Kingston A2000 1 TB M.2 NVMe SSD Review - 8% Faster Thanks to New Firmware 26

Kingston A2000 1 TB M.2 NVMe SSD Review - 8% Faster Thanks to New Firmware

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Value and Conclusion

  • The 1 TB Kingston A2000 SSD is currently listed online for $128.
  • Outstanding price/performance
  • Very low cost per GB
  • Good random IO performance
  • Five-year warranty
  • Compact form factor
  • Firmware update required for best performance
  • Thermal throttling when heavily loaded with writes
  • Largest capacity is 1 TB
  • Inaccurate thermal sensor
A few weeks ago I reviewed the Kingston KC2000, which received a new firmware update to fix a performance issue with low QD1 sequential mixed performance. The value-oriented Kingston A2000 has received the same update, so I wanted to review it, too. The original problem was related to reading and writing large chunks of data in parallel, at low queue-depths. Our sequential QD1 mixed test simulates this typical "read data, process, and write back" data flow that happens in a lot of programs. Surprisingly, that was the only test that showed less than stellar results on the old firmware—everything else, sequential and random IO, looked great, but real-life performance numbers were different. With the new firmware, available in Kingston SSD Manager, the Kingston A2000 performs much better.

It is now close to the top of our performance charts, battling it out with drives like the Samsung 970 EVO, WD Black (2018), and Intel 760p. The fastest drives in our test group are not too far ahead: ADATA SX8200 Pro, HP EX950, and Samsung 970 Pro are only 2% faster, and the Kingston KC2000 is 3% faster—but at higher price points. Compared to the Kingston A2000 with the old firmware, the performance uplift is a highly impressive 8%, which is almost the entire "slowest to fastest NVMe drive" range in our test group that is 12% wide.

Our testing shows that the SLC cache is quite big, sized at 150 GB (or 15% of the total capacity). This will suffice for all but the largest workloads, such as restoring a full-drive backup from a sufficiently fast source (such as another NVMe SSD, however unlikely.). When the pseudo-SLC cache is exhausted the A2000 definitely falls behind higher-end drives because it only uses four flash channels, whereas more powerful SSDs use eight channels, which opens up additional performance in this state. Compared to other budget drives, the A2000 does very well; it is faster than most of them, and 480 MB/s is still enough when you're sending data from a SATA SSD. Of course, once write activity stops briefly and the SLC cache has time to flush to TLC in the background, write speeds are quickly restored to the maximum of 2 GB/s.

Probably the weakest test result was our thermal testing. Since the A2000 lacks a heatsink, it will heat up quickly when heavily loaded. Just 90 seconds into our stress test, temperatures reached 90°C, and the drive started thermally throttling. Throttling behavior is acceptable, though. Write rates are roughly cut in half, to around 1 GB/s, which is still very decent. Other drives will fall off a cliff in a similar scenario and achieve only HDD speeds. Enthusiasts will be able to install a small heatsink, all other consumer shouldn't worry—they won't be able to create enough load for temperatures to get high enough.

The Kingston A2000 currently retails for $128, which makes it one of the most affordable M.2 NVMe options on the market. At that price point, it won't be easy to find a drive with an SMI controller and DRAM cache chip—most alternatives use Phison or Realtek. One notable alternative is the Crucial P1 which is only $105 at the moment and good enough if you're building an entry-level system, and the savings could go towards another component. Other options we often recommend, like the Sabrent Rocket Q and Silicon Power P34A80, are slower than the A2000 and priced too closely. I'd say don't bother with savings of just $10 or $15. If you are willing to spend a little bit more, several options open up. For example, the ADATA SX8200 is currently $137 and uses an 8-channel controller, which has higher sequential speeds, although in real-life, the difference is just 2%. Another good drive is the HP EX950, which is currently $135 and also 2% faster. I can definitely see how such a small increase is justifiable, but prices are always in a state of flux, too. Last but not least, there is the Kingston KC2000, which is the fastest SSD we ever tested (after the firmware update), but with $186, it's much more expensive; not sure if I'd be willing to spend that money. The only drawback of the A2000 is that the largest capacity available is 1 TB, which is starting to get too small for many power users.
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