Kingston HyperX Predator 480GB m.2 PCIe SSD Review

Introduction

It shouldn't come as a surprise to see Samsung and Intel leading the charge in PCIe SSDs, with innovative products that set the standard for performance and reliability. There is still a lot of room for other companies to introduce new and exciting products, though. Last year, Plextor introduced the M6e and M6e Black Edition native PCIe SSDs, the first retail products in this category. Several other vendors looked at the two-lane PCIe 2.0 controller from Marvell and found that its performance increase wasn't enough to justify the high cost over existing 2.5" SATA products. Marvell's new 88SS9293 is another story. Code-named Altaplus, it doubles the theoretical bandwidth with a four-lane interface and a real world performance ceiling that's twice as fast as SATA.

Marvell first displayed its four-lane PCIe 2.0 Altaplus controller at CES 2014 in a room reserved for customers and media. The first demonstration displayed some basic four-corner performance data, but by Computex in June, Marvell was ready to give us control of the keyboard and mouse to run additional tests. Fast forward another six months to CES 2015, and it looked like Altaplus was ready for prime time. We never did find out why it took a another quarter for this controller to surface. But it's here now.

Kingston is the only company (at the time of writing) with a retail 88SS9293-based product for sale. The HyperX Predator PCIe SSD ships in two capacity sizes and in two trims. The first set of SKUs includes the PCIe adapter card (shown above). For slightly less money, you can choose the Predator without an adapter.

Several motherboard manufacturers dedicated PCIe lanes to on-board M.2 slots. Some took a direct path to the CPU, others put the M.2 slot behind Avago (PLX) PCIe switches and we've seen implementations using the PCH's PCIe 2.0 connectivity. Of course, the fastest route is directly to the CPU, but it is also the least-utilized given an emphasis on reserving 16 lanes for graphics. The Kingston HyperX Predator uses PCIe 2.0, so it can sit comfortably attached to the PCH without the significant performance drop you'd see on a PCIe 3.0-based SSD.

Many enthusiasts are eager to adopt this high-speed storage interconnect. But M.2 SSDs are also gaining acceptance in the notebook space as well. Several new models released this year are compatible with both SATA and PCIe M.2, many shipping without 2.5" drive bays. Sadly, the OEM market has taken PCIe-based M.2 prices to 2010 SSD levels. One company offers a 512GB drive for $700. So, the doors are open for aftermarket upgrades that drastically reduce cost.

Technical Specifications

Is it bootable? Kingston's HyperX Predator M.2 SSD has an on-board OROM, so yes, it is bootable and on more than just a handful of motherboards. The biggest complaint about Samsung's OEM M.2-based SSDs is that they're a hassle to boot from. With its OROM, the Kingston HyperX Predator is flexible enough to use in a wide range of platforms for Intel and AMD processors.

Accessory Package

Our 480GB sample arrived with the HHHL desktop adapter bracket, including both full-height and half-height backplates. We also received a key for Acronis True Image HD, a HyperX sticker and a warranty statement. For roughly $10 less, you can purchase the Predator SSD without its desktop adapter bracket. Personally, I'd suggest securing the adapter, even if your motherboard has an on-board M.2 slot. It may come in handy later, should you upgrade to a new platform.

Endurance And Warranty

Kingston rates the HyperX Predator 240GB models at 1.6 drive writes per day. Although other products on the market are rated higher, this is a reasonable endurance rating in the client space. The 480GB model increases drive writes per day to 1.7 over a three-year period.

I can't say the same for the warranty period. Kingston covers its HyperX Predator with a lackluster three-year guarantee. We will hold our criticism till the last page of this review. 

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A Closer Look At The Kingston HyperX Predator

It's been a few years since Kingston released a premium SSD with this much attention to detail in the presentation. The back of the package gives us quite a bit of information about the product, which will hopefully carry over to a more informed shopping experience.

The Predator sits under layers of paper and foam with the documentation in between. Inside, we find a sticker, code for Acronis True Image and a warranty statement.

Here are the package contents laid out. We're testing the 480GB model that ships with a desktop PCIe to M.2 adapter. The HyperX-branded card includes two backplates, one for half-height and one for full-height installations. Most 2U servers require the smaller bracket.

Kingston manages to cram eight Toshiba A19 NAND flash packages on the M.2 2280 double-sided form factor. Most early adopters will use the HyperX Predator in a desktop, but over time more mobile users will choose M.2-based SSDs to replace the drives that ship in notebooks. Lenovo charges $700 for a 512GB PCIe-based M.2 SSD in the X1 Carbon Gen 3. It would be cheaper to purchase the Ultrabook with a SATA-based drive and upgrade it with a faster PCIe-based SSD like the HyperX Predator. 

The HyperX Predator uses a second-generation PCIe-to-flash controller, which is newer than the Marvell processor used by Plextor in its M6e-series products.

Kingston has a lot of experience packaging DRAM, and it uses the company's own branded product to buffer page table data.

The flash comes from Toshiba and is second-generation 19nm NAND. We were surprised to see so many packages on the 2280 form factor. It's a tight fit, but Kingston squeezes everything in.

Sequential Read

To read about our storage tests in-depth, please check out How We Test HDDs And SSDs. Four-corner testing is covered on page six.

Kingston's HyperX Predator 480GB more than doubles the sequential read performance of Plextor's M6e Black Edition based on Marvell's previous-generation PCIe-to-flash controller. The Predator is nearly as fast as Samsung's SM951 in this test. 

Sequential Write

Sequential write performance matches the year-old XP941, but doesn't quite hit the same performance level offered by the SM951. Granted, the SM951 still ships in limited numbers since it is not an official retail product sold through Samsung's regular retail network.

Random Read

Sadly, 4KB random performance is only marginally better than the previous-generation controller. The Predator does surpass 10,000 random read IOPS at a queue depth of one, which is a number we often use to separate excellent client performance from good performance. Kingston also manages to extract good numbers from the 88SS9293 processor as queue depth grows.

Random Write

At high queue depths, the HyperX Predator delivers the best random write performance of any M.2-based SSD we've tested. But at a queue depth of one, the Predator merely falls in line after most of Samsung's older M.2 products. At QD2, the Predator gains momentum and falls just behind the SM951. Everything higher than QD4 favors the HyperX Predator.

80% Sequential Read Mixed Workload

Our mixed workload testing is described in detail here, and our steady state tests are described here.

At low queue depths, the HyperX Predator 480GB delivers some of the highest sequential mixed workload performance of any client SSD we've tested, outside of Intel's SSD 750 1.2TB. The section of the graph most applicable to our readers is the first half, between a queue depth of one and eight. The rest of the chart is for very heavy use that's outside the scope of normal use.

80% Random Read Mixed Workload

The HyperX Predator 480GB delivers exceptional 4KB random write performance, though random read performance turns out to be lower than some of our comparison products. Moving that over to random mixed workloads, the Predator is faster than some SSDs that came before. But the high random write performance isn't enough to challenge Samsung's SM951.

Sequential Steady State

128KB Sequential Mixed-Workload Steady State Performance

In this section, we look at steady state performance - where the drive has been worked into a worst-case scenario. Under normal workloads, this is a difficult state to achieve. But taxing video manipulation with heavy sequential writes can cause this type of performance.

Random Write Steady State

The HyperX Predator's high 4KB random results carry over into steady state. Even hammered by a demanding workload, the Predator shines with the highest performance. It isn't the most consistent in its delivery, though.

PCMark 8 Real-World Software Performance

For details on our real-world software performance testing, please click here.

Scrolling through the various real-world workload results reveals a lot of variability. In truth, all of the PCIe-based M.2 products perform about the same until the workload becomes most taxing. The most strenuous test in this suite is Heavy Photoshop, and the difference between the best- and worst-performing products is 7.8 seconds.

The Predator 480GB performs well in Heavy Photoshop; it's second-best, in fact. The drive also fares well in the other tests, though at times it does surface at or near the lower end of the chart.

Total Storage Bandwidth

Looking at the throughput performance of all tests combined, we see the Predator in the middle of the pack. Clearly, a second here and a second there add up to more notable performance differences over time.

For most users, simply moving from a mechanical hard drive to a SSD on the low end of the scale is significant enough to feel from day to day. More demanding enthusiasts want the best performance available and are willing to pay for it. All of the products in the PCIe-based M.2 category are premium models at this time. 

PCMark 8 Advanced Workload Performance

To learn how we test advanced workload performance, please click here.

In the next two sections, we'll observe that high throughput doesn't translate to low latency, which is used to measure the user experience.

Our throughput tests convey combined performance after a heavy workload. Your own SSD's performance will also change over time depending on what it was subjected to previously. If you give an SSD time to recover, its performance will improve. Different flash and controller architectures determine how long this takes, though. Even different products with the same fundamental components can vary. 

A look at throughput throughout the test shows the HyperX Predator in a cluster around the middle of the chart. Let's continue with a look at the latency measurements.

Latency Tests

The service times reflect combined latency in these tests. While our throughput charts show the Predator in the middle of the pack, when it comes to user experience, the Predator is one of the best consumer SSDs ever released. What really stands out is just how consistent its latency is. There is little variability between heavy and light workloads. Regardless of how long a task takes to complete, this drive remains responsive, so it always feels fast.

To keep its latency this low, the drive has to aggressively maintain clean areas to write to. Data is then spread to other areas of the flash through wear-leveling. Our excellent latency results are particularly welcome on desktops, though shuffling data takes a toll on notebooks.

Notebook Battery Life

For more information on how we test notebook battery life, click here.

We expected Marvell's controller (built on a 28nm process) to fare better in our notebook battery life power test. Not only do Samsung's models deliver better battery life, but even the M6e Black Edition outperforms the Predator here.

We believe the HyperX Predator is working harder in the background than its competition to maintain high performance. This can be seen with the drive connected to power-monitoring hardware. Let's say you transfer a 500MB file to the Predator. It uses a lot of power once the transfer is finished, illustrating the additional background activity. Some products shuffle data at a slower rate to save power, while others are aggressive.

Background activity is also why we don't measure SSD power in four-corner tasks. A drive may sip power in these specific benchmarks, but then use more while it moves information around. This can materialize as a spike while shuffling data quickly or increased consumption over time as data is moved around. Both scenarios are represented incorrectly when looking at power use for short periods of time. The notebook battery life tests allow us to measure power over a much longer duration and in a meaningful way.

The PCIe-based M.2 SSDs all deliver nearly identical performance in a power-restricted state. SATA products often demonstrate wider variation between models.

Conclusion

I have mixed feelings when it comes to Kingston's HyperX Predator, though most of the conflict has little to do with the product. On its own, the Predator 480GB is amazing, delivering ample performance. There's really not much to complain about. The three-year warranty is an obvious weak point, and poor notebook battery life is concerning as well. With that said, the on-board OROM makes the drive flexible enough to use with just about every motherboard. It's a real plug-and-play solution. We dig Kingston's accessory package, too. Truly, this is the best all-around M.2-based SSD for desktop use.

The conflict comes when you factor in Samsung's SM951. Kingston's HyperX Predator 240GB and 480GB sell for roughly the same price as Samsung's models on Amazon. The Predator includes a full accessory package. And there's the option to add a desktop PCIe adapter for a few dollars extra. We shouldn't overlook Acronis True Image, a disk cloning utility that transfers the data from your existing hard drive to the Kingston drive. After using the software, you simply tell the BIOS to boot from the Kingston SSD and everything works as it should. Installing Windows and then your software takes time, especially if you need to download a handful of games from Steam or Origin. There is value in simplicity, and Kingston made that a priority.

Technically the SM951 is a little faster if you look for corner cases. The Predator's low latency means you won't notice the slight throughput disadvantage in everyday use. The largest difference between these two products under real-world conditions only affects notebook users. Samsung's SM951 is simply better-geared to extending battery life. Every other M.2-based SSD, PCIe- and SATA-based, bests the Predator in this discipline. If you're looking for a mobile SSD update and you prioritize run time, then Kingston's HyperX Predator is not the way to go. Hopefully this is an area that Kingston can address through a future firmware update without affecting latency.

We've seen warranty coverage improve on premium SSDs (Samsung and SanDisk are up to 10 years). It's a bit surprising that Kingston is sticking with a three-year guarantee. Mainstream SSDs are still protected by two- or three-year warranties, but this product is far from mainstream. Kingston put a lot of thought into its accessory package, but drops the ball here, we think. For some enthusiasts, this matters. Others upgrade more often than every three years anyway.

MORE: Best SSDs For The Money
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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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31 comments
    Your comment
  • blackmagnum
    A fast and furious SSD most suited for desktops, but doesn't work well with mobile notebooks? I don't know how Kingston will be able to compete with this product!
    1
  • mapesdhs
    "After using the software, you simply tell the BIOS to boot from the Kingston SSD and everything works as it should."

    After first disconnecting the old device though, because otherwise Windows won't boot - it assumes the presence of another Win inst with the same ID is suspicious. I'm surprised this isn't mentioned more often when free cloning sw is highlighted in an SSD's accessory package.

    Re pricing, the tiny difference between the M.2 and PCIe versions shows just how much one gets ripped off when buying other types of HBA, given Kingston is happy for the gap to be just $12, though I don't get why the gap is larger for the 480GB when it's the same item that's excluded for the M.2 version.

    Personally, depsite the performance of this device, the small warranty would put me off.

    Ian.
    1
  • MxMatrix
    How about adding nvme based Intel 750 400gb SSD to the equation?
    2
  • mapesdhs
    Anonymous said:
    How about adding nvme based Intel 750 400gb SSD to the equation?


    Yes, that and one good standard SATA3 for comparison, preferably the 850 Pro 512GB.

    Btw, is it just me for whom all the thumbnail images in the results galleries are blank?

    Ian.
    2
  • milkod2001
    it might be easier for readers to understand if you stick with just numbers instead of millions of colorful lines all over the place.

    it would be nice to have comparison with regular SSD. Is it better than that. I can't tell from this review :(
    0
  • CRamseyer
    Quote:
    How about adding nvme based Intel 750 400gb SSD to the equation?


    At the time I didn't have the Intel SSD 750 400GB. I do now and the review should come out very soon.
    1
  • CRamseyer
    Quote:
    it might be easier for readers to understand if you stick with just numbers instead of millions of colorful lines all over the place.

    it would be nice to have comparison with regular SSD. Is it better than that. I can't tell from this review :(


    I'm just about finished with an article that puts the SM951-NVMe and SM951 AHCI against an 850 Pro.

    Even without the data to compare in this review we know that the 850 Pro (512GB and 1TB) does roughly 550 MB/s sequential read, a bit over 500 MB/s sequential write, 98K random read IOPS and roughly 90K write IOPS in my testing.

    If you compare equal capacity sizes, nearly every product in this review performs better than 850 Pro.

    I'm up against a hard limit of the number of products I can put in the charts without needing a magnifying glass to look at the data. I'll see about coming up with something a little better for the Best of SSD Monthly column.
    2
  • milkod2001
    Quote:
    Quote:
    it might be easier for readers to understand if you stick with just numbers instead of millions of colorful lines all over the place.

    it would be nice to have comparison with regular SSD. Is it better than that. I can't tell from this review :(


    I'm just about finished with an article that puts the SM951-NVMe and SM951 AHCI against an 850 Pro.

    Even without the data to compare in this review we know that the 850 Pro (512GB and 1TB) does roughly 550 MB/s sequential read, a bit over 500 MB/s sequential write, 98K random read IOPS and roughly 90K write IOPS in my testing.

    If you compare equal capacity sizes, nearly every product in this review performs better than 850 Pro.

    I'm up against a hard limit of the number of products I can put in the charts without needing a magnifying glass to look at the data. I'll see about coming up with something a little better for the Best of SSD Monthly column.

    Quote:
    Quote:
    it might be easier for readers to understand if you stick with just numbers instead of millions of colorful lines all over the place.

    it would be nice to have comparison with regular SSD. Is it better than that. I can't tell from this review :(


    I'm just about finished with an article that puts the SM951-NVMe and SM951 AHCI against an 850 Pro.

    Even without the data to compare in this review we know that the 850 Pro (512GB and 1TB) does roughly 550 MB/s sequential read, a bit over 500 MB/s sequential write, 98K random read IOPS and roughly 90K write IOPS in my testing.

    If you compare equal capacity sizes, nearly every product in this review performs better than 850 Pro.

    I'm up against a hard limit of the number of products I can put in the charts without needing a magnifying glass to look at the data. I'll see about coming up with something a little better for the Best of SSD Monthly column.

    Quote:
    Quote:
    it might be easier for readers to understand if you stick with just numbers instead of millions of colorful lines all over the place.

    it would be nice to have comparison with regular SSD. Is it better than that. I can't tell from this review :(


    I'm just about finished with an article that puts the SM951-NVMe and SM951 AHCI against an 850 Pro.

    Even without the data to compare in this review we know that the 850 Pro (512GB and 1TB) does roughly 550 MB/s sequential read, a bit over 500 MB/s sequential write, 98K random read IOPS and roughly 90K write IOPS in my testing.

    If you compare equal capacity sizes, nearly every product in this review performs better than 850 Pro.

    I'm up against a hard limit of the number of products I can put in the charts without needing a magnifying glass to look at the data. I'll see about coming up with something a little better for the Best of SSD Monthly column.


    great thanks, im looking forward to that

    im currently on Sammy 830 and just wanted to know if this product would give me more performance. I wanted to know what difference i will see in boot times, loading applications/games times and basically if it's worth to get PCI SSD over regular SSD in real world applications.

    There's something which is not directly an issue of the review, something what you might want to forward to this site development team though. It's the slider arrows. Probably the biggest ever :) It's OK in this review but in many cases in overlaps important content. There might be an option to pick different styles with smaller arrows,make them visible only when hover over etc. I bit of CSS could easily do miracles :)
    0
  • dark_wizzie
    I would LOVE another article with trace-based analysis of game loads to figure out what type of load a game puts on a drive. I can't find a good tool to do it myself.
    0
  • TechyInAZ
    Great drive! I'm planning on saving up for the 240GB version (unless better nvme drives come out soon).

    While the power usage is a little high compared to other m.2 drives, this drive is designed specifically for desktops (you can tell from PCIE adapters, to the looks of the drive, and the power consumption) not notebooks.
    1
  • ralanahm
    I like where storage is going now it has been the bottle neck for a while to development for a new take on software. Advance seem to happen in stages after a bottle neck has been opened for a while.
    I personally own a Muskin Scorpion Deluxe 1920GB that is rated close to 2GB per second.
    http://poweredbymushkin.com/catalog/item/36-scorpion-deluxe/840-scorpion-deluxe-1920gb

    Is is i possible for me to borrow to Tom's or Chris in this case for a month for testing so it can be added to these charts too? I got it about six months ago and love it. Well except the boot adds about 30 seconds for the raid to start, but once you hit windows everything is instant.

    Also if you want a great clone program use can use Macrium Reflect http://www.macrium.com/ there is a free version or business version. It has good updates, just run on current drive or a second drive make an image, then restore image to new drive. Everything will be perfect just like you rebooted. I use it to make a copy of a perfect working copy of my PC to trouble shoot software problems later because it doesn't copy pagefile or hibernate-file a fresh install pc is just a few gigs for back-up WAY better then windows restore.
    1
  • josejones
    I feel like I'm in crazy town, why waste any time on PCIe 2.0 at all when PCIe 3.0 has been out for some time now?
    1
  • CRamseyer
    I'm right there with you but some users will want to look at PCIe 2.0 products without adapters for use in motherboard m.2 slots. Not every board shipped with 3.0 x4.
    0
  • MarkW
    PCIe 2.0 versions are just way too expensive. No reason they need to be double the cost of M.2. When pricing gets down to where it should be, I do expect to buy a PCIe 3.0 based SSD that is bootable.
    0
  • Brian_R170
    Quote:
    I feel like I'm in crazy town, why waste any time on PCIe 2.0 at all when PCIe 3.0 has been out for some time now?


    I was thinking that maybe it's PCIe 2.0 because most of the mobile platforms still have only 2.0 slots, but then I saw the 35% drop in notebook battery life. I guess that's not it because it sure doesn't look like mobile platforms were a priority.
    0
  • Gurg
    I bought the 240 Gb for $249 from Newegg as a boot drive over the Samsung 951 because of reviews I saw that indicated that the Samsung could get very hot and throttle. Not sure I could ever put enough activity through it to cause that but didn't want to run the chance with a super hot card mounted right under my GPU card in the M.2 slot, just as I wasn't concerned about losing a little top end speed vs the 951.

    $249 for the 240Gb M,2 HyperX Predator vs $193 for a far slower 256 Gb top of the line new SATA Samsung Pro. The pricing in the article links is a little nuts as the 480 in m.2 is selling for $489 on Newegg.
    1
  • MarkW
    An SSD that gets hot? Seriously? They have no moving parts. And they spend like 99.99% of their time in our computers doing absolutely nothing. Except waiting on us.

    Maybe in a server that is constantly working the SSD I could see one getting warm, maybe even hot, but not in a persons personal computer.
    0
  • Gurg
    Quote:
    An SSD that gets hot? Seriously? They have no moving parts. And they spend like 99.99% of their time in our computers doing absolutely nothing. Except waiting on us.

    Maybe in a server that is constantly working the SSD I could see one getting warm, maybe even hot, but not in a persons personal computer.


    http://www.legitreviews.com/samsung-sm951-512gb-m-2-pcie-ssd-review_161689/3
    0
  • Gurg
    Quote:
    An SSD that gets hot? Seriously? They have no moving parts. And they spend like 99.99% of their time in our computers doing absolutely nothing. Except waiting on us.

    Maybe in a server that is constantly working the SSD I could see one getting warm, maybe even hot, but not in a persons personal computer.


    http://www.legitreviews.com/samsung-sm951-512gb-m-2-pcie-ssd-review_161689/3

    http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Storage/PCIe-SSD-Roundup-Samsung-SM951-NVMe-vs-AHCI-XP941-SSD-750-and-More/Power-Consumption

    http://www.thessdreview.com/our-reviews/samsung-sm951-m-2-pcie-ssd-review-512gb/5/
    1
  • MarkW
    I read the ssd review... They clearly stated that while IN THEIR TESTING it got nice and warm, that we, consumers, would never see those temps. We simply never push 256GB into a 256GB SSD in 20 minutes.

    Even when we think we are pushing our SSD's hard, they are idle 99% of the time. Only if you are running benchmarks, or crunching massive databases constantly for hours might you ever even have a chance to generate the heat these benchmark people do in 20 mins.

    Think of it this way. If you go buy a Lamborghini, do you ever drive it with the pedal smashed up against the floorboard non-stop for 20 minutes? Of course not. Just like you won't push 256 GB into a 256GB SSD in 20 minutes either. The vast majority of us do not even own a second SSD to be able to do that with. And that is what it would take to even attempt that.
    1