Kingston SSDNow E50 240GB SSD Review
As the Enterprise solid state storage industry matures it should come as little surprise to see manufactures expanding their lineups at a breakneck pace. Instead of one size fits all solutions, several are offering highly specialized models which are targeted with laser precision at specific consumer groups and scenarios. The latest additions to many manufactures’ Enterprise line are SSDs aimed at heavy read scenarios where HET/e-MLC NAND’s durability is not needed and their higher price certainly is not wanted. In layman’s terms, this has led to a renewed push towards value in a segment that’s not normally known for it.
Instead of focusing solely on write resiliency this budding market niche is concerned with providing a value orientated SSD, tailor made for read-centric situations so administrators can retire their aging 10K and 15K RPM hard drives without breaking their annual budget in the process. Kingston may not be the first to recognize and cater to this growing group of consumers, but their SSDNow E50 240GB intends to make up for lost time.
As you can see, the E50 takes an entirely different approach to satisfying the needs of Enterprise consumers when compared against Intel’s DC 3500. Instead of using ONFi 20nm MLC NAND and an Intel branded controller like the DC S3500 series, the SSDNow E50 utilizes a SandForce second generation controller. However, unlike the E50’s mass market orientated HyperX siblings’ standard grade SF2281 controller the E50 houses LSI SandForce’s top of the line SF2581.
The SF2581 is very similar to the SF2281 but differs in three noticeable ways. It has the ability to make use of secondary capacitors for Flush In Flight which ensures any data in the process of being written is kept intact if there’s a sudden unexpected loss of power.
In this instance the E50 doesn’t rely upon the large capacitors seen in some Intel models but instead uses multiple tantalum super-capacitors. The implementation of multiple small super-caps is a more robust option since even if some fail there should still more than enough charge left in the remaining capacitors to ensure Flush In Flight can complete.
The downside to this design boils down to cost; redundancy is expensive. However, with an online price of $190 for the 240GB version, Kingston obviously had no problems in finding ways to fit such a superior setup into the E50’s budget.
LSI’s SF2581 also supports enhanced SMART diagnostic abilities which gives administrators the ability to log, debug and diagnose potential issues before they become catastrophic failures. This is extremely beneficial as it grants enhanced control over the SSD or SSD array on a day-to-day basis and can be used to head off data loss before it happens.
The last way the SF2581 differs from the SF2281 is arguably the most important. Since it is meant for the highly demanding server market, it undergoes more intensive factory testing than standard retail channel models. Because of this enhanced factory testing each SF2581 is rated for an impressive 10 million hour MTBF instead of the 2 million MTBF rating of the SF2281.
While the SF2581 does share most of the other high level features of the SF2281, it only supports 128-bit AES instead of 256-bit like Intel’s third generation X25 controller. Neither of these is a priority in the server market but their omission could curtain the E50’s usefulness in some scenarios.
Besides using a different controller and capacitors than its competitors, Kingston has also helped distinguish their new E50 model by the type of NAND it uses. This new breed of enterprise drives usually use 20nm ONFi MLC NAND but Kingston’s decision to go with 16 of the more powerful – but still very reasonably priced – 19nm Toshiba Toggle Mode ICs could pay dividends. These modules are actually the same type as used in a Corsair Neutron GTX or Kingston SSDNow V300 but tend to be more highly binned than what you would find inside a typical consumer grade model. So while they do have a greatly reduced lifespan of 3,000 P/E cycles compared to Intel HET NAND, they have greater small file performance potential compared to either ONFi or standard HET NAND.
These three main features have allowed Kingston to create an Enterprise drive that is unlike most value oriented Enterprise SSDs. This unique approach is what Kingston is counting on to help differentiate the E50 from the rapidly expanding competition.
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