The SSD is a new "it" trend in the computing market; you have heard us talk about them from a few different angles including giving you information about how key players plan to standardize the SSD products.
While all that is great it does not really let you know what you should do if and when you make the move to an SSD and stuff it in your desktop or laptop. Kingston, a company with a history of making great memory products, has a nice solution for you. Recently, the company joined forces with Intel and began selling rebranded X-25M drives under the brand of SSDNow. The idea was to put a handy little SSD upgrade kit to make the move to SSD easier for you. We here at BSN* have the good fortune to try one of these kits out. So let’s dive in and see just how simple the Kingston SSDNow upgrade kits makes the move from HDD to SSD in an ASUS G2S-X1 notebook running the Windows 7 Release Candidate, and also see if it is worth it.
The test sample that we received is not what the retail packaging would look like so we are not able to comment accurately on how well this will attract your attention or protect the product. We can talk about what Kingston has included for you in this kit.
I was rather impressed with the contents; while many manufacturers will include basic cloning software with retail drives I have yet to see one include an external USB enclosure to allow for easier duplication.
Kingston has done this and more, they also threw in a set of 2.5-Inch to 3.5-Inch adapter rails, SATA cable and a Molex to SATA power converter. For software they include a bootable version of Arconis True Image HD.
The SSD thrown in is the 80GB flavor of the SSDNow M [Intel X25-M 80G] it has a great speed advantage in many applications over a traditional HDD but is on the small side for many applications.
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Features and Software:
As we mentioned before the Kingston SSDNow M is really not much more than an Intel X-25M SSD with the Kingston brand on it. This means it is one of the faster SSDs you can get right now. But it also means that you will want to make sure your drive has the latest firmware to prevent the performance degradation that can be seen in many SSDs due to fragmentation. You can grab a bootable ISO from Intel’s web site that addresses this issue and also improves performance on the drive.
Although there is really not much to talk about in terms of features from the SSD [it is fast and light] there are a few benefits from the kit itself. For one the enclosure is useful even after the upgrade, We found it came in handy to throw in a second drive and use it as an add on drive to make up for the 80GB size of the included SSD.
The software included by Kingston, Arconis True Image HD is a snap to use and has an easy to follow GUI that will get you set on cloning all of your existing data to your new drive in no time. To get started all you have to do is insert the CD-ROM [make sure your system is set to boot from DVD-ROM first] this will launch the Acronis Software and bring you to the start screen.
From there you can chose automatic or manual mode [if you are just cloning your drive Automatic works best].
Next chose your source drive and destination
After that you are off and running.
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Now that we have moved all of our data over it is time to see if the new SSD is worth the price in terms of performance.
To test this we took our trusty Asus G2S-X1 laptop and ran the Kingston SSDNow M head to head with a Seagate Momentus 7200.2 7200RPM 160G HDD.
The Specs on the G2S-X1 are as follows:
Intel T7500 2.2GHz CPU
4GB Kingston DDR2-800 RAM
Intel 965M Chipset
Discrete nVidia GeForce 8600M GPU (256MB memory)
Seagate Momentus 7200.2 7200RPM 160G HDD
Windows 7 RC1 Ultimate x64
testing broke down into a couple of categories
Synthetic and Real-World - Our synthetic testing includes FutureMark’s PCMark Vantage, Everest Ultimate Engineer Edition, and Hyper Pi 0.99.
Real world testing consisted of Lightwave 3D (version 9.0 x64) and two games - Crysis Warhead and FarCry 2.
The Synthetics -
First up at bat is FurtureMark’s PCMark Vantage.
PCMark Vantage - Seagate Momentus 7200.2 HDD
PCMark Vantage - Kingston SSDNow M SSD
As you can see the overall PCMark suite score jumps by a little over 1700 points just with the addition of the SSDs.
PCMark Vantage Disk Test - Seagate Momentus 7200.2 HDD
PCMark Vantage Disk Test - Kingston SSDNow M SSD
The Disk Drive test is even more impressive with a score difference of over 20,500. The SSD simply smashes the HDD in these tests.
Next up on the list is the Everest Disk Bench.
Everest Disk Benchmark - Seagate Momentus 7200.2 HDD
Here again we see the SSD simply trounce the HDD with a random read of 270.6MB/s
Our final synthetic is HyperPi; this test runs an instance of SuperPi on each detected CPU core. HyperPi is a good test of moving large calculations from the hard drive, to memory, to the CPU and back again. If one of these legs is slow your times will suffer accordingly.
HyperPi 0.99 - Seagate Momentus 7200.2 HDD
HyperPi 0.99 - Kingston SSDNow M SSD
Here is our first indication that dropping an SSD into your system will not improve everything. The HyperPi scores were almost identical in fact the SSD is a tad slower.
Our first real-world test is Lightwave 3D Version 9.3.0 x64, for this I ran the Moon Base Scene [available on the Lightwave 8 content CD 1] and rendered frame 32 with using a 7-pass PLD AA filter and Gaussian Sharp for the reconstruction filter. Segment memory was set to 512MB and Render resolution was 1920x1080 [1080i HD]. Classic Cameras were also used.
Lightwave 3D Rendering - Seagate Momentus 7200.2 HDD
Lightwave 3D Rendering - Kingston SSDNow M SSD
Lightwave 3D shows no improvement with the SSD over the HDD. This is another test where the Drive speed does not seem to make a difference.
Although I know that the actual frame rates should not change between the two drives. However, where I do hope to see a great improvement is in the load times of the two games. In Warhead there are times when you can get up walk away while you wait for a level to load. The same can be said for FarCry 2 when you begin the game and when you rest up for your next errand.
The Settings for the two games used are shown below:
As you can see the average FPS were within 1 FPS of each other for both games but the level load times were dramatically different. I was shocked to see the Crysis Warhead level load in less than 30 seconds. It was simply amazing.
An Added bonus to using an SSD in your system is lower power consumption. With the SSD in the Asus G2S-X1 I saw a 22% reduction in power draw from the wall at idle and a 24% reduction under load. now these numbers are really in the single digits in terms of actual watts saved but do illustrate the fact that an SSD can help to conserve power over time. Battery life on the Asus G2S-X1 was increased by roughly 12 minutes with the SSD over the HDD
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The price of the 80GB kit is $427.50. At first this sounds pretty high but in the end the performance you see in drive intensive applications, load times for games and other applications is downright amazing. But the icing on the cake is the fact that this is not a bare SSD - the extra software, enclosure and the mounting kit offer extra value even at the over $150 themselves.
Kingston offers an impressive year warranty with 24/7 technical support. Kingston’s support is impressive from entry to RMA. I have called their support line many times during reviews, and have always found them to be knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. RMA process can be conducted easily over the phone or on Kingston’s website at [https://shop.kingston.com/web_rma/default.asp].
Kingston is a great company and has added another great product to their stable. The SSDNow M has more than most would offer in a similar kit. If you are looking for the easiest way to get up and running with an SSD in your system with this is the kit for you. From the inclusion of the external enclosure to the use of the Arconis software a good deal of thought was put into this so that the upgrade path would not be too complicated for the average user. Although the price is a little high the performance and functionality you get from the kit [not to mention a new external drive] you really do get a lot for your money.