If you are a forum active or a recent buyer of Kingston SSDNow V300 SSD, there is a chance that you're aware of its performance issues. In short, users have been reporting lower performance (up to 300MB/s difference in AS-SSD sequential read speed) of drives with 506 firmware pre-installed, which is the version retailers currently sell. I've received numerous emails regarding this issue from readers looking for answers, and now I finally have them.

Like many SSD OEMs, Kingston buys its NAND in wafers and does its own validation and packaging. As a result figuring out the original manufacturer is not possible without the help of Kingston because there are no public data sheets or part number decoders to be found. I've never been a big fan of OEM-packaged NAND because OEMs tend to be more tight-lipped about the specifics of the NAND and it's easier to silently switch suppliers, although I do see the economical reasons (NAND is cheaper to buy in wafers).

So far there's not been much harm from this but I've been fairly certain that someone would sooner or later play dirty and use NAND packaging as a way to mask inferior NAND. Unfortunately that day has come, and as you can guess the OEM in question is Kingston and the product is their mainstream V300 SSD.

The first generation V300 (which was sampled to media) used Toshiba's 19nm Toggle-Mode 2.0 NAND but some time ago Kingston silently switched to Micron's 20nm asynchronous NAND. The difference between the two is that the Toggle-Mode 2.0 interface in the Toshiba NAND is good for up to 200MB/s, whereas the asynchronous interface is usually good for only ~50MB/s. The reason I say usually is that Kingston wasn't willing to go into details about the speed of the asynchronous NAND they use and the ONFI spec doesn't list maximum bandwidth for the single data rate (i.e. asynchronous) NAND. However, even though we lack the specifics of the asynchronous NAND, it's certain that we are dealing with slower NAND here and Kingston admitted that the Micron NAND isn't capable of the same performance as the older Toshiba NAND.

Comparison of Kingston V300 Revisions
Revision Original (no longer available) New (currently available)
Pre-Istalled Firmware 505A 506A / 521A
NAND Toshiba 19nm Toggle-Mode 2.0 Micron 20nm asynchronous
NAND Interface Bandwidth 200MB/s ~ 50MB/s (?)
AS-SSD Incompressible Sequential Read ~ 475MB/s ~ 170MB/s
AS-SSD Incompressible Sequential Write ~ 150MB/s ~ 85MB/s
AS-SSD Incompressible 4K Read ~ 20MB/s ~ 15MB/s
AS-SSD Incompressible 4K Write ~ 110MB/s ~ 65MB/s

* AS-SSD performance data based on screenshots provided by a reader

Update: Apparently there is also a newer revision with 521A firmware floating around that utilizes the slower asynchronous NAND.

Update 2: NordicHardware has tested both the 505A and 521A versions and their testing confirms the decrease in performance. What is even more alarming is that based on their tests, the performance decrease is not limited to just incompressible performance but there is a noticeable difference in real world trace-based tests as well. The article itself is in Swedish but the graphs should be easy to understand and you can always use Google Translate

I have to say I'm disappointed. I thought the industry had already learned from its mistakes and that a switch in NAND supplier shouldn't be done silently (remember the hullabaloo OCZ caused when they silently switched from 34nm to 25nm NAND in Vertex 2?). Kingston assured me that this wasn't an intentional attempt to screw customers but a strategy decision made in order to stay within the bill of materials. Kingston was aware that they would have to switch suppliers at some point and in fact they are now looking for yet another supplier (likely Toshiba again). Frankly, I don't see the supplier change as an issue; the problem is that it was done without any notice and there's no public indication of what sort of NAND you'll get.

Kingston did say that they considered updating the name to V305 or similar to distinguish the two but in the end decided against that. In our talks we agreed that it wasn't a very good decision. It's not fair to sample media with one thing and then later start selling something else. Not everyone reads reviews but the buyers who do expect a certain level of performance and it's obvious that they will feel cheated if their unit performs significantly worse. I hope this is just a one-time occasion because that's perhaps excusable, but if this becomes a habit things will start to be fishy. Ultimately, the V300 wasn't a particularly fast SF-2281 SSD when it launched, but with the NAND update it's become quite a bit slower than other alternatives.

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  • ahmadhanif - Sunday, April 26, 2015 - link

    Hi i recently bought this SSD but a 480 GB variant, unfortunately read about this nand switch later, can u please tell me does this nand switch performance lag also present in the 480 GB variant of kingston ssdnow v300? please do reply as your reply will definitely help to request a return ASAP. Reply
  • dpjtpa - Sunday, October 1, 2017 - link

    So I built my first custom gaming rig in April 2014 I believe. I chose to use this particular drive for Windows 10 as Windows 10 literally was just launching. I have another internal traditional 3TB drive for mass storage. I can state that the speed was incredibly fast the entire time I used the drive, but that may be due to it being my first time using a SSD. However, I was dissapointed when the drive suddenly died and barely booted up one morning after only owning it for 1.5 years at most. Once this occurred I researched the issue and found out that runtime/lifecycle kills SSD's and apparently I had no clue about Kingston's software and utilities that I promptly installed. It told me that I had 1% life left in the drive. My contact to Kingston was the typical response in that I am screwed because it is out of warranty, not a defect of their workmanship, and have a good day. Now, 3.5 years after building my rig I was updating www.pcpartpicker.com and deciding what to do with some of my old notes. This is how I ran across this article and lots more about Kingston and SSD's. Long post - short - I don't care if Kingston is an American company and I am an American, they will never get any of my business in my personal or professional life due to the consistently poor decisions I have experienced and read about. There are consequences for being a half-assed company and sometimes it takes longer than you would think for it to catch up to that company, but it will. I will withhold my comments on the list of companies...lol...(Sprint, Nokia, Blackberry) Reply
  • dpjtpa - Sunday, October 1, 2017 - link

    What guts - here is the direct verbiage from a piece of collateral on Kingston's website regarding the V300. They are spinning the issue and stating that due to NAND suppliers and benchmark software that sometimes you will over-achieve their 450MB stated speeds. They got big balls.

    Product Builds and Speed Differences – V300
    In order to achieve a balance of price and performance, we must maintain the flexibility to source NAND
    Flash components from various Tier 1 NAND manufacturers. At times, this will mean that there is a
    difference in benchmarked performance, where certain builds outperform our advertised specification
    (450MB/s Read / Write) while other drives will meet the advertised specification. Regardless of revision, all
    V300 SSDs still demonstrate 10x performance when compared to HDDs.
    Reply
  • xrror - Sunday, February 25, 2018 - link

    To this day I won't ever buy another Kingston product due to how they handled this. Basically they did a bait and switch, and then when AnandTech called them on this Kingston basically told them to piss off.

    AnandTech. The site that pretty much drove SSD makers to get their drives up to par. I think Anand even gave a reasonable suggestion that Kingston maybe rename the new revision V305 or something.

    Basically Kingston knew very much what they were doing, and they didn't give a care.

    I was really sad because I really liked Kingston and their Hyper-X memory line for years before that. But never again.
    Reply
  • Gunbuster - Tuesday, May 21, 2019 - link

    Dear Kingston, have you changed your ways? Land a 2TB NVMe drive at my doorstep and I'll stop reminding everyone about this URL whenever you launch a new drive. ;) Reply

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