KingSpec Challenger Series E3000s 120GB 2.5" SATA 3 MLC SSD Review @ ModSynergy.com
The Solid State Drive (SSD) has seen leaps and bounds over the years of advancement in drive controller and memory technology and it seems to have found its footing in the tech marketplace for the common consumer seeking to speed up their computer system like never before. The acceptance is shown through increasingly rising sales and the fact that main conventional spinning hard disk manufacturers are now integrating SSD technology as part of their future.
The SSD has had staying power through 2013 and is now looking forward with even more in 2014 with new SSD products, interfaces, types and variations of SSD than ever before. Their capacity keeps increasing and their performance keeps getting faster. Oh yes, their prices also continue to decrease, helping the casual customer be able to afford one. More needs to be done in order to get the word out about SSDs to the everyday Joe, as some don't know what they are, but hopefully that will continue to improve with time.
The hard drive is an integral part of the performance in a computer system. Purchasing and running one inside your system will give you an immediate boost, and breathe new life into older machines. Think of it as turbo charging your system.
This leads me into introducing the KingSpec brand. They might be unfamiliar to you, but they are no stranger to the SSD field, having been there at the very beginning of the infancy stages of the SSD.
Today will mark my first ever look into what the Shenzhen, China based company offers to consumers and businesses with an interest to owning an "Enterprise Grade" SSD. Their Challenger Series SSDs are SATA 3 based, making use of the LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller that so many other SSDs use, has Intel NAND flash memory, comes in 7mm height for usage in Ultrabooks, and come in a sleek looking enclosure. Read on to know more about the KingSpec brand, and what you can expect from their SSDs.
About Shenzhen KingSpec Electronics Technology Co. Ltd
Hisense\GreatWall\EVOC\TCL\ADLINK\EMERSON\NORCO\HEDY\ASUS\ZTE\Zhejiang University\Xiamen University\Shenzhen University\Xi'an API\SZCEC\Blue Star\ANOVO...
KingSpec has membership with SSDA and SATA-IO Administration. The factory is ISO9001: 2008 certificated. And the SSD are CE, ROHS, FCC certificated.
2005: KingSpec Electronics Technology co., ltd is founded in Shenzhen.
KingSpec Challenger Series E3000s Product Overview
The KingSpec Challenger Series E3000s SATA 3 SSD is marketed as an "enterprise grade" SSD because it uses enterprise synchronization NAND Flash according to a marketing PDF. The NAND utilized comes from top tier company Intel. The E3000s 120GB model is able to achieve sustained sequential read speeds of up to 500 MB/s and sustained sequential write speeds of up to 470 MB/s.
4KB Random Read IOPS are rated for 50,000 IOPS while 4KB Random Write IOPS are rated for only 20,000 IOPS (seems very low or incorrect).
The E3000s supports features meant for extended reliability and with regards to data integrity and protection. SMART, TRIM support, BCH Error Correction Code, static and dynamic wear-leveling algorithms to help with erase cycles, bad block management, extended write and read endurance, among other features.
KingSpec Challenger Series E3000s 120GB Product Specifications
About LSI SandForce
‘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 LSI SandForce SF-2100/2200
‘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 KingSpec Challenger Series E3000s SSD comes in a very simple packaging design. It's just a compact and environmentally friendly outer paper shell and a pull out foam padding core that is designed to protect the SSD from damage. The SSD is placed inside an electrostatic bag.
Design wise the red and white theme works because the red color pops along with the embossed silver accented SSD letters. Even the paper used is of higher quality being smooth and textured to the touch. However, the packaging as it stands is very bare and would not work in most stores as there are no relevant information such as product overview, product specifications, performance numbers, how you could have no product information on the box is quite puzzling to say the least, come on people this is 2014!
The KingSpec E3000s comes with no type of bundle, nothing to add extra value. Nothing is included except for the SSD, there's no 2.5" to 3.5" mounting bracket, no SATA cable, no quick start manual, no case sticker, no cloning software, nothing at all included.
The 120GB KingSpec Challenger Series E3000s SSD comes in a conventional 2.5" enclosure as you see with any other SSD on the market. An orange rubberized cover protects the gold plated SATA contacts, first time I've seen such a cover on an SSD before, usually manufactures just dump it into the electrostatic bag and call it a day, it's a nice little touch. Orange is my favorite color and I'm still waiting for an orange colored SSD!
I have to be honest and say it's one of the nicest looking SSD enclosures I've seen in a while. Usually sometimes all you see is brushed aluminum effect, not with this one.
The black powder coating used on this enclosure is absolutely beautiful, you can see they added metal flakes to the powder coating process, it just shimmers and sparkles in the light. Writing on the enclosure also stand out because of the gold with metal flake powder coat used. Additional flair to the enclosure is given by a silver ring around the top of the enclosure.
Turning the SSD to the back reveals a large center sticker that provides the brand logo, model number, warning description, certification symbols, and manufacturing stickers.
I wished the sticker would have provided some technical performance related information on it. A sticker that displays technical performance information such as the one that comes with CoreRise SSDs would be great to mimic.
The bottom of the E3000s maintains the four screw holes that you will use with your own 2.5" to 3.5" metal bracket, if you desire. Four additional screws are also at the sides if mounting the other way.
Tearing it down -- I mean opening it up :)
Please note that by opening the KingSpec E3000s, you forfeit the 2-year warranty that comes along with the drive, as evidenced by the seal on the package. Warranty should be longer, at least 3-years. Luckily I will take that burden for you to see the components that make up the E3000s.
Have a look at the internals of the KingSpec E3000s Solid State Drive. The first thing that jumps out is that the PCB is as the exterior, a cool shiny black color PCB that salutes you, no bland and typical green PCB...not that it makes any difference, but it just looks better!
You can read the words SF-2000-25SATA REV2.0 a little above the center of the PCB that reveals the internal reference number and LSI SandForce SSD controller that accompanies this SSD. Again we find the same exact SF-2281VB1-SDC SSD controller from LSI SandForce that usually finds its way on, "it seems", all of the SSDs on the market today, and it's been this way for a number of years already.
You can tell it's finished on a professional SMD machine since all the solder contacts are completed flawlessly 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, nicely executed.
The layout of the board is compact and evenly spaced, with the LSI SandForce controller positioned very close to the gold plated SATA contact pins to ensure the least amount of latencies and fastest operational speeds.
The SF-2281VB1-SDC SSD controller is used to support features such the 6Gbps SATA 3 interface, TRIM support, BCH ECC, wear leveling, bad block management, firmware upgradeability, dynamic power management, and so much more.
On this KingSpec E3000s there's a total of 8 individual Intel 29F16B08CCME2 flash NAND chips that are each 16GB in capacity, making a total of 128GB, but 8GB being reserved for firmware functions/operations, over-provisions, such as for wear leveling and bad block management operations. It's for this reason alone that KingSpec likes to say that the E3000s is "Enterprise grade". Companies like to throw this moniker around a little too much, it's like branding every single electronic device out there "HD". It shouldn't be this way.
These chips are made from Intel with their 25nm process and come in synchronous flavor. Intel rates these chips for a P/E cycle (Program/Erase Cycle) of 5000 P/E cycles. Intel is one of those companies known around the world, they are top-tier leading the way in many of today's technologies.
SSD's that are truly for the Enterprise come with at least 100,000 P/E cycles because they have SLC NAND flash memory. Ones that don't come with SLC should at least consider having at least 10,000 P/E cycles for the NAND they select. It should at least be better than regular consumer SSDs. I wish SSD makers were forced to reveal P/E cycles on their spec sheet.
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 KingSpec E3000s can do in our Intel based 2012-2013 PC build.
Full specifications on our test bed can be found here.Please note that our current PC in 2014 has now 16GB instead of 8GB system memory.
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 including applications, it took only about 20 seconds, whereas using a 2.5" 10,000RPM hard drive took up to 30 seconds to fully load.
The firmware on the E3000s SSD at the time of review is version 5.0.5.
The E3000s beat it's rated sequential read number of 500MB/s and also beat its rated sequential write speed of 470MB/s.
Anvil's Storage Utilities 0-Fill compressible benchmark test revealed a very very high result of 83,481.69 IOPS for its 4K QD16 write test. This is a very high performing score and not many can reach this high, though it still trails the amazing score posted by the CoreRise Comay Venus 3S which netted an incredible 91,730.44 4K QD16 write IOPS!
The problem is that aside from this excellent score, the E3000s cannot replicate the same success to the other tested categories. All the other categories tested in Anvil's Storage Utilities 0-Fill compressible benchmark, fail to impress. This clearly means that the E3000s does not have a balanced performance attack. It excels in one test and drifts off dramatically in the other remaining tests.
We saw a high of only 26,196.95 IOPS 4K QD16 read, which is approximately 35,396 points off what the MLC based KingFast KF2510MCJ09 managed to do! It's not looking very good at the moment. It's like basketball player who specializes in making 3-pointers, but can't do anything else.
Anvil's Storage Utilities 100% incompressible benchmark test was unfortunately worse than the 0-Fill compressible test, which is usually par the course for a SandForce based SSD with MLC memory. It revealed a high of 42,782.59 write 4K QD16 IOPS, and a high of only a paltry 18,904.46 read 4K QD16 IOPS score. The polar opposite performance from dealing with Compressible data vs. Incompressible data is quite clear to see.
To give you an idea of the total overall scores in the Anvil Storage Utilities benchmark here is a small breakdown below of a couple of SSD's in our previous SSD reviews.
First score is the 100% Incompressible test, second is Compressible test score. Bolded is the fastest score.
From standing afar and looking at these results of the Anvil Storage Utilities benchmark, the KingSpec E3000s holds its own with the Compressible test as its close to the top. However, the Incompressible test reveals that it's at best mid-range. Interesting to point out that all the other SSD's on this list run the same exact model LSI SandForce SSD controller (except the KingFast C-Drive KF2510MCJ09 with its JMF667H controller) and varying degrees of similar MLC memory and firmware revisions. You notice how all those struggle with 100% Incompressible data, but then excel with Compressible data.
The highest overall score (so far as of this writing) is from the KingFast (Enterprise) E-Drive KF2510SCF which sports the same exact model LSI SandForce controller as the others that struggle with, but the difference is that it sports high-end SLC memory which allows it extra performance and more longevity. This is what makes it balanced from the 100% Incompressible test and Compressible test considering everything else is almost identical about them component wise. You can make your own conclusions about this.
AS SSD Benchmark typically shows the worst possible performance scenario you can expect from an SSD because most of them typically loathe incompressible data. However, I've never seen this low of an AS SSD overall total score in a couple of years. The KingSpec Challenger E3000s 120GB SSD manages a total overall score of 518. This is including that now our test system has now 16GB instead of the 8GB, the previous SSDs were tested with.
A quick breakdown below of the overall score posted by the top 3 SSD's we've tested to date. First number is overall score total, second is read score, third is write score. Again consider that number 1 and 4 are tested with 16GB of system RAM, while the other two in the middle are tested with 8GB of RAM. Bolded is the highest score.
You would have to go back to May 2013 (Silicon Power Slim S70) and November 2012 (CoreRise Comay Venus Pro 3) to see almost the same score posted as the KingSpec E3000s in 2014. The difference with the Venus Pro 3 is that it contains a valuable Super Capacitor, something that helps in mission critical scenarios, something no other SSDs I've tested have. The fact that the KingSpec E3000s is managing performance seen back in 2012 pretty much says how I feel.
It's looking more that you'd put something like this into an HTPC machine where you're not really needing high write speeds. Or even a couple of years old computer if you're looking to inject some revival into it. And if you're writing a lot of data, such as in a video editing machine, the low write speeds will not be what you're looking for.
The Copy Benchmark test inside AS SSD posts a speed of 339.51 MB/s with a duration of only 3.16 seconds for ISO, Program test posts a speed of 306.42 MB/s with a duration of 4.59 seconds, and Game test posts a speed of 390.74 MB/s with a duration of 3.53 seconds.
In AS SSD Benchmark, the KingSpec E3000s achieves 464.92 MB/s sequential read and a lowly 168.97 MB/s sequential write, with a total combined score of 518, again the lowest score I've seen in a while, though it should be said its certainly not the worse, its midrange at best. We saw a high of 41,085 write IOPS and 30,262 read IOPS.
CrystalDiskMark showed that the E3000s achieved 506.9 MB/s sequential read and only 176.9 MB/s write for the incompressible test.
CrystalDiskMark showed that the E3000s achieved 512.5 MB/s sequential read and 501.3 MB/s write for the 0-Fill compressible test.
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 E3000s manages a scant 199.9 MB/s read and 176.4 MB/s write for the 4K QD32 test category (incompressible). Compressible test shows for 4K QD32 test category speeds of 231.9 MB/s read and 341.9 MB/s write. These scores aren't the absolute worst, but they're certainly not the best.
Usually with the SandForce based SSD controllers I've tested, I've commented about the unusual sight where the write speed graphs that the HD Tune benchmark demonstrated looks squiggly and not as a straight line. The SandForce SSDs usually have more variations with the graph meaning performance is up and down for a period of time, not as consistent. Well this KingSpec E3000s is par for the course, but also takes it even further as the squiggly lines on the HD Tune Pro benchmark graph are unusually more so. The dips and heights are greater than I've seen in a long time, not very good. This means the minimum transfer rate is quite low, maximum is high, but the average remains quite low, especially for a SATA3 SSD in 2014.
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The 120GB KingSpec Challenger E3000s leaves me with more to be desired. I loved how the packaging design and SSD enclosure looked like, but when it came down the performance, it just wasn't impressive. There was no bundle as well. The type of performance it was achieving was already seen back in 2012, it just wasn't what I was expecting in 2014, especially with KingSpec bringing up words such as Enterprise when talking about the E3000s. At best you can call the E3000s performance about lower tier mid-range, it's certainly not the worst, but not the best either. I'd put this into applications such as a couple of year old computer you want to inject some revival into, the E3000s will make a difference in such applications. Put it into a few years old computers, notebooks, HTPCs, machines that don't require a ton of data to be written/pushed. The E3000s is more about the read speeds than the write speeds.
The last negative is in terms of availability in North America, you can't really find it anywhere except through Chinese avenues such as Alibaba and the like. Amazon has some KingSpec products, but very little of their products are listed, I've not seen the E3000s or similar SSDs on Amazon.com. They need to work on this.
The good news is that there is lots of room for improvement. Heck look at where Hyundai was and is now. KingSpec already has nicely designed packaging, a beautiful exterior casing for their SSD, average performance from testing the E3000s, but I feel they have so much more to offer, the potential is there, KingSpec just needs to grab it by the horns and aggressively take advantage. Tweak everything a little here, a little there, and once you know it they will make progress.