KingFast F3 Series 120GB KF2509MCF 2.5" SATA 3 MLC Async Solid State Drive Review @ ModSynergy.com
So the next generation of the Microsoft Windows Operating System is finally here, fittingly named Windows 8. There is a buzz surrounding the release of the new OS and it's funky tile system meant for tablets and touch screen systems. With Windows 8 and its updated graphical interface, it's now more intensive than before making use of such components as the hard drive. The hard drive is an integral part of the performance of a computer system, and if you've been keeping track of the prices of storage solutions, you might have noticed that prices have been steadily dropping at a rapid pace. Storage mediums such as the conventional spinning hard disk are finally dropping in price from the recent price hikes seen by retailers due to what they claim were the floods that affected Thailand not too long ago.
The negative that came of out of the hard drive situation made way for the solid state drive (or SSD) to increase its awareness as manufactures took this opportunity to implement deals to place their SSD's price in line with the price of normal conventional spinning hard disks. Now you can purchase an SSD for even less than before, some models more affordable than others. Sure the price per GB needs improving, but that will improve in time. With the prices of SSD's being similar to normal hard drives on the market it gives an enticing argument.
As SSDs continue to fall in price and offer incentives such as main-in-rebates to entice customers to buy their products, most customers are not sure who's product is better. Most people who know a bit about SSDs know that there are a handful of companies that offer them. The most popular brands you have out there right now are companies such as Intel, Patriot Memory, Corsair, Crucial, Kingston and maybe OCZ. But what about the companies you don't know about? Do you just turn a blind eye and not give them a chance?
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 their mSATA 3.0 based SSD in the form of the KF1310MCF and was rather intrigued how well something so small could pack that much performance! If you didn't see that review yet, I suggest you look at it here: KingFast KF1310MCF SSD Review.
Well today marks my second review of another KingFast consumer grade SATA 3 SSD. Today I get to share with you about the F3 Series KingFast KF2509MCF and see whether this 2.5" model is anything like the tiny mSATA KF1310MCF model I was pleased with not too long ago.
Sporting 120GB of Intel MLC asynchronous NAND flash memory while making use of the SandForce SF-2281 controller, 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 KF2509MCF, read on to see new results with the latest fixed TRIM firmware version 5.0.4.
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 KF2509MCF Product Overview
The KingFast F3 Series KF2509MCF is a 2.5" SSD that operates through the SATA 3 6Gbps interface. This SSD is designed for use in desktops and notebooks and measures the conventional 100x70x9mm in size.
The KingFast F3 Series KF2509MCF is a conventional SATA 3 SSD that is not meant for use in ultra-thin notebooks which require a height of 7mm, this would not be your choice if you require such an SSD for ultra-thin notebook environment.
The F3 Series KF2509MCF 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 many of our past SATA 3 SSD reviews, in fact this same controller is widely used from a variety of manufacturers SSD offerings. SandForce dominates the market with their SATA 3 controller.
KingFast F3 Series KF2509MCF Product Specifications
First off, the actual product box of our KF2509MCF SSD incorrectly states the rated sequential read and write numbers of 550/510MB/s. Found on the KingFast website and marketing material, the correct sequential read and write numbers are rated for 550MB/s read, and 530MB/s write.
I also found errors between what the KF2509MCF product page says on their website, as opposed to what the KF2509MCF marketing material sheet says. The website says the maximum random IOPS read and write numbers are 80,000 read IOPS, and 40,000 write IOPS. However, the marketing material sheet says 70,000 read IOPS, and 40,000 write IOPS. I don't know what to believe, but I do side more with what the marketing material sheet says. It seems like they copy and paste information on their website, so they could have made an error. Ultimately the results will show what is the true number.
‘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 second review of a KingFast SSD and our first introduction to one of their 2.5" models.
The design of the box for the KF2509MCF is environmentally friendly because it's very compact and easy to dispose of. It follows the same design of the mSATA KF1310MCF I reviewed previously. 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 SSD being travelled through China to Canada.
The actual design of the outer packaging is simple but looks respectable. A classic black color design with a touch of red accent on the lower half and KingFast 120GB designation. The design is simple and clean, though I feel they should have embedded an image of the SSD or something similar on the empty black area. Without an image, there is a little too much negative space and it hurts the design.
The top left contains the blue, orange, and white logo with a red accented KingFast SSD 120GB designation. The words Make your PC much faster than HDD follows. 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. They should really add more specific information, it seems they only add generic information. 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. There is actually no mention of the model number of this particular unit, which I find very interesting. Again it is KF2509MCF, but I wouldn't know just by looking at the box in the store. This is very odd.
As I mentioned earlier, the box of our KF2509MCF SSD incorrectly states the rated sequential read and write numbers of 550/510MB/s. Found on the KingFast website and marketing material, the correct sequential read and write numbers are rated for 550MB/s read, and 530MB/s write.
On the back of the box contains information stating that the KF2509MCF operates on the SATA 3 6Gbps interface, offers high performance, range from a variety of capacity, supports TRIM, supports SMART monitoring, and has a 3-years warranty. Lastly on the right hand corner are symbols of various regulatory standards the KF2509MCF meets, and that it is made in China.
Open the box and you find there is a enclosed corrugated insert which is simple but effective. It slides right out. Inside there is foam padding protection that holds all of the items. It contains the KingFast logo on the front and folds open to reveal the generous bundle.
You have to appreciate the bundle KingFast offers with their KF2509MCF because it's the most complete bundle I have seen. In the box there is the KingFast 120GB KF2509MCF, 2.5" to 3.5" SSD metal bracket, screws for mounting the SSD into the adapter, short SATA 3.0 data cable, and a KingFast warranty card for three years warranty along with generic installation instructions. Most SSD manufacturers don't offer a 2.5" to 3.5" bracket, so I have to commend KingFast for providing a complete bundle, making it more flexible for owners to use this SSD for desktop and notebook applications. These brackets alone can also be quite expensive. And this one is beefy and strong. I've seen some brackets retail for $30 which is unbelievable. Brilliant move KingFast!
The 120GB KingFast KF2509MCF SSD comes in a conventional enclosure as you see with any other SSD on the market. They chose not to really try anything different with their SSD, therefore there's really not much to say other than the fact that I feel it's bland. It's just another typical aluminum exterior that has a textured feel and look. I think it's powder coated, but it looks boring. No brushed aluminum look, no fancy paint job, just a product sticker placed on the top. The sticker gives a description of the product, model number, and capacity of the SSD. It doesn't mention performance numbers, which KingFast could have noted on the drive.
The edges are rounded out to prevent any cuts to your hands when handling the SSD. You have your standard four screw holes on the bottom and side of the SSD to mount it the way you desire, either in a notebook computer, or in a desktop machine with the included KingFast 2.5" to 3.5" bracket.
Tearing it down -- I mean opening it up :)
Please note that by opening the KingFast KF2509MCF SSD, you forfeit the 3-year warranty that comes along with the drive. Luckily I will take that burden for you by breaking the warranty seal on the side and bottom, and opening it up to see the components that make up the KF2509MCF.
Have a look at the internals of the KingFast KF2509MCF 120GB solid state drive. It's made from a predictable green color printed circuit board. You can read the words KF2509-SF2200-V1.1 that reveals the model number, SandForce controller, and revision number of version 1.1. You can tell it's finished on a SMD machine since all the solder contacts are flawlessly finished with no goops or mess. There seems to be no mistakes on this board. There are no re-works on the board, the last thing you want to see on a PCB. However, I noticed on this particular unit that the PCB had some dried residue on it and was a little dirty. It looked dull. Hopefully this is just a one off thing. You can see the dried stains in the gallery. It shouldn't affect performance though, just doesn't look as good as it could have.
The layout of the board is spacious, and well spaced apart. You can see some spots on the PCB that haven't been filled, so I'm sure on a higher end model such as in an Enterprise offering, these spots will be filled in with the correct components.
One of the first things you become aware of is the SandForce SSD controller. It's very close to the gold SATA contact pins to ensure the best latencies and operational speed. This SandForce SF-2281VB1-SDC processor 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.
On this KingFast KF2509MCF 120GB SSD there is a total of 16 individual Intel 29F64G08AAME1 chips. They are produced in 2008, making them about 4-years old. They are based on the 25nm manufacturing process, have 1 Die per chip, and from my research are MLC based a-synchronous NAND flash memory.
I bolded a-synchronous because I believe this is the first time I've come across this type of NAND flash memory on any of my previous SSD reviews. All of my previous SSD reviews have had synchronous NAND flash memory, which are costlier, and perform faster than a-synchronous memory. This is a known fact. Even the little mSATA 3.0 KingFast 1310MCF has the costlier, longer lasting 5000 program-erase cycle, and faster synchronous Intel flash memory.
The KF2509MCF should in theory be slower than any other SATA 3 SSD I've reviewed thus far. How much slower? We will find out later on and see how much of a performance difference there actually is between synchronous vs. a-synchronous memory. It seems to me that by using the cheaper a-synchronous memory, the KF2509MCF is evidently targeted and meant towards the lower-end of the SSD market. But how would people know this? The specifications on the KingFast website nothing of this, in any of their other models as well. This is why reading reviews such as this one, benefits you the consumers, so you know what you are getting and paying for
Editors Note: From the slowest to fastest NAND flash memory type are: TLC, MLC, SLC. Most consumer based SSD models on the market today are MLC based, SLC is usually regulated for Enterprise, and the new TLC types are the slowest of the bunch. TLC based SSD's are coming very soon on the market, and will bring down cost of an SSD even more, making them more affordable. Just an FYI.
16 pieces of Intel 29F64G08AAME1 NAND flash memory chips cover and occupy both top and bottom of the PCB, 8 on each side. They equal 128GB in total space, however, 8GB is reserved for SandForce firmware, provisioning, and other functions pertaining to the SandForce firmware. From my research they should be rated for a program-erase cycle of 3000 before the wear begins to deteriorate the integrity of the data, 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. The KF2509MCF has a MTBF of 2-million hours of operation.
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.
Editors Note [SandForce 5.0.4 = TRIM fixed]: This is Sandforce firmware 5.0.4 that addresses and fixes broken TRIM functionality. This affected any SandForce SSD's that had firmware 5.02 or 5.0.3. Broken TRIM on these SSD's firmware means the SSD performance would degrade over continued normal usage without the user knowing a thing, even if it was being reported as working. The performance drop would continue the more you used the SSD, TRIM wasn't able to do what it needed to keep performance at optimum levels. The guys from TweakTown were the ones that found this issue first. It's best to read their article to know more about this issue.
KingFast was contacted about this issue and responded the best they could. They initially provided the Sandforce Field Updater software and Sandforce 5.0.4 firmware for us to flash our KingFast SSD's, but it was unsuccessful after many attempts.
Apparently they had issues re-coding and creating another firmware for our specific SSD's signature and serial numbers, thus we ended up shipping the drives back to be flashed by KingFast themselves, and it was sent back to us with the new firmware. We are assured that all new batches of SSD's will have the latest firmware installed from the factory.
I calculated with a stop-watch the boot up time into a brand new Windows 7 installation takes only about 17 seconds, whereas using a 2.5" 10,000RPM hard drive took between 30 seconds.
As I mentioned before, the KingFast KF2509MCF was found with Intel 29F64G08AAME1. These are MLC based, but they are of the slower and inexpensive a-synchronous type. They will be slower, how much so, we will find out now.
I do not have any previous a-synchronous scores and benchmarks to compare with, so I will be comparing from the viewpoint of our previous synchronous SSD benchmarks.
Looking at the numbers from the benchmarks that were run on the KingFast KF2509MCF 120GB SSD, it was clearly evident that theory quickly become reality. The KingFast KF2509MCF with its slower a-synchronous memory becomes the slowest SATA 3 SSD we have reviewed so far.
This review is not all lost though, having such a review will let me share with you the performance differences between the slower a-synchronous memory vs. the faster synchronous types that we've already looked at.
This is clearly a budget model. I would envision this would be perfectly suited in slower machines (AMD Fusion APUs, Intel Core i3 and lower) such as netbooks, HTPC machines, or possibly even used as a cache drive in tandem with regular spinning hard disks.
The KingFast KF2509MCF's performance is still mostly faster than SATA 2 SSD's, but falls short of SATA 3 SSD's that use synchronous NAND flash memory. It's still quick though because of the super low access times that comes with an SSD. Perfectly fine in non-performance machines. You will still notice a difference of improved performance compared to old spinning hard disks.
The KF2509MCF did not manage to surpass the rated numbers of its Max Sequential Read/Write (Compressible) numbers of 550/530MB/s. In the ATTO Disk Benchmark it managed in our Intel Core i7-2600K/Intel DP67BG(B3) combo a maximum of 550MB/s read, and 526MB/s write, falling a little short of the rated specifications. If you compared benchmarks with that of our previous reviews such as the KingFast KF1310MCF and CoreRise Comay Venus 3S, you can see in the ATTO Benchmarks, and others, that the a-synchronous lags behind its bigger synchronous brother more in the read column, and some in the write section.
Anvil's Storage Utilities 0-Fill compressible benchmark test revealed a high of 83,008.50 write IOPS for its 4K QD16 test. This is a very good score.
We saw a high of 21,118.21 IOPS 4K QD16 read which is than the mSATA KF1310MCF. 21,118.21 is a decent score but obviously could be improved. The rated 40,000 IOPS is in line with the competition when comparing similar sized SSDs on the market.
I just find it odd that in one spectrum the drive managed a 4K QD16 score of 83,008.50 write IOPS, but in the other spectrum only managed 21,118.21 IOPS for its 4K QD16 read score. The gap between the two is too large. The SandForce controller obviously excels more with compressible data as opposed to incompressible data when looking at the results, so take that into consideration when SSD hunting.
AS SSD Benchmark is where you can see the obvious differences between a SATA 3 SSD with synchronous, and one with a-synchronous memory like on this KF2509MCF. It only managed to achieve 199.26 MB/s read, and 143.48MB/s write with a total combined score of just 430. This is significantly lower than what we're used to seeing in our previous SATA 3 SSD reviews. To be honest in this benchmark, the sequential numbers are probably even slower than high performance SATA 2 SSD's. We saw a high of 34903 write IOPS and 25657 read IOPS, again significantly lower than what other SATA 3 SSD's with synchronous memory can achieve. Usually we see over 40,000 write IOPS, and over 30,000 read IOPS.
Anvil's Storage Utilities incompressible benchmark test revealed a high of only 36,168.52 write 4K QD16 IOPS, and a paltry 14,864.97 read 4K QD16 IOPS score.
CrystalDiskMark showed that the KF2509MCF achieved just 211.7MB/s read, and 151.2MB/s write sequential speeds for its incompressible test. The sequential numbers are slower than the tested Patriot Memory Torqx 2 SATA2 SSD. Sequential speeds are not one of the KF2509's high point.
Don't forget about the 4K QD32 test in CrystalDiskMark because this one also is something that can determine real world performance, and makes use of the NCQ and AHCI support of the SSD. The KF2509MCF manages 149.5MB/s read, and 152.2MB/s write for its 4K QD32.
CrystalDiskMark showed that the KF2509MCF achieved 485.7MB/s read, and 500.6MB/s write sequential speeds for its 0-Fill compressible test.
Access time numbers were almost comparable to synchronous based SSD's we've tested, but always ended up being slower.
About the only interesting and unusual sight were the write graphs that the HD Tune benchmark demonstrated. For the write benchmark tests, those lines are not smooth and consistent as in some of my other SSD reviews, but rather squiggly and atypical. The graph for the write benchmark, those orange lines are consistently large, meaning the SSD performance isn't as consistent throughout the whole drive capacity. Sometimes the performance is fast, then drops for a bit, then picks back up, this cycle would continue throughout.
Compared to the Patriot Memory Wildfire, the squiggly lines are much closer in comparison, and shows it can sustain consistent performance for a longer period of time. The SATA2 Patriot Memory Torqx original was the closest thing you had to a straight line that I could remember. I thought this was something interesting I should bring up, but I didn't feel it was that detrimental to its performance because it still churned out comparable numbers. The average speed of 310.6MB/s puts it a slower than what we've seen in the past.
I found in real world usage there was a noticeable difference between a-synchronous and synchronous memory based SSD's. The benchmarks also back this up. It could be anywhere from 10-40% (give or take) slower. I noticed booting up to Windows 7 was slower. Usually it would take around 12 seconds, but with the KF2509MCF it took around 17 seconds. I also noticed file transfers took longer, and browsing through high resolution (large files) TIFF shots shot on the DSLR took longer to open in Photoshop. Something as simple as opening my rather large PST file for Outlook 2007 email took a couple seconds longer. This affected game loading too. If every seconds counts to you as it does to me, than you will notice the differences.
Let's point out the positives from this review of the KingFast F3 Series 120GB KF2509MCF SSD review. For starters the KingFast SSD comes with a generous bundle that is actually as complete as it gets. You have not only the SSD, but also mounting screws, a sturdy 2.5" to 3.5" mounting bracket, and SSD cable. Not many manufactures and SSD's on the market can claim they offer the consumer the full package.
While the KingFast KF2509MCF's box is definitely correct when it says that the KF2509MCF can make your PC much faster than HDD, I can't help compare it to the competition that uses synchronous NAND flash memory, and is therefore faster. The KingFast KF2509MCF with its a-synchronous memory is slower than what we have previous seen on ModSynergy.com. It unfortunately comes in as the slowest SATA 3 based SSD we've ever reviewed so far. It's clearly a low budget offering.
KingFast has aimed this as a model towards applications such as for use in notebooks, netbooks, desktops, HTPC, and I feel in the right situation and setup, that the KF2509MCF can meet those needs. Regardless of whether I feel it's slow, you're still going to benefit from its noticeable speed improvement over the regular spinning hard disk.
I would recommend this go inside netbooks, and slow desktop/notebook machines that need an upgrade. I would envision putting this in something like an AMD APU based machine, or Intel Atom based netbook or HTPC system. The other possible way I could see one using the slower a-synchronous based KF2509MCF SSD is to use it as a SSD cache drive in conjunction with a regular spinning hard disk.
Something like the Intel Smart Response Technology on their current 2nd generation Core i3/i5/i7 Z68/Z77 and later motherboards will work well with the KingFast KF2509MCF. Say you have and need a 1TB spinning hard drive, but would like to speed up your system, the KF2509MCF SSD can be used to help speed up boot times and performance, while still being able to have a 1TB drive capacity that the spinning hard disk provides.
The other negative is availability in North America. I could not find it selling even on M-Factors, which usually sells KingFast products to North American customers.
With all that said, I feel that the KingFast KF2509MCF misses the mark with our expectation.