Exclusive: Kingston SSDNow V200 Review: New(ish) And Improved At Last!

by Reads (50,919)

Behold the majesty that is the solid state drive (SSD). When SSDs first appeared on the consumer market every laptop owner who saw one immediately wanted one. Unlike hard disk drives (HDDs) with moving parts that are prone to failure due to vibration or impact, SSDs have no moving parts (similar to a USB flash drive or thumb drive) and are significantly faster than the hard drive in your laptop.

But what happens if a mighty SSD actually turns out slower than an old hard drive? That was the problem facing the Kingston SSDNow V200 … a solid state drive that didn’t deliver SSD-like performance. Months after Kingston took the drive off the market, the V200 is back and promises to be better than ever. Is it good enough to help Kingston’s tarnished image?

In a word, YES.

The Kingston SSDNow V200 is a 7mm thick, 2.5-inch SSD available in capacities of 64GB, 128GB and 256GB. This SATA 3.0 (6Gb/s) SSD has advertised sequential speeds of up to 260MB/s read and 100MB/s write for the 64GB capacity, 300MB/s read and 190MB/s write for the 128GB capacity and 300MB/s read and 230MB/s write for the 256GB capacity.

The V200 is of a particular interest to modern laptop users because many new notebooks and most “Ultrabooks” are designed with a thin chassis that cannot hold a standard 2.5-inch SSD with a thickness of 9.5mm. Those new laptops and Ultrabooks require thinner 7mm SSDs like the V200.

The “desktop bundle kit” includes the SSD, cloning software, DVD with step-by-step installation video, cables (SATA data and power), and 3.5-inch hard-drive mounting brackets and hardware.

The “notebook upgrade kit” (contents pictured to the right) includes the SSD and spacer for notebooks that take a standard 9.5mm SSD, DVD with step-by-step installation video, Acronis True Image cloning software and a 2.5-inch external enclosure for easy OS and data transfer from your laptop’s HDD to the new SSD during cloning.

I Have A Need … A Need For Speed!

As previously mentioned, Kingston originally released the SSDNow V200 in November 2011. Shortly after its launch, Kingston received isolated reports (some of those reports coming from discussion forum members right here at NotebookReview) of performance degradation specific to write speeds on the 64GB and 128GB capacities. Kingston’s engineering teams began investigating and were able to confirm those reports. Kingston’s official explanation for the slow write speed of the V200 is as follows: 

“Excessive nonuser initiated OS host writes (temp files, log files, etc.) would bog down the controller, and steady-state write performance would slow down below the stated specifications. Customers would not typically experience the slowdown but repeated benchmarking would exacerbate it.”

In other words, typical background activities common to a Windows environment would gradually impact the SSD’s controller chip and drop the write speed down to a fraction of the advertised speed. In some cases, that performance drop made the V200 as slow (or slower) than a bargain-priced 5400rpm hard drive … particularly when tested with benchmarking software to confirm the speed of the drive.

Kingston therefore put the drive production on hold and stopped shipping the V200 pending a fix. Now, after months of working exhaustively with its technology partners to solve this issue, Kingston is ready to resume shipment of the V200 SSD once again.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

So, did Kingston change the flash controller and core components in the new V200? Nope. It still uses a JMicron 668 Controller and Toshiba 24nm 3KP/E Cycle MLC NAND flash. In fact, the remedy for the slow performance was as simple as a firmware update.

The solution to the V200’s problem is a firmware upgrade that optimizes 4K random writes while restoring sequential read and write performance. In addition, Kingston reports the firmware upgrade provides a “significant boost to random write performance” over the original drive.

Some of our discussion forum members will recall that a beta version of a firmware update for the V200 was leaked online several months ago and that firmware update failed the fix the slow speed of the V200 SSD. The leaked firmware was never meant for public distribution and was a work in progress. Thankfully, as our performance tests of the new V200 show later in this review, the final firmware update indeed solves the speed issues that plagued the original V200.

All Kingston SSDNow V200 drives now shipping from the factory have the new firmware in place. Current owners with the old V200 drives will be able to download the new firmware update from the Kingston support website. It is important to note the 256GB capacity was not affected by the write performance degradation and continues to ship with its original firmware.

Now let’s take a look at the performance of the updated V200 …

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