Q&A: Tom's Hardware And Kingston On SSD Technology

Can You Spare Some Performance?

TH: OK, for people who might have missed it up until now, what is TRIM?

LT: OK. A characteristic specific to NAND is that you cannot write over a NAND cell that has previously stored data. For example, on your notebook hard drive, let's say you deleted your 2GB iTunes folder. All you’re doing when you delete is just deleting the pointer to that file, right? The data is still physically there on the drive, which is why you can do recovery and things like that later on. But let's say you've got a new batch of data that you're copying. The hard drive is going to look for a space, see that 2GB of free space, and  just copy right over the top of it. On an SSD, that same thing couldn't happen—not quite that way. When you delete that same 2GB iTunes folder from your SSD, you’re still deleting the pointer, but when you try to write back over that area, the SSD won't do it. The NAND cells have to be empty before it will do that. As you probably know, this process is called garbage collection. Now, with TRIM, if you were to delete that same 2GB iTunes folder, Windows 7 would basically tell the drive that there's just been a deletion, so go ahead and clean that 2GB area up. Do it ASAP. Don't wait until I need to make a write. That way, the drive will never have to stumble over invalid data. Is that about right, Tony?

TC: Yes. And actually, TRIM was an improvement even before Windows 7. When you want to write data to a single page, you need to erase the whole block and move the data in that block page to another area. That's why SSD has this built-in write latency that inhibits greater performance. Many previous generations of SSDs, when they first come out, would hang for several seconds when you’d write to them. So even before TRIM was available, a lot of SSD controllers had to implement garbage collection in the firmware. Garbage collection means that when older data is deleted, it creates an indirect table to notify the controller and say, “OK, when you have free time, you can start to move those various data out, erase the block, and make it free for the next time the system wants to write to it.” The TRIM command really just helps the SSD do better garbage collection. It essentially provides that fresh, new drive performance without any degradation.

TH: What is the role of spare drive space in all this?

LK: Pre-TRIM, spare space was something people desired. Just five or six months ago, at the Intel Developer Forum, Intel was advocating leaving 10% to 20% spare NAND when you configured the drive. So if you purchase a 64GB SSD, it formats to 59.9GB. If you were to follow the Intel advice, you’d actually partition to like 52 for all that spare NAND. Then they said, once TRIM came out and became supportable on Windows 7, it wasn’t as big of a factor.

TH: A lot of drives now in use predate TRIM, and common wisdom always said that the more spare space you can leave, the better the drive will perform. So 20% is better than 10%, etc. But if all I’m doing is small writes, that shouldn’t involve a lot of data shuffling. Why do we need so much room?

TC: When you boot up, you load applications. When you surf the Internet, you store temporary files. When you use a real burst of memory, you need page caching from the hard drive. So hard drive space is really critical to the OS. It's my understanding that with Windows 7 right now, you need a minimum of 16GB just to install the OS. When you have a 40GB drive, you can figure out how much free space you’ll need. You also know how much memory you have in your system. You take those factors, put them together, and figure out how much free space the system needs for the best performance. This is a basic formula for any OS to run smoothly. Besides that, SSD wear leveling requires a certain amount of free space for use. I like that Intel came out with the tools for this even before the TRIM command. They have an optimized program that helps the data to move in the drive, and with the TRIM command, they can help the system without using additional utilities.

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37 comments
    Your comment
  • nonxcarbonx
    Kingston's mitigation software is the best I've seen. On another note, is there a link to the destruction video?
    0
  • pink315
    "Now, with a hard drive, the arm has to move. Now, with a hard drive, the arm has to move."

    I'm not sure if you were trying to be dramatic, or if you just accidentally wrote the same thought twice. Just pointing it out.
    0
  • ta152h
    One way to preserve some of the life of any hard drive is to shut off virtual memory. Most computers don't need it, and if you do, than you're probably better off getting more memory anyway.

    The ideal thing for booting up fast would be to go back to using core memory :-P. RAM that doesn't lose power when you turn it off is pretty cool. Low power, low heat, and would impress people when you say "Oh, that? It's my core memory array.". You'd get dates for sure. Can't say what they'd look like, or if they'd be sane. Or even female :( .

    Still, I'd buy it. Cache handles most reads anyway, and I'm too old fashioned to feel something is a computer without some form of magnetic storage in it.
    4
  • outlw6669
    Fun read but nothing really new...

    I like how good they are at dodging the tough questions.
    What value is there in Kingstons Intel based SSD's vs Intel original?
    Well, they helped Kingston launch a very strong product :P
    0
  • neiroatopelcc
    Maybe it's just me, but I don't feel they properly answered the question of why there's a wear difference bewtween sequential and random ...
    7
  • mitch074
    I solved my netbook's boot times...

    It runs Linux, with a compressed kernel image.

    Looks like real mode disk access, registry hives, antivirus and such do slow Windows boot times.
    -6
  • vvhocare5
    I guess Im not a fan of these types of interviews. The interviewee is really just trying to get advertising for their product and they only say good things and gloss over the negatives. They also have some good one liners they toss out, but thats about it.

    I would prefer to see the product benchmarked and compared on price..and then let us decide how we are going to spend our money.
    2
  • JohnnyLucky
    It's interesting but what about the price? Still too high.
    -1
  • anamaniac
    Interesting interview.
    Keep them coming. =)

    Now I have the urge to go buy a 256GB SLC drive and play flaming baseball with it... I probably shouldn't...
    0
  • El_Capitan
    I like how they say, "The worst kind of writes that you can apply to an SSD are random. You will wear a drive out quicker that way". However, Kingston and Intel put all their advertising efforts into promoting the speed of their IOPS for their SSD's for server environments. That means they want you to buy their product to use it so it wears out quicker... which means you need to buy another one to replace it. Now that's a wicket smart business strategy.
    0
  • El_Capitan
    I like how they say, "The worst kind of writes that you can apply to an SSD are random. You will wear a drive out quicker that way". However, Kingston and Intel put all their advertising efforts into promoting the speed of their IOPS for their SSD's for server environments. That means they want you to buy their product to use it so it wears out quicker... which means you need to buy another one to replace it. Now that's a wicket smart business strategy.
    -5
  • GullLars
    A couple of comments on the interview:
    1. Apploading is NOT sequential, it has a high ammount of random reads. This is why SSDs are so much faster than harddrives at it. You can see this in PCmark vantage, where harddrives get 4-10MB/s in apploading, and SSDs go from 80-160MB/s.

    2. Booting from an SSD over USB 3.0 is wastefull. Most SSDs support NCQ, and get 3-8x higher random read IOPS when NCQ is active, and this is noticable in everyday use. USB 3.0 does NOT support NCQ.

    3. You say Windows 7 requires minimum 16GB to install, wich is true. The PARTITION must be minimum 16GB for the installer to allow it to be selected, however you can reduce the size needed for windows a lot. My windows folder is 13,5GB, and even with 20+ apps installed (MS and Open office suites included) i still use less than 20GB on my C: partition.
    The need for a pagefile is reverse proportional to your ammount of RAM, if you have 4GB or more RAM you can safely deactivate it for normal general computer usage and save a lot of space.
    3
  • williamvw
    nonxcarbonxKingston's mitigation software is the best I've seen. On another note, is there a link to the destruction video?

    I think you mean "migration" software. Although mitigation software could be really useful for resolving hardware errors. ;-)

    The Kingston videos are fun. Start here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udJ8TzvJne8
    0
  • ArgleBargle
    Until flash memory as a whole becomes more reliable, I refuse to use an SSD. Having had a number of USB flash drives from various companies including Kingston fail (one from Sandisk became outright unuseable) even though I am careful with them and always use the "safely remove hardware" command. Flash memory has a very long way to go before I will trust anything important to it.
    -2
  • Anonymous
    You should of asked them why the aren't supporting TRIM on last years V+ models with a firmware update. It uses a Samsung controller that was supposed to eventually support TRIM. I bought it with that in mind, and now they have said in email conversations with their support team that they will not be supporting it. Basically anyone who bought an SSD without TRIM is doomed to have worse performance a traditional platter drive eventually. I feel like I was robbed 180 bucks.
    0
  • nevertell
    mitch074I solved my netbook's boot times...It runs Linux, with a compressed kernel image.Looks like real mode disk access, registry hives, antivirus and such do slow Windows boot times.


    This dude IS wright. And that old nt filesystem isn't helping either.

    If you optimize X startup, use a different kernel start-up event manager, you can get below 10 seconds startup time with a netbook.
    -3
  • El_Capitan
    Woohoo, Kingston is awesome! I get a Thumbs up for this comment and Thumbs down for my other comments that aren't Kingston positive! Woot!
    -5
  • Anonymous
    rectum and ball juice with a baseball bat!!
    -7
  • milktea
    I like the idea that even if SSD goes bad, I can still recover my data possibly avoid paying thousands of dollars for the recovery. That is one thing that pulls me away from hard-disk into SSD.
    2
  • darkguset
    neiroatopelccMaybe it's just me, but I don't feel they properly answered the question of why there's a wear difference bewtween sequential and random ...


    True... it looks like they avoided answering the question and they just talked about the difference in speed (again!).
    -1