Page 2:Technical Specifications
Page 3:Accessory Package
Page 4:Endurance And Warranty
Page 5:A Closer Look At The Kingston HyperX Predator
Page 6:Sequential Read
Page 7:Sequential Write
Page 8:Random Read
Page 9:Random Write
Page 10:80% Sequential Read Mixed Workload
Page 11:80% Random Read Mixed Workload
Page 12:Sequential Steady State
Page 13:Random Write Steady State
Page 14:PCMark 8 Real-World Software Performance
Page 15:Total Storage Bandwidth
Page 16:PCMark 8 Advanced Workload Performance
Page 17:Latency Tests
Page 18:Notebook Battery Life
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.