KingFast 120GB F3 Series mSATA 3.0 KF1310MCF MLC Synchronous Solid State Drive Review @ ModSynergy.com
If you've been keeping track of prices on memory and storage solutions, you might have noticed that they have been gradually dropping. Not only are DDR3 memory prices falling, storage mediums such as the conventional spinning hard disk are finally dropping in price from the recent price hikes that have affected customers and given hard drive manufactures huge profits.
The manufacturers were claiming that the higher prices that we saw were caused by the floods that affected Thailand late last year, where a good number of these hard drives are produced, although I only believe in parts of their story. In my opinion, I believe the manufactures (and partly the media) used the floods as an excuse, exploiting the situation in order to charge extra for a longer period of time.
The negative that came of out of the hard drive situation became a positive for Solid State Drive awareness and acceptance. It made way for the SSD to increase its awareness as a viable option for hard drive replacement because SSD manufactures took this opportunity to implement deals to place their SSD's price in line with the price hikes of conventional spinning hard disks. The price hikes to hard drives were ridiculous at one point because the amount of money you spent on a one, you could have purchased an SSD instead, and the noticeable improvement you would have gained would have shocked you and made you a customer for life.
SSDs continue to fall in price and some offer incentives such as main-in-rebates to entice customers to buy their products. Some customers though are not sure what brand is best to pay for. Most people who know a bit regarding SSDs know that there are a handful of companies that offer them, but always flock to the popular big brands. But what about the companies you don't know about? Do you just turn a blind eye and not give them a chance? Aren't most of these computer products made in China in the first place? What if it was possible to obtain just as high quality of a product but not pay more based on the brand name?
This leads me into introducing the KingFast brand. New Shenzhen Kingfast Storage Technology Co., Ltd. is a Chinese company based in Shenzhen, China founded in 2008 by experts in the field of digital data storage technology. They are one of the leading professional manufacturers of the solid state drive in China today, and do everything in-house from the beginning of research and development, to full-fledge production while their products pass international certifications for as FCC, CE, ROHS to ensure product quality. It doesn't hurt that they also work with first-tier companies around the world as well.
Always looking to review the products from companies that most have never heard of and looking for the unique products that customers might want to own, I jumped at the possibility in reviewing the newest member in the KingFast family, the F3 Series mSATA 3.0 SSD.
Sporting 120GB of Intel MLC Synchronous NAND flash memory while making use of the SandForce SF-2281 SSD processor, read on to know more about the KingFast brand and what you can expect from their SSD's. With a three year warranty on the KF1310MCF, should SSD manufacturers should take notice with the KingFast movement? We'll find out.
About New Shenzhen Kingfast Storage Technology Co., Ltd.
New Shenzhen Kingfast Storage Technology Co., Ltd. is a Chinese company based in Shenzhen, China founded in 2008 by experts in the field of digital data storage technology. They are one of the leading professional manufacturers of the solid state drive in China today and do everything in-house from the beginning of research and development to full-fledge production and products pass international certification such as FCC, CE, ROHS to ensure product quality. It doesn't hurt that they also work with first-tier companies around the world.
KingFast F3 Series KF1310MCF Product Overview
The KingFast F3 Series KF1310MCF is a mSATA SSD that operates through the SATA 3 6Gbps interface. This mSATA SSD is designed for use in ultrabooks, thin notebooks, netbooks and PC motherboards that offer the mSATA connector for use as a boot/cache drive. A cache drive is when you use an SSD such as this one in conjunction with a regular spinning hard drive to improve read and write access times, increasing overall system performance. Aside from those applications, mSATA SSD's are perfectly suited for use in tablets and embedded systems based on the tiny stature.
The KingFast F3 Series KF1310MCF is an mSATA 3.0 based SSD that measures 51 x 30 x 3.5mm (L x W x T) making it the size of two Canadian quarters (25 cent coins). I reckon this is smaller than some USB key drives and also super lightweight coming in at around 7 grams.
Components play a big part in the quality of a product and KingFast knows this. The F3 Series KF1310MCF sports the reliable SSD controller from SandForce. This is not our first time across the SF-2281VB1-SDC controller because this same processor was seen in past reviews of the CoreRise Comay Venus 3S and Patriot Memory WildFire SSD.
KingFast F3 Series KF1310MCF Product Specifications
‘SandForce Flash Storage and SSD Processors are designed to provide innovative and differentiated solutions for standard NAND flash memory to reliably operate in enterprise storage environments. SandForce Flash Storage and SSD Processors with DuraClass technology provide SSDs with best-in-class reliability, performance, and power efficiency.’
‘SandForce® Flash Storage and SSD Processors use DuraClass™ technology with RAISE™ and patented and patent pending DuraWrite™ to drive ubiquitous deployment of volume flash memory into primary and I/O intensive data storage applications. SandForce Driven™ SSDs dramatically optimize mission-critical application reliability, IT infrastructure ROI, green power preservation, and everyday computing user experiences.’
About SandForce SF-2200/2100
‘Today’s award-winning SandForce Driven™ SSDs are well known for their performance and features. The SandForce® SF-2200/2100 - the second generation of SandForce SSD Processors - continue accelerating SSD deployment in enthusiast and mainstream client computing platforms. The SF-2200/2100 is an ideal solution for portable storage applications where power consumption, boot-up time, application performance, responsiveness, and small form factor are important.
The Client SSD Processors have integrated enhanced DuraClass™ Technology that is architected to leverage today’s densest SLC and MLC NAND flash memory. They deliver best-in-class performance, endurance, security, and power efficiency in a “DRAM-less”, single chip solution.’
This review will mark our first foray into the mSATA based solid state drive. Most of our SSD reviews have been of the 2.5" variety, but there has been lots of buzz about mSATA because of the size dynamic. The wave of new ultra-thin notebooks (driven by Intel), netbooks, and some PC motherboards (Intel based) support this attractive form factor that allows the user to have the mSATA SSD as a boot or caching drive. New Intel motherboards such as the 6/7 series come with Intel Smart Response Technology that allows you use an SSD in conjunction with the regular spinning hard disk.
Being the first KingFast SSD product I've ever reviewed, I was anxious and energized going into this review. Not knowing anything beforehand about the product leaves me with an open-mind and unbiased viewpoint.
The design of the box is environmentally sensible because it's compact and easy to dispose of. Comprised out of a paper outer shell, a well thought out cardboard enclosure seals the SSD out of harm's way with foam padding for security. No plastic is used within the packaging meaning it's even easier to recycle. There was not even a hint of damage to the package being travelled through China to Canada.
The actual design of the outer packaging is simple but looks respectable. A classic black color design always works and this is done right with balance and doesn't have empty spaces that throw off the design. The top left contains the blue, orange, and white logo with a leading line across to the right hand side with the word KingFast SSD. The acronym SSD is placed on corners of the box to attract attention. About the only thing missing on this box is a sticker or indication of the controller being from SandForce. The SSD controller is an important piece of information and I thought that it would have been included somewhere on the packaging, however, it was not.
The front contains the model number and size of the SSD, features and quick specifications. The KF1310MCF (m-SATA 3.0) has a max sustained read/write of 559/514MB/s, operates on the SATA III 6Gbps interface, over voltage and over current protection, and supports TRIM. On the rear of the box is the contact information of Shenzhen Kingfast Storage Technology Co., Ltd.
Inside the box there is a enclosed corrugated insert which is simple but effective. It contains the KingFast logo on the front and folds open in three parts that contains the product in foam protected inserts. In the box there is the KingFast 120GB KF1310MCF mSATA 3.0 SSD, KingFast mSATA to 2.5" SATA adapter and two screws for mounting the SSD into the adapter. The last piece is a KingFast warranty card for three years warranty.
Editors Note: The addition of the KingFast mSATA to 2.5" SATA adapter is a wonderful bonus to this package and was a pleasant surprise to say the least! I'm not aware of any other SSD manufacture who bundles such an adapter with their mSATA SSD. For KingFast to bundle their mSATA adapter with their mSATA SSD is excellent for the customer and gives them added flexibility. These adapters alone run for at least $20-25. Brilliant move KingFast!
In this case, with a mSATA drive such as the KingFast KF1310MCF, the form factor is an advantage because you don't really need any extras. All you really need is the SSD as you simply pop open your ultra-thin notebook, netbook, or PC motherboard, locate the mSATA connector (as shown in the gallery) and pop the SSD in. In our case, the included KingFast mSATA to 2.5" SATA adapter makes it easier for us to test the product on our test machine.
The 120GB KingFast KF1310MCF mSATA 3.0 SSD doesn't come in an enclosure like other 2.5" and larger units, meaning there is nothing to break open. This makes it easy to show you the internals of the SSD because it's all visible. Being smaller than two adult sized fingers, you must handle it with care and prevent it from falling. Although there is no mechanical moving parts, all the tiny and intricate solder work for the Intel MLC NAND flash chips, transistors, protection, and PCB might break if not handled with care.
In the front of the KF1310MCF there lies a KingFast sticker that gives the description of the product, model number, and size of the device. This sticker sits on top of the MLC NAND flash memory. There are two NAND flash chips on top, and two chips on the bottom in the form of Intel 29F32B08JCME2.
Since this is the 120GB version of the KF1310MCF, each of the four chips are 32GB each in size and manufactured by Intel Corporation, with only 120GB (before formatting) being used and the rest reserved for firmware and SandForce controller functions. These chips are MLC NAND flash chips and are produced under the 25nm process and are of the costlier and performance based synchronous selection. Synchronous NAND flash memory are faster than their asynchronous counterparts. These are rated for a program-erase cycle of 5000 before the wear begins to deteriorate the integrity of the storage, however, that is where the SandForce SF-2281 SSD controller comes in to extend the lifecycle of the SSD with its block management and wear leveling algorithms. Other companies may use NAND flash memory that is only rated for a program-erase cycle of 3000, so it is nice to see KingFast using longer lasting memory.
This processor is the SandForce SF-2281 and is used to support features such SATA 6GB/s with Native Command Queuing support, TRIM, automatic data encryption AES-128, 48-bit LBA, APM, and has a host of algorithms that control and extend the life of the SSD with features such as Garbage Collection, read and block management for wear leveling purposes.
Above and near the gold plated mSATA connector is the Q.C sticker which states that the product has passed all tests and was rigorously checked in the factory to ensure quality. When the gold sticker is removed it reveals the SandForce SF-2281VB1-SDC SSD controller that is the brains of the SSD.
Flipping the KF1310MCF over we see the remaining Intel 29F32B08JCME2 MLC synchronous NAND flash chips. You can tell it's machine finished since all the solder and contacts are flawlessly finished with no goops or mess. There seems to be no mistakes on this board and everything looks of high quality. There are no re-works on the board, the last thing you want to see on a PCB.
Now let's go over the included KingFast mSATA to 2.5" SATA adapter. The bare PCB allows you to operate any mSATA SSD and connect it to any machine using the standard SATA interface. What is interesting to note (when viewed in the gallery) is the words Intel and Asus printed on the board between the mSATA and SATA connector. There's not a whole lot of components on the board because there's not much converting needing to be done between the interfaces. SATA and mSATA are pin for pin the same, just on a much smaller scale. You have components which handle power such as the Richtek RT9042 positive voltage regulator and other components to regulate power. Then you can see the traces that connects the mSATA to the SATA host controller on your motherboard. About the only fault I can see with this is the mounting points were hand soldered on the back end. This is evidenced by the imperfections, and inconsistency of the solder. Fortunately this doesn't really matter since this is just a mount.
Performance Benchmarks and Real-World Tests
ATTO Disk Benchmark is a trusted and established application that tests raw data in compressible form within the drive being tested. It's demonstrated over the years to supply steady and consistent results, one of the reasons why ATTO Disk Benchmark is the preferred benchmark in order to give a baseline score of maximum throughput performance. Most SSD manufacturers' maximum sequential read/write speed claims are done with ATTO Disk Benchmark for this very reason.
The numbers you see here are the best case scenario numbers you can expect from this SSD. The default transfer size of 0.5 to 8192KB was selected to be tested along with a length of 256MB.
All remaining benchmarks used here such as AS SSD and CrystalDiskMark are testing with (for the most part) Incompressible data, which some SSD drive controllers may or may not struggle with. That is why on occasion you see the disparity between numbers that are in ATTO Disk Benchmark compared to those of other benchmarks. If the numbers are drastically different, you can draw the conclusion that the particular SSD drive controller suffers when reading/writing incompressible data.
For example, in AS SSD benchmark, the write numbers are much different than those of seen on ATTO Disk Benchmark, and the reason is because one is testing Compressible data, while the other Incompressible data. Without further ado, let's see what the KingFast KF1310MCF can do in our Intel based 2012 PC build. Full specifications on our test bed can be found here.
I also found a new and interesting SSD benchmark called Anvil's Storage Utilities that I will start to use from this point on because it tests a variety of scenarios and combines many of what the other benchmarks do separately into one full fledged benchmark with more flexibility. The SSD is tested under different queue lengths for read and write testing, it reports on access times and also IOPS performance. The version I am using is RC2. More information can be found here regarding Anvil's Storage Utilities.
I calculated with a stop-watch the boot up time into a brand new Windows 7 installation takes only about 14 seconds, whereas using a 2.5" 10,000RPM hard drive took between 30-40 seconds. An SSD like the KingFast KF1310MCF makes an amazing difference!
Looking at the numbers from the benchmarks that were run on the KingFast KF1310MCF, the solid state drive put up great numbers for the application it's positioned for and for how tiny it really is. The KF1310MCF offers amazing performance and performs without difference to those SSDs coming in larger enclosures. The only difference is the much smaller footprint. This is a little disadvantage because it operates a little warmer compared to a 2.5" unit as there's not much surface area to work with to dissipate heat. The good thing is that SSD's are capable of operating under extreme temperatures and heat is not a detriment to the drive, the reason why it has a military presence. The SSD provides resistance to vibration, shock and extreme temperatures while providing great MTBF rates (the KingFast is rated for greater than two million hours).
I was surprised that the KingFast KF1310MCF managed to do what it did without sacrificing performance or the choice of components that it's comprised of. The fact that you can have an SSD the size of two quarters, and have a specification of 559MB/s read and 514MB/s write, and manage to surpass that in real life operation is quite remarkable.
This SSD is targeted as one you can use as a caching drive in conjunction with a normal spinning hard disk, or a standalone boot drive inside an ultra-thin notebook, netbook or tablet. Without a doubt the KingFast KF1310MCF would be perfectly suitable for such applications. I would envision using an mSATA SSD would be the best way to save space in a mini PC, add performance, and promote low noise.
I would see no reason why a regular consumer would ever look to upgrade once they ran the KingFast KF1310MCF for the first time. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop open in about 4-5 seconds and Maya opens equally as brisk. Execution of commands within the Windows operating system is lighting quick.
The unexpected thing to my surprise was that the KingFast KF1310MCF actually managed to beat the rated Max Sequential Read/Write (Compressible) numbers on the box of 559/514MB/s in the ATTO Disk Benchmark. It managed in our Intel Core i7-2600K/Intel DP67BG(B3) combo an impressive 551MB/s read and 529MB/s write, more than what the specifications call for in terms of write speed.
Anvil's Storage Utilities 0-Fill compressible benchmark test revealed an incredible high of 91,178 write IOPS for its 4K QD16 test which is excellent and much greater than the rated 80,000 IOPS write maximum. There's not many SSD's that can reach this number so this is an insanely high 4K QD16 write IOPS score!!
We saw a high of 26,300 IOPS 4K QD16 read which is a little higher than the rated 25,000 IOPS read maximum. 26,300 IOPS 4K QD16 read is decent score but lacking from the competition when comparing similar 120GB SSDs on the market. I just find it odd that in one spectrum the drive managed an insane 4K QD16 score of 91,178 IOPS, but in the other spectrum only managed 26,300 IOPS for its 4K QD16 read score. The gap between the two is too large.
Regardless, in both scenarios the KingFast manages to show better real-world performance than the specification calls for, which is always welcome. The SandForce controller obviously excels more with compressible data as opposed to incompressible data so take that into consideration when SSD hunting.
As for the other benchmarks, it revealed good numbers (although could be better) for sequential read/write (Incompressible) numbers of around 276/177MB/s. We were able to achieve roughly about the same numbers in other incompressible benchmarks. AS SSD Benchmark obtained 276.02MB/s read and 173.73MB/s write with a total combined score of 461. We saw a high of 41100 write IOPS and 27566 read IOPS, which is decent but not near the rated write spec. Anvil's Storage Utilities incompressible benchmark test revealed a high of 43,589 write IOPS and a meager 20,028 read IOPS score.
CrystalDiskMark achieved 275.6MB/s read and 183.3MB/s write sequential speeds. The SandForce controller obviously excels more with compressible data as opposed to incompressible data. The incompressible area is the point that needs improvement.
Don't forget about the 4K QD32 test in CrystalDiskMark because this one is something that can also determine real world performance making use of the NCQ and AHCI support of the SSD. The KingFast KF1310MCF manages 187.7MB/s read and 183.7MB/s write for its 4K QD32 test in CrystalDiskMark. The 4K test nets 31.57MB/s read and 59.71MB/s write; both good numbers.
What's good to note is that when running benchmarks through HD Tune, the KingFast KF1310MCF provided great numbers in the averages department in the benchmarks and comes close in comparison to our highest performing SSD that has been reviewed, the Patriot Memory Wildfire. When looking at the graphs, the KingFast KF1310MCF demonstrates pretty steady lines after the slight drop in the beginning. This means the SSD performance is performing at a high rate throughout long file transfers. It is only in the beginning that the SSD experiences a drop and then picks up full speed right away.
Access time numbers were competitive with the Patriot Memory Wildfire and its Toshiba Toggle-Mode Synchronous NAND memory. However, I would say the KingFast KF1310MCF did a very good job at hanging right there with the Wildfire in that regard, so I was not disappointed.
You have to remember something though. The specifications on the SandForce SF-2281 controller states that it provides "best-in-class, consistent read and write performance (500MB/s) for client applications". Well KingFast wasn't about to play it safe and just offer performance of up to 500MB/s. Likewise with the manufactures who have experience and expertise, KingFast increased these values into 559/514MB/s and the results show that not only are the numbers attainable, they are beatable, which isn't always the case. This is to be commended and shows that KingFast isn't fooling around. They are serious in making a splash into the SSD market. They are serious about people recognizing their KingFast brand, and the 120GB KF1310MCF is only just one of those products that's going to help them achieve their goal.
Walking away from my very first examination of the 120GB mSATA 3.0 KingFast KF1310MCF SSD, I have to say that this has been a positive experience and I feel there is a lot of potential from what I see in KingFast.
Being targeted as a answer for use in ultrabooks, notebooks, netbooks , PC motherboards, tablets and embedded systems, KingFast did not skimp on their choice of components. They selected an established and not budgetary means of an SSD controller in the form of a SandForce controller, they chose to employ quality name brand NAND in the form of Intel's 25nm flash memory, and utilized the faster option in having their memory synchronous in design. They did not opt to make use of cheap and inferior asynchronous memory or an SSD controller that no one knows about. It's clear what kind of manufacture KingFast is by the level of components they use.
The additional bonus of the KingFast mSATA to 2.5" SATA adapter was a wonderful idea by KingFast to give customers the added flexibility. These adapters alone run for at least $20-25 and KingFast put it into the bundle for free, which I can appreciate. This alone is an unlikely addition because I'm not aware of any other SSD manufacture who bundles this adapter with their mSATA SSD. The only imperfection I found on this adapter was the hand soldered mounting point, though it has nothing to do with how it operates.
Performance coming from the KingFast KF1310MCF was highlighted by the excellent compressible 4K QD16 IOPS write score of 91,173, something only a select few can manage to achieve, and the KingFast managed to pull it off. This alone left a lasting impression, just to think that this was possible from something measuring 2-inches long and 1.1-inches wide is mind boggling. We are lucky to be in the era of technological innovation.
On the flipside, I felt that the gap between the 4K IOPS write score and that of the compressible and incompressible 4K IOPS read score was larger than it needed to be, even though it was decent to good. The best it could manage was a score of 26,300 IOPS for 4K QD16 compressible data.
About the only other negative is the I have regarding the KingFast KF1310MCF is based on the availability within the North American market. KingFast brand awareness isn't remotely high here in North America, almost unknown to some, but that will continue to improve as KingFast obtains distributors in North America and provided they keep churning out quality offerings such as this one.
I found that customers from the USA/Canada can purchase the KingFast KF1310MCF SSD from M-FACTORS. They are an authorized KingFast reseller located in Santa Ana, California. While they don't have the 120GB KF1310MCF available (contact them for information), they have the 60GB model selling competitively priced for $99USD making it affordable. Shipping is extra, but a flat rate of $5.95 for US shipments is cheap. Shipping to Canada starts from $9.25 which isn't bad at all.
With that said, I can without difficulty recommend the KingFast KF1310MCF mSATA 3.0 SSD to those in search of an upgrade that will provide them performance like no other when upgrading their ultrathin, notebook, netbook, or PC from their old spinning hard drive into the future that is the SSD. I've been impressed enough to award the KingFast KF1310MCF mSATA 3.0 SSD our Editor's Choice award!