Kingston A1000 480 GB Review 13

Kingston A1000 480 GB Review


Value and Conclusion

  • The Kingston A1000 480 GB SSD is currently available online for $152.
  • Affordable
  • Faster than the fastest SATA drives
  • Good read performance
  • No thermal throttling
  • 5-year warranty
  • Acronis True Image included
  • Small SLC write cache of only 4 GB
  • Not as fast as higher-end NVMe drives
  • PCIe x2 interface limits read speeds slightly
Unlike nearly all M.2 NVMe SSDs, which use the PCI-Express 3.0 x4 interface, the Kingston A1000 uses just two gen 3.0 lanes. The A1000 is one of the first drives on the market in that regard, and I'm sure many will follow from all vendors. This new breed of SSD is targeted at a consumers who is looking for "faster than SATA" performance, but at the same time can't justify the cost increase that a full-blown high-end PCIe x4 NVMe SSD comes with. PCIe x2 drives, due to their pricing, also put an end to the "high performance" SATA SSD market segment. You're either building on a shoe-string budget and opt for well-priced SATA drives, such as the Crucial MX300, or have just enough dough to pick up PCIe x2 drives, but nothing in between, such as the Samsung 860 Pro. Pricey PCIe x4 drives only feature in your shopping-list if you're spending big. Let's also not forget the marketing value of a "PCIe NVMe SSD" sticker on a prebuilt PC.

Kingston has built their SSD using Toshiba 3D TLC NAND and a Phison PS5008-E8 controller, which provides a four-channel interface to the flash chips. Our performance testing shows good results with read speeds reaching 1680 MB/s, which to me looks slightly limited due to the PCIe x2 interface, but that's not a big deal. If the read speeds were higher, say, 2100 MB/s, it wouldn't make that much of a difference because real applications see diminished returns from higher bandwidth. Write speeds are alright with 965 MB/s and should be perfectly sufficient for all consumer workloads. What does have me a little bit worried is the tiny size of the SLC write cache. With just 4 GB, I can see a bunch of scenarios in regular use where it could get full rather quickly. Most other drives I've tested so far use sizes in the 16–32 GB range, which covers a wider range of workloads. Still, even if the 4 GB write buffer is exhausted, writes will continue to run at 540 MB/s, which is very decent for a TLC drive and at least matches, but probably exceeds that of SATA drives. Write performance will return to full speed as soon as the stream of incoming data stops for a moment for the SLC cache to get cleared.

Overall, averaged, performance in real-life testing is slightly better than with typical SATA drives (by 2%). The biggest gains can be seen in scenarios that move a lot of data, where the increased bandwidth over SATA can play out its advantage. In scenarios that are mostly random I/O, the drive is doing a little bit worse, but should still be able to compete with the best SATA drives. Remember, this drive is positioned as a "faster than SATA" option, not as the "fastest SSD you can buy".

Unlike most other M.2 SSDs, the Kingston A1000 shows no thermal throttling. It seems the drive doesn't get hot enough to trigger thermal protection. This also explains why it doesn't come with a heatsink, which would just end up being cosmetic.

Pricing of the Kingston A1000 is excellent, with $152 for the tested 480 GB version. This brings cost per gigabyte down to just 32 cents—pretty much unheard of for an M.2 NVMe drive. At this price point, the A1000 is a little bit more expensive than regular SATA drives—offering more performance at the same time, especially when it comes to reads. A so-called "high performance SATA" option like the Samsung 860 Pro 512 GB is priced at a repulsive $214, and is likely to fall behind in both performance and price per GB. Of course, the A1000 can't compete with the performance of high-end NVMe drives that also cost much more, but don't end up that much faster in real-life.
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