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October 21, 2012 by Lawrence Lee
A year ago, a decent 120GB solid state drive cost around US$200, about twice what you would pay today. Back then we would have recommended purchasing the smallest capacity available that would fit your operating system, core programs and games. Thankfully since then, we've seen a nice, continual drop in solid state drive prices, making them more accessible to the masses. While this is great for consumers, the current affordability of SSDs makes choosing the right capacity a more difficult decision than in the past.
It's not simply about how much storage you require either there are performance ramifications to be considered. The controller design and number and distribution of NAND flash chips can be a significant determining factor in how an SSD performs. A good example is the recently reviewed Crucial M4 64GB. The small capacity meant there weren't enough NAND chips to properly take advantage of its Marvell controller's eight channel architecture, resulting in very disappointing write speeds.
According the various spec sheets we've looked through, this isn't as big an issue with LSI's popular SandForce SF-2281 controller, but we've noticed that amongst the SandForce drives we've reviewed thus far, the 240GB models have been a bit faster than the 120GB ones. That being said, we haven't had both a 120GB and 240GB variant of the same drive model to make a proper apples-to-apples comparison until now. Today we'll see if the Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB can match up to its big 240GB brother.
Kingston HyperX 3K: Specifications
(from the manufacturer data sheet)
||MLC NAND (3k P/E Cycles)
||SATA Rev 3.0 (6Gb/s), SATA Rev 2.0 (3Gb/s)
||90GB, 120GB, 240GB, 480GB
||SATA Rev. 3.0
90GB / 120GB / 240GB 555MB/s
||SATA Rev. 3.0
90GB / 120GB / 240GB 510MB/s
|Sustained Random 4K R/W
||90GB 20,000/50,000 IOPS
120GB 20,000/60,000 IOPS
240GB 40,000/57,000 IOPS
480GB 60,000/45,000 IOPS
|Max Random 4K R/W
||90GB 85,000/74,000 IOPS
120GB 85,000/73,000 IOPS
240GB 86,000/60,000 IOPS
480GB 75,000/48,000 IOPS
||Idle 0.455 W (TYP)
Read 1.58 W (TYP)
Write 2.11 W (TYP)
||69.85mm x 100mm x 9.5mm
||0°C ~ 70°C
||-40°C ~ 85°C
|Total Bytes Written (TBW)
The HyperX 3K 240GB is a very fast drive, in fact the quickest SandForce model we've ever tested, even beating out the Corsair Force GS 240GB which is equipped with supposedly faster, Toggle-mode NAND chips. On paper, the 120GB model sports the same sequential write/read speeds but there is some variation in random performance. Most notably, the 240GB version is twice as fast when it comes to sustained random 4K reads. We'll see how this affects real world performance.
Box and contents (SH103S3/120G).
The package we received from Kingston this time around is a little lighter, lacking most of the amenities (USB enclosure, SATA cable, imaging software, screwdriver) included with the more expensive upgrade kit version of the drive (SH103S3B/120G). The barebones model (SH103S3/120G) contains just the drive, a brief instruction sheet, and a 3.5 inch internal drive adapter. The 9.5 mm thick metal casing is the same though, comprised of a slick, gun metal brush aluminum face with raised letters.
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