A few days ago, I bought the Kingston SSDNow 128 GB SSD (second generation series 425) from the biggest computer retail chain in North America. The device is working okay on my notebook computer, but there are three caveats to be aware of.
Firstly, the included Acronis True Image software refused to clone the Windows Vista SP2 system installed on my notebook computer, reporting that there are errors in my (factory-installed) partition structure. (Apparently another poster had a similar problem with True Image.) I was not surprised by this, because last year I had similar problems with the earlier True Image Home 11. In both cases, I switched to the free edition of Macrium Reflect to get the job done, this time by creating a Macrium Reflect image of my hard disk, and then restoring the image onto the Kingston SSD inserted into an external USB case.
(So far my success rate with the free edition of Macrium Reflect has been 100%, on four computers running Windows XP SP2, XP SP2, Vista SP1, and Vista SP2, respectively. On the other hand, my imaging success rate with Acronis True Image has been 0%, on two computers. To be fair, I have heard good things about True Image, so my experience with it may be atypical.)
Secondly, according to the "Error Scan" test of the well-known utility, HD Tune Pro 4.50, my Kingston SSD has four bad sectors. The error report generated four lines, one of which is "Error at 61681 MB (LBA 105843611)"; the other three lines are the same but with different numbers. I do not understand what this really means, specifically whether these bad sectors have been mapped out. My gut feeling is that these have not been mapped out (in which case, this would be bad news!) because the CHKDSK utility does not report any bad sectors. Furthermore, the "Speed Map" feature of HD Tune Pro reports that the same bad sectors have abnormally slow access time. So far I have not noticed any system instability, but I am forced to keep a wary eye on my system. (Any advice from anyone about mapping out bad sectors?)
Thirdly and most surprisingly, my Kingston SSD actually consumes more electrical power than the notebook hard disk that it replaced. (As an electrical engineer, I have an interest in power requirements.) Yes, it is true that SSD technology is more power-friendly than hard disk technology, but that is so only at the level of the storage medium. When we are talking about the whole device INCLUDING the drive controller, that is not necessarily true. Moreover, we need to ask what kind of hard disk (desktop or notebook) we are stacking up against the SSD, because some 2.5 inch hard disks consume very little power.
Three observations indicate that the Kingston SSD may be consuming more electrical power than did the notebook hard disk it replaced:
Firstly, according to the same utility, HD Tune Pro 4.50, my SSD is running consistently at 40 to 46 degrees Celsius after starting cold from 28 degrees. On the other hand, my hard disk (the one replaced by the SSD) was previously running between 34 to 38 degrees. This is the Hitachi HTS543232L9A900, a very typical 2.5 inch 5400 rpm 320 gb SATA device.
Secondly, the Kingston SSD's power specification, as printed on the device's label, is 900 mA at 5VDC, which is actually higher than the specification printed on the label of the Hitachi hard disk (700 mA at 5VDC). It is possible that the SSD has higher peak current but lower idle current than the hard disk.
Thirdly, when I put the SSD inside an external USB mini-case, and then plug the whole unit into a USB port, sometimes the USB port cannot power the SSD device. Between my two notebook computers, I have seven USB ports, and only four of them can power the SSD externally. (You can overcome this problem by double-cabling, but this will occupy two USB ports.) By contrast, all seven USB ports can power the Hitachi hard disk.
After switching to SSD, I do notice an increase in speed:
It now takes 58 seconds to cold-boot Windows Vista SP2, compared to 80 seconds previously. It now takes 6 seconds to fire up Photoshop CS4 in a first-run cold start, compared to 13 seconds previously. It now takes 10 seconds to get the folder properties of a folder with 140,000 files and subfolders, compared to about 105 seconds previously.
HD Tune Pro 4.50 reports the following benchmarks for the SSD (with the corresponding Hitachi hard disk values shown in parentheses for comparison):
- Minimum read transfer rate = 172.9 Mbytes/sec (versus 12.8)
- Maximum read transfer rate = 182.4 Mbytes/sec (versus 65.8)
- Average read transfer rate = 178.6 Mbytes/sec (versus 49.1)
- Access time = 0.3 msec (versus 18.4)
- Burst rate = 94.2 Mbytes/sec (versus 92.1)
- CPU usage during the benchmark = 9.3% (versus 13.8)
- Temperature = 45 degrees Celsius (versus 34)
Sorry, I do not have the write benchmarks because HD Tune Pro refuses to run them unless I "remove all partitions" (whatever that means). Also, the above benchmarks may give you the false impression that the computer is now running several times faster than before. Most of the time, the computer feels only slightly faster. But there are situations in which the speed increase is very obvious, like when I fire up a program, or when Windows wakes up from sleep, or when copying files within the SSD, or when there is a lot of random disk access (e.g. when comparing two folders).
This Kingston SSD has a "primary hard disk" index of 5.9 or 6.9 in the Windows Experience Index; I actually got two different values in two different runs. Irrespective of which value is the correct one, it is still significantly lower than the 7.9 reported by several Amazon.com reviews for the Intel 80 GB X25M SSD.
In summary, here are the pros and cons of the Kingston SSD:
Pros: Smooth and reliable operation, less expensive than most other 128 GB SSDs
Cons: Possibly slower than other SSDs, possibly a few bad sectors tolerated by quality control, possibly higher power consumption than my Hitachi 2.5 inch hard disk
To me, the pros outweigh the cons.
+++I recently purchased the Kingston SSDNow 128gb solid state drive with the laptop upgrade kit and to say the least the difference in my older Sony laptop running Vista is jaw-dropping. I recently had to decide whether to upgrade my current laptop (with a 5200 rpm HDD) or spend even more money and purchase an entirely new computer - and I'm very happy that I decided to upgrade with a new SSD. Not only was it much cheaper than purchasing an entirely new computer (which would also leave me with trying to get rid of my current one), but there are several other positives as well:
- Boot up time from a cold start is now around 25 seconds to a usable desktop and 45 seconds to surfing the internet (the additional delay is waiting to connect to my home network);
- All other programs now load in seconds or faster;
- Surfing the internet seems faster, and download times are noticeably less than half;
- My laptop runs cooler (the cooling fan runs less) and is so quiet I have to double-check to see if things are still happening. This translates into less power consumption and slightly more battery life;
- Virus and Spyware scans now run in less than three minutes as compared to 30 minutes with the old drive;
- Kingston provided a case for the old HDD hard drive that I removed from the computer, which now gives me a free back-up drive;
- System stability seems just fine and with a SSD there is little or no time wasted in defragging the drive.
The Acronis disc imaging software that is included with the kit is very simple to use, although I would highly recommend printing out and reading the instructions on the disc first before doing anything. It cloned my original drive (two partitions, about 90gb total) in about 30 minutes.
The only drawback would be that the HDD enclosure that Kingston provides is inexpensive plastic - but it still works well for what it is and I'm not complaining because it would have been an unnecessary delay and expense if I had to go out and buy one myself. Other than losing just over 32gb by having to go from my original 160gb HDD to the SSD's 128gb then I would have nothing to complain about.
Overall, this is a very complete kit that doesn't require much computer savvy to achieve excellent results. This is an excellent value for your money and I can highly recommend it to others who want to breathe new life into an older laptop without breaking the bank in the process. Even though it is inevitable that the prices of SSD's will drop over time, you will be amazed by the results for the money.
ADDENDUM - It's been almost two months with my new Kingston 128gB SSD installed in my older Sony laptop running Vista and the performance has remained wonderful. There has been no degradation of boot-up speed and other improvements I originally mentioned, and this laptop has now become my preferred computer for doing almost everything that doesn't require a full-size screen and keyboard. In fact, I recently added an extended battery and I can get right at 5 hours of use from it (providing I'm not using the DVD drive or burning a disc).
I'm still convinced that this Solid State Drive was the best thing I could have done to bring my older laptop back to life. If you are using Vista, I believe that you will be totally impressed by the improvement in your system's performance. With all of the bad press Vista has gotten over the years, this SSD has shown me just how it was supposed to perform - Jon651