The Sandforce controller has been a force of nature within the SSD world with every major player jumping at this controller for use with their SATA3 SSD designs. We have already looked at two other drives using this controller, and now Kingston has sent us one. Now I have to tell you that while I love SSDs, at the end of the day I have come to realize that they are all pretty much created equal. Well at least that was what I thought.
The HyperX lineup is Kingston’s top of the line. This is their show me the money, watch me blaze line up, so you expect a bit more. For this reason Kingston was a bit later to the party. Speaking with the folks at Kingston, we discussed why the Hyper X SSD was just now being introduced. I mean let’s face it they have had two generations of SSDs already with no HyperX and time wise, they are behind other companies when it comes to releasing a Sandforce HyperX by a pretty good margin. The reasoning though is pure Kingston.
The reason for waiting for the HyperX branding was not simply a marketing decision. They wanted something that was really a mark above in performance, but they also wanted time to be a mark above in everything else, something that would stand out. As for coming late to the Sandforce party, that was a deliberate decision. Sandforce’s controller is still very new and Kingston did not want to jump in until the water had been tested and had to warm up. They wanted to be sure the technology kinks had been worked out so they could deliver what Kingston delivers best, stability. This move paid off! The early adapters to the Sandforce controller all had teething pains with lockups and blue screens being actually quite common on the early releases. By waiting for these teething pains to be worked out Kingston was able to deliver a product out of the gate that was past these issues and on the stable other side.
Beginning with the packaging Kingston makes sure that you understand that what you have is Hyper X, their high end lineup. I mean the art is great and all but let’s face it great art, while uber cool has been seen before. What I have not seen before in an SSD or a lot of other products for that matter is a box of this kind of quality. I am not kidding the BOX is quality made. No ends inserted into another section. This is a two piece, lift off the top box, the kind of design you find in a box of fine chocolate. Yeah I know it is just a box but when something stands out from a crowd you notice.
When you open the box you see the HyperX drive, now again on a purely aesthetic level the SSD is really nice. There is a nice brushed aluminum finish with the traditional HyperX Blue highlights. The Kingston logo proudly displayed at the bottom and the HyperX logo in raised metal lettering at the top. They have actually made an SSD look sexy!
As you take the drive out of the foam you see why Kingston waited to brand a drive HyperX and how seriously they take doing so. They actually took the time to have to foam protection cut with the HyperX logo. Like I said, this is not going to affect the drive’s performance, but the attention to detail and the lifting of the packaging to a new level is just something that stands out.
Now other than the fancy looks the drive itself is physically just like any other SSD. The same connections, the same dimensions and basic construction. The package we got was Kingston’s upgrade kit, the accessory pack these have typically included have been pretty well done so let’s see how Kingston HyperXed this.
Under the foam we find the adapter tray to allow the 2.5” SSD to be mounted into a 3.5” bay. Again we see the traditional HyperX blue coloring on a nicely finished adapter tray. We also find the standard SATA cable but that is where the HyperX again leaves the others behind. All SSD makers give you a tray and cable. Kingston went even further by putting in a 2’5” external enclosure with it’s USB adapter. There is also a bootable Acronis True Image CD to make it easy to move your old HD to the new SSD. We actually saw this enclosure before from Kingston on the original V series SSDs when purchasing the laptop upgrade kit. Kingston has stepped it up this time again by providing a nicer, more polished look to it. They then push the accessory package over the top by including tip changeable aluminum screw driver. It is nicely colored and branded for HyperX. In other words everything you could or would need to install your Hype X drive is included.
Okay so it is pretty and has a neat box, but how does it actually perform. Well I could give you the long list of comparison numbers with other SSD’s we have tested but there is no need, the reason why is that in every test when compared to other drives we have looked at Kingston either tied for the top or led the pack.
Now as we mentioned in a previous review, the Sandforce driver can be paired with either asynchronous or synchronous memory. In the case of the HyperX, Kingston went the full bore route and used synchronous chips. The result is the HyperX is the fastest SSD we have currently tested. Now in fairness this does not mean it beat up the competition, drives using the same Sandforce controller and synchronous memory will achieve very similar numbers, which was the case in our testing. As I said previously the HyperX tied or led every test, the lead it did achieve was there in benchmarks but in the real world the performance between similarly built designs would be unnoticeable.
This brings us to the one flaw we found in the Kingston HyperX, the price. We compared similarly designed SSDs and found that Kingston was near the top of the price mark. Now in fairness the HyperX comes in two flavors, the one we tested which is the tutti-frutti with sprinkles and glaze or the plain vanilla model. The plain model gets you the drive, tray and screws and comes in at about $245 on Newegg. The deluxe model, the kit we looked at comes in at around $265 at this time. This puts the vanilla model about $20 to $30 above it’s direct competition.
Where does this leave the HyperX SSD? Well it is hard when talking about 120 gig SSDs or larger to speak of budget pricing, especially when you realize we are looking at the big dawg performance range. While Kingston has always offered a great value lineup, the HyperX line has never been about being the best priced. It has been the top of line, super quality and top performer product line. A position it has earned and held over the years. When you buy Hype X you are not typically worried about it costing a bit more, you are instead worried about it being top quality and performing great and the HyperX SSD deserves to be in that line up.
As for the upgrade package, not tutti-frutti with Sprinkles , vs the standalone I have to say it is worth the extra $20 to buy the extra features. A decent 2.5” enclosure is going to set you back around $10 and a copy of Acronis around $30. That means you are getting those two neat features for about half the price you would normally pay. The little screw driver then becomes a neat novelty talking point for free.
The HyperX SSD delivered to us the fasted SSD we have seen to date and did it with a style that no other SSD maker has tried to achieve. Sure it costs a little more but then again style always does. If you are taking the plunge for a 120 Gig SATA3 SSD then the HyperX should be your first stop on the shopping list. It’s not only fast, it looks good doing it!
HyperX SSD review segment, aired September 11, 2011