Kingston SSDNow V-Series Notebook Upgrade Kit Review

by Jerry Jackson Reads (30,653)
  • Pros

    • Includes an external enclosure
    • Easy cloning software
    • Performance boost at low cost
  • Cons

    • No printed instructions
    • Low capacity compared to HDDs
    • MLC not as fast as SLC

by Jerry Jackson

When solid state drives (SSDs) started to appear several years ago, 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. Until recently, SSDs were too expensive for average consumers to own, but Kingston hopes to change all that with the SSDNow V-Series with Notebook Bundled Accessory Kit. This Kingston SSD upgrade kit includes not only an affordable 128GB SSD, but it includes everything a typical laptop owner needs to turn an average laptop into a high-performance machine.

Kingston SSDNow V-Series with Notebook Bundled Accessory Kit  Specifications:

  • Architecture: MLC NAND Flash Memory
  • Form Factor: 2.5″
  • Capacity: 128GB
  • Interface Type: SATA II
  • Notebook accessory kit included (USB external SATA enclosure and software)
  • Max Vibration Resistance: 2.17 G (800Hz)
  • Sequential Access – Read: 100MB/sec
  • Sequential Access – Write: 80MB/sec
  • Features Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) to notify users before the drive fails, for enhanced data security
  • Life expectancy: 1 million hours mean time before failure
  • Retail Price: $249.99


The Kingston SSDNow upgrade kit in all its glory!

Packaging, Features and Installation
Most commercially available SSDs on the market include the SSD and nothing else. The manufacturer just assumes you know what to do with it. Kingston recognized that many laptop owners might want to upgrade to a SDD, but the typical consumer needs a bit more help. That’s why Kingston includes an external enclosure and a copy of Acronis True Image software so that you can transfer your entire hard drive (including Windows) to your new SSD. The added benefit of the external enclosure is that you can put your old laptop hard drive inside the enclosure and use it as extra storage. The images of the SSD show the SSD inside the mounting bracket for a HP Pavilion dv4t notebook. The mounting bracket isn’t included … I just neglected to remove it prior to taking photos.

 

I usually just install a clean copy of Windows whenever I install a new hard drive or solid state drive in a notebook, but I’ve also used various types of software to clone hard drives so that I don’t have to re-install Windows. Typically, cloning software doesn’t work as well as you might think. You usually end up wishing you had just installed a clean copy of Windows instead of trying to copy your old hard drive. This was NOT the case with the Kingston SSDNow kit.

I can honestly say that this is the easiest upgrade kit and easiest cloning software I’ve ever used. Just remove your old hard drive from your notebook, install the new SSD, install the old hard drive into the provided external enclosure and connect it to a USB port on your notebook, then insert the install CD into the drive and follow the on-screen instructions. The entire process couldn’t be any easier … well, almost.

There are only two minor annoyances I encountered when using the Kingston SSDNow kit. First, there is no printed copy of the installation instructions. You have to print out the instructions from the PDF document included on the CD. It would make life much easier if Kingston included a printed copy of the instructions in the box. Second, if your current hard drive is larger than 128GB (and you’re using all or most of that space) then you need to remove software and files from your old hard drive before you try to clone your old hard drive over to the new SSD.

Still, I can’t get over how easy this kit makes upgrading a laptop hard drive to a super-fast SSD.

Performance
Kingston claims the V-Series SSDs have a sustained read speed of 100MB/s and a write speed of 80MB/s, which is faster than the fastest 7200rpm hard drives but not as fast as some of the SSDs on the market that are based on SLC NAND flash. Since most of our readers aren’t interested in the specific techincal details of MLC NAND flash versus SLC NAND flash, let’s just say that MLC is cheaper, but SLC has better endurance, better read/write speeds, and lower power consumption.

Regardless, Kingston doesn’t intend for the V-Series SSDs to be the fastest SSDs on the market. In fact, Kingston is targeting current notebook users who want to upgrade their current laptops with an easy-to-use SSD at an affordable price. To that end, the V-Series 128GB SSD offers a solid (pun intended) upgrade for laptop owners who are using older hard drives.

The Windows Experience Index score isn’t the best indicator of performance, but it does an alright job comparing two types of hardware before and after you’ve upgraded a PC. The images below show the Windows Experience Index score for my HP Pavilion dv4t notebook using a 320GB 7200rpm hard drive and a 128GB Kingston V-Series SSD. The overall score doesn’t change because of the weak Intel integrated graphics, but the important thing to notice in these images is that the score for the hard disk after the SSD upgrade is 5.9 … the highest score available from the Windows Experience Index.


WEI scores with 7200rpm hard drive.

WEI scores with Kingston V-Series 128GB SSD.

Our tests with HDTune showed impressive results after we loaded the drive with Windows Vista and enough files to occupy 72GB of space on the 128GB SSD. The average data transfer rate of the Kingston SSD was more than 80MB/sec compared to only around 60MB/sec with a fast 7200rpm hard drive and less than 50MB/sec with a 5400rpm hard drive.

We also tested the SSD with Atto which is one of the standard synthetic benchmarks we use to test the performance of a storage drive. Below you can see the average read and write speeds for the WD Scorpio Black drive compared to a Toshiba 5400rpm notebook hard drive the Kingston V-Series solid state drive.


320GB Toshiba MK3252GSX 5400rpm HDD

320GB WD Scorpio Black 7200rpm HDD

Kingston V-Seires 128GB SSD

320GB Toshiba MK3252GSX 5400rpm HDD

320GB WD Scorpio Black 7200rpm HDD

Kingston V-Series 128GB SSD

 

Clearly, the 128GB V-Series SSD provides a nice performance boost over a 7200rpm hard drive and a pretty respectable improvement over a standard 5400rpm hard drive. However, if we compare the performance of the V-Series SSD to some of the more expensive SSDs on the market it’s clear that the Kingston SSD isn’t quite as fast as some of the other SSDs on the market:


Intel X25-M SSD

OCZ Vertex 30 SSD

Granted, the Kingston SSDNow V-Series SSD costs only a fraction of the price of the Intel and OCZ SSDs with similar capacities … but it’s fair to point out that the value-priced Kingston SSD won’t provide the same  extreme performance seen in more expensive SSDs.

Heat and Noise
The drive consumes fairly low amounts of power, but since it isn’t the most power-efficient SSD on the market it does warm up over time. The exterior reached roughly 90 degrees Fahrenheit when running in open air outside a laptop and when mounted inside a notebook the temperatures varied between 103 and 112 degrees depending on the notebook. Though, to be fair, the notebooks we used during testing (such as the HP Pavilion dv4t) are notorious for having hot drive bay areas so those triple-digit temperatures may have a lot to do with heat from other components. Noise levels are not a problem with any SSD, since they have no moving parts. The drive is completely silent.

Power Consumption
Measured power usage was higher in both idle and load than more expensive SSDs like the OCZ Vertex SSD, but idle and active power consumption remains at or below what we see from standard 5400rpm and 7200rpm hard drives. Compared to the Western Digital Scorpio Black hard drive that I was using in my dv4t, the power savings from the Kingston V-Series SSD are quite impressive. Another key thing to remember is that the SSD spends less time under load. SSDs work faster, processing requests quicker and then go back to idle sooner than a hard drive.

Hard Drive Power Idle/Active
OCZ Vertex 30GB SSD  0.41/0.76W
Mtron Mobi 3000 1.8″ PATA 32GB SSD 0.90/2.00W
Kingston V-Series 128GB SSD 0.45/2.31W
Hitachi 5k500.B 500GB 0.66/2.31W
Seagate 5400.5 250GB 0.85/2.31W
WD Scorpio Blue 500GB                                                  1.00/2.68W
Hitachi 7k320 160GB 0.85/2.71W
Seagate 7200.3 320GB 0.95/3.03W
Seagate 7200.2 120GB 1.00/3.51W
WD Scorpio Black 320GB 1.00/3.51W


Conclusion
We live in very interesting times right now when it comes to laptops. Most industry professionals believe SSDs will replace hard disk drives in most laptops within the next few years. Thanks to low-cost MLC-based SSDs like the Kingston SSDNow V-Series we will start to see even more notebooks with SSDs showing up as early as this holiday season. The Kingston V-Series SSD provides trouble-free shock protection for all your data (no more crashing hard drives) and it will make your laptop feel faster as well. Heck, you might even gain a few extra minutes of battery life thanks to lower power consumption.

The all-in-one upgrade kit offers fantastic value at $250 or less, and when you consider the benefits of SSDs over traditional hard drives the Kingston SSDNow V-Series with Notebook Bundled Accessory Kit seems like a perfect solution for people who want to upgrade their current laptop.

Some of our technical readers are no doubt interested in how MLC-based SSDs will perform over time. Indeed, several websites mention that although MLC SSDs are fast and cheap, they may lose performance over time and become less reliable … even fail. The editors at NotebookReview.com and our sister site DesktopReview.com will bring you more details in the coming months as we begin our long-term tests on SSD performance and reliability. Stay tuned.

With a three-year warranty and 24/7 technical support, the Kingston SSDNow V-Series should prove to be a compelling and trustworthy solution for notebook owners who want a simple upgrade for their aging laptops.

Pros:

  • Includes an external USB enclosure
  • Easiest cloning software I’ve ever seen
  • Nice performance boost at a fair price

Cons:

  • No printed copy of the installation instructions
  • If you have a larger hard drive you need to delete files
  • MLC flash is cheap, but not as fast as SLC


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