Page 2:Technical Specifications
Page 3:Pricing And Accessories
Page 4:A Closer Look
Page 5:Sequential Read
Page 6:Sequential Write
Page 7:Random Read
Page 8:Random Write
Page 9:Data Type Performance Differences
Page 10:80% Read Sequential Mixed Workload
Page 11:80% Read Random Mixed Workload
Page 12:Sequential Steady State
Page 13:Random Write Steady State
Page 14:PCMark 8 Real-World Software
Page 15:PCMark 8 Advanced Workload
Page 16:Notebook Battery Life
Kingston is one of the companies that was affected during the SandForce merry-go-round of buyouts and acquisitions. Until recently, its HyperX SSD brand shipped exclusively with SandForce controllers. But that's changing.
Kingston is no stranger to Phison's technology, either. The two companies have worked closely together for several years making low-cost products for OEMs and the SSDNow product line. Like SandForce, Phison is another all-inclusive SSD controller maker, providing reference designs, programming and firmware to third parties that relabel the products for retail sale. Until the PS3110-S10, Phison controllers targeted value-oriented customers. The S8 processor, released two years ago, increased performance to SandForce-like levels. But it was too late to compete in the high-end space.
The new S10 controller is Phison's entry into that exclusive segment, which is currently dominated by Samsung, Marvell and now Intel's NVMe/enterprise crossover. It's a four-channel processor with enterprise-class end-to-end data protection. Phison is eying several markets with the S10, from entry-level enterprise to value-class models using three-bit-per-cell (TLC) NAND. Using TLC in a product designed to meet more than three-year warranty cycles requires a lot of compute muscle, particularly toward the end of the product's life. Phison uses advanced BCH ECC to fight voltage drift, noisy neighbors and other architectural problems associated with TLC.
When it comes to performance, the S10 is already capable of competing with today's mainstream SSDs. But for several months now, we've been told to expect a firmware update that'll make the controller even faster. One area Phison plans to improve is low queue depth random reads and writes. This month, we should see an update that delivers 10,000 sustained write IOPS in steady state. Sadly, it's not ready yet, though.
Even without the new firmware, Kingston's HyperX Savage delivers solid performance. The sequential results we measured were some of the highest we've seen from a SATA-based product. At high queue depths, the Savage SSD is limited by that SATA bus, just like many competing high-end drives. Kingston doesn't publish performance numbers at low queue depths like Samsung and SanDisk, so we'll look at those areas in our testing today.
Kingston pairs the Phison controller with second-generation 19nm Toshiba Toggle-mode flash. Though it costs a bit more than the Micron flash used in Patriot's Ignite, performance should be a little higher with Toggle-mode flash.
Regardless of the flash alongside Phison's S10, this controller works with compressible and incompressible data differently, increasing sequential read performance when it's dealing with compressible information. We'll demonstrate the effect in question throughout our benchmarks.
Pricing And Accessories
The Kingston HyperX Savage ships in four capacities ranging from 120 to 960GB. Two retail accessory packages create eight SKUs in total.
Keeping with its HyperX tradition, Kingston created a product that is more than just a bare SSD. A premium approach is emphasized by the Upgrade Bundle Kit that includes a USB 3.0 enclosure, USB 3.0 cable, Acronis True Image software, a SATA cable, a HyperX-branded multi-tip screwdriver, a desktop adapter bracket with mounting screws, a 7mm to 9.5mm adapter and a sticker.
The drive-only model still ships in the premium package, but loses several of the accessories. In many of the capacities, the Upgrade Bundle Kit costs just $20 more than the drive-only model. Given everything that is included, we would suggest purchasing the Upgrade Bundle Kit (unless you plan to install the drive in a notebook and don't need to clone your existing disk).
At the time of writing, Kingston's HyperX Savage 120GB starts around $92 for the drive-only model. That goes up to about $106 with the accessory package. The 960GB model starts out just shy of $600 and hits $615 for the kit. As you can see, the high capacity point's price tag points to how out-of-touch Kingston is being, given current market conditions. More on that shortly.
A Closer Look
The retail package does a good job of conveying the bundle's contents. On the back, we even find a detailed list of the accessories. Up front, Kingston makes some sequential performance claims, though it doesn't specify random or mixed workload numbers, which we also like to see.
Opening the retail package reminds you that the HyperX line-up is deliberately premium. Mainstream SSDs often ship in the same blister packs you'd expect to find SD cards in. But Kingston's HyperX brand is completely opposite of that experience. A nice inner box opens to expose the Savage SSD. Under the initial layer of foam, you find the accessory package that comes with everything you need to install the SSD, including a SATA cable. Kingston deserves praise for preserving such a comprehensive kit in a time of stiff competition and low margins.
The HyperX Savage employs a 7mm chassis, so it'll fit in your new Ultrabook. The drive is aesthetically pleasing; clearly, Kingston put some effort into its looks during development.
The table below contains the comparison units for today's review:
The Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB delivers exceptional sequential read performance. It doesn't need a ton of outstanding commands stacked up to saturate the SATA bus, like many of the other products on our chart. This is a phenomenon we've observed from other Phison S10-controlled products, such as Corsair's Neutron XT and Patriot's Ignite. Phison's previous-generation S8 also excelled in this area.
The sample from Kingston also delivers the best sequential write performance compared to everything else in our chart. This is also attributable to Phison's S10, which makes quick work of this type of operation. In reality, most secondary drives in your computer take the brunt of sequential data transfers like large music and movie files.
As we observed in last month's Patriot Ignite 480GB review, random performance is what holds the Kingston HyperX Savage back. Our read measurements at a queue depth of one are average at best. On the line chart, we see that this SSD follows the same curve as Crucial's mainstream MX200 250GB. The Savage does scale well, but never manages to hit 100,000 random read IOPS.
Random write performance at a queue depth of one is lower than what we observe from the other products in our charts. But the Savage recovers at a queue depth of two. Things get interesting after QD4, where the Savage moves away from the mainstream SSDs and into the top tier of premium products.
Data Type Performance Differences
The tests we've already run employ incompressible data. An SSD that performs differently when presented with this type of information isn't a new concept. SandForce-based drives slow down when they're forced to write incompressible data. Phison's hardware goes another direction, though.
Write performance isn't affected. Rather, small-block read performance drops when pulling incompressible back from the drive. We're being liberal with the block size here and including up to 128KB.
80% Read Sequential Mixed Workload
Kingston's HyperX Savage 240GB fares well when it's reading and writing sequential data, but mixed workloads fall flat. We've observed the same performance from other Phison S10-controlled products, too. When testing Patriot's Ignite, we weren't sure if the 16nm MLC ONFi flash was causing our poor results or if the controller was to blame. The HyperX Savage uses Toshiba A19 MLC Toggle-mode NAND, so we can be fairly certain that the low sequential mixed workload performance isn't a flash issue.
80% Read Random Mixed Workload
If the sequential mixed workload performance could be described as a mess, then we'd need words we can't publish to characterize the random mixed workload results. Everything looked fine up until QD4. There, the Savage ran alongside two mainstream SSDs, but quickly lost momentum and the ability to scale further. At higher queue depths, Kingston's Savage falls well short of every other drive on our chart. The problem with this type of flat line manifests when it comes time to multitask.
Sequential Steady State
Steady state is a condition most desktop enthusiasts never see under normal use. It can slow an SSD down, though. In this test, we mix both steady state performance and mixed workloads with sequential data. The chart scales from 100% steady state sequential reads (left) to 100% steady state sequential writes (right).
We break the results down further into two charts: 80% read with 20% writes covers normal consumer use, and 70% read shows workstation workloads. In both, the HyperX Savage lands in the middle of the pack. The results show a large drop off in performance from the SanDisk Extreme Pro 240GB to the Savage 240GB.
Random Write Steady State
Outside of enterprise workloads that involve small random updates (like those produced by SQL), this test doesn't give us a lot of real-world information about client workloads. It does show us random data variability, and that can be useful when choosing a product for RAID. The HyperX Savage delivers high 4KB random write performance at first--the highest on the chart, in fact. At the same time, though, it also yields the lowest performance.
In steady state, the Savage loses its high-IOPS half and only the low-IOPS portion remains. The variability observed tells us this drive isn't a good candidate for RAID 0 in high-performance systems.
PCMark 8 Real-World Software
For details on our real-world software performance testing, please click here.
The Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB consistently performs in the middle to low end of the real-world software tests.
Single application performance isn't ideal for testing solid-state drives. But once you have several measurements from a wide sample group, you can determine which products deliver the best experience. These tests show performance under light workloads. Products with SLC cache layers tend to fare best under these conditions (the top five highest-performing drives all use SLC cache). But the HyperX Savage doesn't benefit from this technology, so its results fall well below the quickest drives out there.
PCMark 8 Advanced Workload
To learn how we test advanced workload performance, please click here.
The advanced PCMark 8 tests with reiterate what we've already shown. Kingston's HyperX Savage 240GB falls far behind the best 2.5" SSDs at this capacity point, and just under several mainstream drives as well.
The light workload latency charts show most of the drives in a tight bunch. But again, the Savage lands on the wrong end of the group. This is one of the most important charts in our review because it is directly linked to user experience at normal workloads.
Notebook Battery Life
Phison-controlled products usually perform well in notebooks. The HyperX Savage appears in the middle of today's sample group, well under SanDisk's products, but close to Samsung's 850 EVO 250GB.
Several of Phison's other controllers were designed for low-cost, low-power environments. The company has an established track record of enabling good performance in power-restricted environments. Some of that DNA made it into the HyperX Predator 240GB, it appears.
The SATA-based SSD market is so saturated with good drives that it's nearly impossible for a mediocre offering to earn a recommendation. When the product's price is as high as Kingston's HyperX Savage (240GB for $150), it had better be impeccable or risk falling below Samsung's 850 Pro (256GB for $162), SanDisk Extreme Pro (240GB for $160) or Samsung 850 EVO (250GB for $130). Before we get into that, let's look at what Kingston does right with its HyperX Savage.
There is no denying that Kingston is diluting the stature of the HyperX brand. Once an indicator of the computer industry's best components, Newegg now shows over 500 hits in a search for 'HyperX'. The HyperX Fury really sealed the deal for me; Kingston's enthusiast moniker went from premium to sub-par in one blister pack. The HyperX Savage gives us a rebirth of the extravagant retail box and accessory package. Opening it up, the quality is apparent, you see everything needed to install the drive and you know that this is a special product.
The Savage delivers class-leading sequential read and write performance. In both categories, this is the fastest SATA-attached device on the market. Of course, most of us move large files on a fairly regular basis, but those sequential transfers typically go to secondary drives; I'm not sure that many enthusiasts are purchasing new premium-priced SSDs for this task.
At its weakest point, the HyperX Savage 240GB is unacceptable. Mixed random performance using 80% reads at 20,000 IOPS is the worst we've seen from a modern SSD. Most of us will never get beyond a queue depth of eight, but at QD4 the damage is already done. Sequential mixed workload performance isn't much better. Again, the Savage 240GB is at the bottom of our charts, lower than SSDs costing significantly less. One-hundred percent random reads and writes are not as bad, but we don't just read or write data with a boot drive. If adding just a little mix degrades performance this much, then you might as well purchase a value-priced drive and save some money.
We're frankly surprised that Kingston, Patriot and Corsair have already released products with the Phison S10 controller. We've heard it's an expensive processor. Maybe those companies managed to secure a lower price until Phison readies its performance-enhancing firmware. After all, the trio lacks firmware engineers of their own. Aside from Samsung, all of the top-performing SSDs use Marvell controllers. Marvell doesn't provide retail-ready firmware to its partners; you need a team to put the pieces together. Kingston just released the HyperX Predator PCIe-based SSD with Marvell logic, but its Savage doesn't employ a Marvell processor. We can assume that Kingston either put together a firmware team or paid a high price to release the 88SS9293 controller first and got firmware with it.
Kingston, Patriot and Corsair know a higher-performance firmware is on the way, but chose to launch S10-based products before the magic sauce was ready anyway. We have a good idea why: all three companies had most of their eggs in the SandForce basket. Now they've jumped over to Phison. The HyperX family was always built around SandForce (even the HyperX Predator was shown with SF3700 at CES). Might that ship have sunk?
It's a good guess, though that fails to address the fact that today's S10-based drives are not worth their high prices. When Phison releases its impending firmware update, my opinion may change. But for now, if you want to buy a premium SSD, there are better options available. Should Phison's new software fail to satisfy the hype, these products only become attractive at mainstream SSD prices.