RW/3

HD Tach is a program similar to HD Tune, and although it hasn’t been updated in a few years, it’s still decent for testing SSDs. It offers a different method for calculating burst rates, as well as offering access time measurements below 0.1ms, which is unfortunately the limit for HD Tune. With a massive new program rewrite in the works, we look forward to seeing what the upcoming new version can do.

HD Tach is another program designed to measure platter-based drives (hence the downward curve in the image) but is capable of measuring access times below 0.1ms if the platform is up to the challenge. In these tests the Kingston SSD manages to deliver the highest read score, although we have to wonder about HD Tach’s testing algorithm at this point. Nonetheless as far as HD Tach is concerned this is a fast drive for reads. For the hard drive, the 13ms access latency is typical for a standard mechanical drive, but even a VelociRaptor would only decrease the latency to 7ms, a far cry from 0.1ms.

Real-World: File Transfers, Adobe Lightroom

File Transfers

For this test we took a 7.16GB Dual-layer DVD image and timed how long was required to transfer it to a different 10GB partition created on the same drive. Keep in mind with a hard disk, this requires the actuator arm to seek back and forth between the source and destination sectors of the disk platter, while any SSD can instantly read and write to multiple flash chips at once. Still, this is not a test of the raw write speeds of a SSD as the SSD controller cannot read & write to the same parts of the NAND flash simultaneously.

The JMF618 controller is well suited for large sequential write operations and demonstrates that here. Still, the same controller with Western Digital’s firmware is able offer even more incredible performance, showing that JMicron’s default firmware is clearly not reaching the potential of this controller! The Intel G1’s 70-80MB/s write speed limit does it no favors here.

Adobe Lightroom 2.5

For this test we utilize 500 large RAW files, and import them into Lightroom. We time how long it takes the program to import the files, cache them, and build the image library.

Somewhat interesting is that the results are split into two main groups with the Summit only able to tie the hard drive, while the other SSDs clump together around the 3 minute mark. It appears the Lightroom test is not demanding enough, and another system component (likely the CPU) has become the bottleneck here rather than the storage. Remember, Lightroom only utilizes two cores when loading and creating its image library, so it is not fully utilizing our quad-core CPU.

This should go to show that not all workloads are bottlenecked by storage, and that to get the most out of a fast SSD it will require an equally matched processor and system as to avoid any system (or in this case software) bottlenecks. For the Kingston drive we see a particularly good showing, however.

Real-World: Batch Tests

This test is perhaps the most important in our battery of benchmarks as it gives us truly real-world results. It is designed to simulate three kinds of multi-tasking scenarios in order to see how well the storage drive can cope with concurrent workloads. The better a drive performs here, the quicker and more responsive it should feel in everyday tasks. It shouldn’t need to be said that this is where SSDs shine and where traditional HDD bottlenecks are most directly experienced.

In addition to stressing the controller with a demanding, large queue to sort through (NCQ support helps here), this test will give any weak controller a complete panic attack by overwhelming it with simultaneous random read/write operations to juggle with large sequential writes, which is the Achilles’ heel of many cheaper SSDs.

Queue depth and IOPs optimizations have long been a strength of Intel’s own SSDs, however, there is enough differing types of workloads here that regardless of drive, every SSD should see some part of the workload playing to its own unique strengths and weaknesses in some fashion. A good-quality SSD should allow the system to remain responsive as the tasks are carried out in the background at all times. (Please for your own safety don’t try this at home on your HDD!)

Our Medium test consists of the following:

Our Heavy test consists of all-the-above in addition to a full Anti-Virus scan running concurrently in the background with the start of the test. The AV scan uses a static, unchanging 5.1GB test folder that contains 19,748 files and 2,414 sub-folders created from the Program Files directory.

Granted, even with a Core i7 processor, no computer user would be performing all of these tasks concurrently unless they wish to see their computer go unresponsive for up to 30 minutes at a time, but with an SSD, this is almost child’s play! If you think we are exaggerating then just look at what a fairly typical SATA HDD is able to offer, which is a representative sample for any other desktop HDD.

Last but not least, the Light test changes things slightly. This test is a batch file dropped into the Startup folder designed to load several programs as soon as Windows 7 reaches the desktop. This light test will open four websites in Firefox, load five images in Photoshop CS4, start playing our favorite 8 minute (56MB FLAC) music file in Winamp, and open a single large Word, Excel, and PowerPoint document, in addition to a single PDF file. For this specific test in particular, we start measuring from the moment the power button is pressed to the moment the last program and all files have been fully loaded ready for use.

In the time required for a regular hard disk drive computer to boot, it is possible for an SSD to boot and have fully loaded a multitude of programs and files, as the nearly two and a half minutes for the HDD clearly illustrates. The latest Kingston drive to grace our unique test unfortunately delivers the highest boot times amongst all of the SSDs, at 83 seconds. Even so that’s almost half the time a traditional HDD required.

For the medium scenario things begin to heat up, with the more robust SSD controllers able to flex their strength. A controller needs to be good at just about every task to perform well in this scenario, which stresses every aspect of an SSD and not just pure throughput. The medium test results for the JMicron Kingston drive are not flattering, but they also do not tell the full story.

This Kingston SSD was the first SSD we have tested that gave us errors when battering the drive with too many IO and file requests. The only other drive to do this was the hard disk drive whose controller was never designed for such an extreme concurrent workload. The second problem is that while the drive delivered results over nine minutes in the final average, during testing results were all over the place. Best case we saw times around the seven minute mark, yet worst case two runs required almost double that of twelve minutes!

This sort of inconsistent performance only got worse for the heavy test. While the drive required thirteen minutes in the final score, actual results varied from ten minutes up to sixteen. This level of variation is not just unacceptable, but the JMicron-based SNV425 drive is the only drive to exhibit this drastic a variation in results. While we have established that the SiliconEdge Blue sibling’s custom firmware is far superior, we are nonetheless surprised that we did not experience results anything approaching this with the Western Digital drive. We can only conclude it is not the controller, but JMicron’s firmware that is the result of their poor performance record, a dubious honor at best.

The Intel G1 drive clearly shows why TRIM is important as its dirty state makes it easy pickings, although its write limitation of 80MB/s certainly does it no favors here either. The SiliconEdge Blue is able to complete the entire medium workload and the anti-virus scan in less time than the Kingston JMicron-based drive requires to run only the medium workload without the AV scan. Apparently firmware optimizations can and will have as large of an impact as the choice of controller itself.

We should note that the heavy test would actually begin to overwhelm the hard disk drive as the workload began to pile up behind the bottleneck. The Vertex, SSDNow V+, and SiliconEdge deserve an extra mention here as these drives gave the most responsive system even under the heavy multitasking scenario. Not even with the AV scan running did the system go unresponsive or stutter. We honestly would be hard-pressed to even mind using the computer under such workloads as the system remained responsive at all times. We can safely say that the JMicron-based Kingston drive gave us the worst user experience by far in comparison, only the hard drive was able to deliver worse as it choked under the queuing workload.

The only conclusion we can draw is that the Kingston SNV425 is not well suited for heavy workloads. If you are looking at upgrading to an SSD for its responsiveness while under heavy workloads, then we suggest looking at a different model SSD. In the light test it easily outperformed the hard drive by over a full minute while remaining only ten seconds behind other SSDs, which gives us one bright point to focus on later.

Real-World: Windows Experience, Boot Times, Game Level Loading

Windows Experience

This is a test that any Windows 7 user can perform on their own system without needing to download anything. For those curious, Vista should allow the same, but we can’t guarantee the results will be directly comparable due to changes made in the WinSAT program. To run the program, hit the Windows Key + R at the same time, and type cmd into the run box. In the command prompt window type (or right-click and paste) the following without quotes: “cd c:windowssystem32” and hit enter. Once there input, again without quotes: “winsat disk -drive c -ran -write -count 10” and enter again.

This command runs a small portion of the Windows Experience Index’s drive assessment, specifically it uses small random writes and calculates how fast in MB/s the drive can sustain it. As we mentioned before with the HD Tune results, regardless of what drive is in question, its actual performance depends on what file size is being referred to. The smaller the file size, generally the lower the performance for a hard disk drive. So again, the small random file writes will be brutal.

The SNV425 does acceptably here again delivering results in the middle of the pack, and significantly above those capable by a mechanical drive. While the G1 is capped by its firmware to 80MB/s writes, we theorize that the combination of the small file size used for the WEI test and the drive cache combined to give it this final result. Even so, unlike the SiliconEdge Blue’s results, the G1’s result will not hold for large files or continuous small file writes.

Boot Time

For the boot test, we perform a cold boot, with the stopwatch starting the moment the power button is pressed until the last systray icon has finished loading. A large number of factors can change how fast a computer boots, from motherboard to just the BIOS configuration, so these times should not be used as an expectation of how fast the SSD will boot in your respective system. With some newer motherboards condensing the time taken in the boot process, boot times could reach significantly lower than these.

Here the SNV425 again performs acceptably, managing to just edge out the OCZ Summit’s results. The drive’s results in the light batch test serve as a better example of the SNV425’s capabilities in a boot test, however.

Game Level Loading

Last, but certainly not least, are the game level-loading times. SSDs tend to improve application load times significantly over their mechanical brethren, and games are no exception.

Crysis is still infamous for how well it could stress the entire PC, and although Crysis Warhead was a significant improvement and much better optimized than its predecessor, it still makes for one of the better gaming benchmarks to use. For this test, we timed how long it took to load the first level, Ambush. We also figured we would use the newer Left 4 Dead 2 game, for its slightly longer-than-average load times. Here, we timed how long it took to load the final chapter in the Hard Rain campaign.

While the difference between the best SSD and the typical HDD almost exactly halves the game loading time, that 15 seconds really doesn’t seem like much in L4D2, or 30 seconds in Crysis Warhead. At least until considering that each level load is one of many, then halving the load time really starts to add up. Some games involve quite a few load points or build them directly into the level (Half Life 2 being a good example), and smoother, more fluid transitions will greatly preserve game the immersion. In which case, for some gamers the answer becomes a definite yes.

As with all the results the mechanical hard drive falls into its own distant category, with any SSD dropping the load times by almost half. Performance here is bottle-necked by some other constraint, potentially the CPU given we are using a slower quad-core versus a faster dual-core processor.

Final Thoughts

The old rule of thumb that “if something is priced too good to be true then it usually is” certainly comes to mind here. There Kingston SNV425 has the unpleasant honor of delivering borderline performance and only acceptable responsiveness, often delivering the lowest performance we’ve seen from an SSD in our charts.

The SNV425 did not handle heavy usage scenarios well, often leaving the system unresponsive and occasionally generating an error if one program too many was opened concurrently. Under these conditions performance would become sporadic, differing significantly between runs. That general feeling one gets from having an SSD installed was simply not fully there. For a true SSD experience we would have chosen from almost any other drive.

Now we did mention at the end of our batch tests that there was one bright spot we would touch on. While the Kingston SNV425 was not capable of matching other SSDs, it easily trumped the hard disk drive and handled our light workload well enough without problem. While we do not recommend this SSD for use in an enthusiast or performance desktop, other applications where performance is not a primary consideration (but price is) might be better suited for this drive.

Kingston 128GB SSDNow V Series

One such application would be netbooks. As netbooks use slower processors and tend to trade ergonomics and speed for size, the lower performance of the Kingston “V” SNV425 series would not be as much of an issue. Netbooks will only be subjected to light usage and workloads and as such users looking for a quick, low priced option to upgrade their netbook may be well served by this drive. Netbooks partially gained their appeal due to their rock bottom prices, and that is one attribute the JMicron-based SNV-425 shares with them, as it has held the title of lowest-priced SSD for some time on major online retailers.

Other options would be where the user needs the durability of an SSD but not the performance such as an in-car computer or stereo system setup. Although a touch expensive, simply using the drive as a significantly more durable, portable external USB disk with the included case is another possible option. But probably the best application for the Kingston SNV425 would have to be netbooks, where the CPU and memory bottlenecks would ensure that no user would be able to overwhelm the SSD to the point it begins to lose responsiveness.

All Kingston SNV425 SSDs include a three year warranty, and perhaps more importantly TRIM support, but do not support NCQ (Native Command Queueing). At $2 per gigabyte (or even less for those deal hunters) the Kingston SNV425 is unquestionably the cheapest SSD currently available. If price is the main consideration and performance is not so much, then Kingston has yet another drive for you. We still can’t recommend using it as part of a desktop system, but the SSD-like performance is more than sufficient to make it a suitable candidate as a replacement for any netbook hard drive or even most notebook drives.

Discuss this article in our forums!

Have a comment you wish to make on this article? Recommendations? Criticism? Feel free to head over to our related thread and put your words to our virtual paper! There is no requirement to register in order to respond to these threads, but it sure doesn’t hurt!

Copyright © 2005-2019 Techgage Networks Inc. - All Rights Reserved.