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Kingston KC3000 M.2 SSD Review: The Fastest Flash You Can Get

Kingston’s KC3000 delivers potent speeds for gamers and pros.

Kingston KC3000
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

With Micron’s 176L TLC clocking in at 1,600 MTps and responsive lab test results backing it, Kingston’s KC3000 proves itself as a top-tier PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe SSD suited best for those looking for speed.

For

  • + Fast PCIe 4.0 performance and cool operation
  • + Attractive design
  • + 5-year warranty and high-endurance ratings

Against

  • - Costly
  • - High power use
  • - Lacks AES hardware encryption

Tom's Hardware Verdict

With Micron’s 176L TLC clocking in at 1,600 MTps and responsive lab test results backing it, Kingston’s KC3000 proves itself as a top-tier PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe SSD suited best for those looking for speed.

Pros

  • + + Fast PCIe 4.0 performance and cool operation
  • + + Attractive design
  • + + 5-year warranty and high-endurance ratings

Cons

  • - - Costly
  • - - High power use
  • - - Lacks AES hardware encryption

Designed to compete with the performance leaders on our best SSDs list, Kingston’s KC3000 features the fastest hardware combo we’ve seen from any Phison-based drive yet. Leveraging Phison’s PS5018-E18 PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe controller and Micron’s 176L TLC NAND flash operating at full steam 1,600 MTps, the KC3000 is a potent SSD for both creative professionals and hardcore gamers. Available in capacities up to 4TB, Kingston’s flagship drive looks sleek and keeps cool thanks to a low-profile graphene aluminum heat spreader, but it will cost you a pretty penny compared to your average NVMe SSD. 

Specifications

Product512GB1TB2TB4TB
Pricing $106.99 $174.99 $399.99 $999.99
Capacity (User / Raw)512GB / 512GB1024GB / 1024GB2048GB / 2048GB4096GB / 4096GB
Form FactorM.2 2280M.2 2280M.2 2280M.2 2280
Interface / ProtocolPCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4
ControllerPhison PS5018-E18Phison PS5018-E18Phison PS5018-E18Phison PS5018-E18
DRAMDDR4DDR4DDR4DDR4
MemoryMicron 176L TLCMicron 176L TLCMicron 176L TLCMicron 176L TLC
Sequential Read7,000 MBps7,000 MBps7,000 MBps7,000 MBps
Sequential Write3,900 MBps6,000 MBps7,000 MBps7,000 MBps
Random Read450,000 IOPS900,000 IOPS1,000,000 IOPS1,000,000 IOPS
Random Write900,000 IOPS1,000,000 IOPS1,000,000 IOPS1,000,000 IOPS
SecurityN/AN/AN/AN/A
Endurance (TBW)400 TB800 TB1,600 TB3,200 TB
Part NumberSKC3000S/512GSKC3000S/1024GSKC3000D/2048GSKC3000D/4096G
Warranty5-Years5-Years5-Years5-Years

The Kingston KC3000 is available in capacities ranging from 512GB up to 4TB. Although most capacities are on the pricey side, including our 2TB sample, the 1TB model is priced particularly aggressively at the time of writing, listed at $174.99. The other capacities range from $0.20-$0.24 per gigabyte. 

Kingston rates the KC3000’s performance for up to 7 GBps sequential reads and writes with a random read and write of 1 million IOPS. It features a large dynamic write cache that spans one-third of its available capacity, meaning it can outperform the Seagate FireCuda 530 and Corsair MP600 Pro XT in moderate file transfers. 

Endurance Ratings (TBW)500GB1TB2TB4TB
Kingston KC3000400 TB800 TB1,600 TB3,200 TB
WD_Black SN850300 TB600 TB1,200 TB-
Seagate FireCuda 530640 TB1,275 TB2,550 TB5,100 TB
Corsair MP600 Pro XT 700 TB1,400 TB3,000 TB
Samsung 980 Pro 300 TB600 TB1200 TB-
Patriot Viper VP4300 1,000 TB2,000 TB-
Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 700 TB1,400 TB2,800 TB
Adata XPG Gammix S50 Lite 740 TB1,480 TB-
Crucial P5 Plus 300 TB600 TB1,200 TB-

Kingston backs the KC3000 with a five-year warranty and limits it to some solid endurance figures. Each capacity is rated higher than the Samsung 980 Pro and WD_Black SN850. At 2TB, our sample is rated to handle up to 1.6 petabytes worth of writes within its warranty period. However, while impressive, this somewhat pales in comparison to the Seagate FireCuda 530’s endurance figures.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The KC3000 supports Trim, S.M.A.R.T. data reporting, end-to-end data path protection, and can be securely erased, but it does not support AES 256-bit hardware encryption for speedy, secure password protection. Kingston provides a key for Acronis True Image HD for cloning over your old data and the company’s website has an SSD toolbox for download, Kingston SSD Manager, which allows you to monitor drive health and update the firmware. 

A Closer Look at Kingston KC3000 

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Kingston KC3000

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Kingston KC3000

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The Kingston KC3000 comes in an M.2 2280 single or double-sided form factor depending on which capacity you get. The 512GB and 1TB come single-sided while the larger capacities come with components on both sides of the PCB. 

The design of the KC3000 is one of the best we’ve seen. We appreciate the well-thought-out and executed use of labels on both sides of the SSD. The top remains blacked out with only the essential info listed while the back-side hides the distracting QR code and compliances. 

Similar to the Team Group T-Force Cardea A440, the KC3000 comes with a graphene label. The difference between the two is that the Kingston’s is mixed with aluminum while the Team Group’s was mixed with copper.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Phison’s high-performance, 8-channel PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe 1.4 NVMe SSD controller, the PS5018-E18 lies at the heart of the Kingston KC3000. It leverages a triple-CPU primary architecture based on Arm Cortex R5 cores and offloads common, repetitive firmware code to a dual-CPU coprocessor, accelerating writes and queueing. 

The controller is built on a 12nm process to keep a handle on the heat output while operating at 1 GHz. It features ASPM, ASPT, and supports the low-power L1.2 idle state to keep cool. It also thermal throttles if it is to exceed a temperature of 84 degrees Celsius based on its S.M.A.R.T. data.

To attain its high endurance ratings, the KC3000 takes advantage of Phison’s fourth-generation Low-Density Parity-Check (LDPC) ECC and the company factory overprovisioned by 7.4%. This not only aids with sustained write performance but also is implemented to aid with bad block management and other background NAND management routines.

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Kingston KC3000

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Kingston KC3000

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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Kingston KC3000

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The controller interfaces with a DDR4 DRAM cache provided by a Kingston-branded chip that operates 1,600 MHz. Also, interfacing are thirty-two dies of Micron’s 512Gb 176L TLC flash, operating at full speed, 1,600 MTps. 

With the flash operating so fast, the Kingston KC3000 comes to us as the most responsive retail Phison E18-based NVMe SSD that we have reviewed thus far. At this speed, and paired with its larger SLC cache, the KC3000 should have the upper hand on the Seagate and Corsair as they duke it out in battle.

MORE: Best SSDs

MORE: How We Test HDDs And SSDs

MORE: All SSD Content

  • Co BIY
    I disagree with the idea that hiding QR codes and other data on the back is a plus. On the principle that useful data should be placed in a readily accessible place.

    It would be interesting to run some of these drive tests on a new Z690 board test sled. If this is the fastest drive available it is most likely to demonstrate any possible benefit to the PCIe 5.0 interface.

    Maybe one vendor needs to market a 3 TB drive ? The $600 jump is too much. Leaves a lot of market space in my mind.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Would be interesting to see the 1TB results as well.

    Call me crazy too, but I'd still choose the Samsung 980 Pro, and I'm not just saying that because I HAVE one, the 1TB model...

    Reply
  • dark_wizzie
    What CPU is being used to test the loading times these days? The 'how we test' article is old. Still using Haswell?
    Reply
  • seanwebster
    dark_wizzie said:
    What CPU is being used to test the loading times these days? The 'how we test' article is old. Still using Haswell?
    Test bench and testing notes are above the conclusion. We are currently using an Intel i9-11900K and ASRock Z590 Taichi.
    Reply