Kingston HyperX Predator 480GB SSD Review
Kingston’s HyperX Predator is an SSD on a mission. It is a halo product meant to deliver extreme performance without sacrificing endurance but to deliver on both goals they had to look beyond typical form factors. With the SATA 6Gbps interface completely saturated by current generation drives and SATA Express failing to gain much traction Kingston has understandably turned towards high bandwidth PCIe connectivity.
Kingston has one of the longest and most memorable of histories when it comes to SSDs. Throughout the years they have constantly striven to offer consumers the best value drives possible. Sometimes this actually meant butting heads with Intel, other times it meant changing the NAND type. This time around they’re taking a path already taken by some competitors but also adding in a dash of adrenaline for some extreme performance.
When taken at face value, the HyperX Predator is a simple M.2 format SSD but its simple form belies some rather stunning capabilities. While entry level M.2-based SSDs are perfectly happy puttering along with a two-lane PCIe 2.0 connection, the Predator requires an x4 PCIe 2.0 interface. This doesn’t even begin to approach the bandwidth Intel’s 750-series requires but it does somewhat narrow native compatibility to some X99 boards since few Z97 boards provide an x4 M.2 slot (there are some exceptions though). On the other hand, these requirements do tend to make this new drive an excellent bridge product between products like the Plextor’s M6e and OCZ’s latest RevoDrive.
From a raw specifications standpoint the HyperX Predator slots in perfectly between the two aforementioned drives. However, it isn’t meant to compete directly against the likes of Intel’s new 750 Series or even G.Skill’s Blade. Interestingly enough Kingston’s flagship is actually more expensive on a price-per-GB level than Intel’s alternative but that disparity will likely be made up via the Predator’s enhanced NAND endurance, AES-256 encryption and broader compatibility with today’s motherboards. It also handily beats the RevoDrive in this respect.
Despite being available as a “bare” M.2 format drive, the Predator is actually quite adaptable since it can also be purchased with an inexpensive $10 half-height, half-length (HHHL) adapter card which allows direct mounting to a free x4 PCIe 2.0 slot. At $520 for the 480GB version this isn’t an inexpensive SSD by any stretch of the imagination but we’d highly recommend ponying up the coin for Kingston’s adapter. It makes the drive infinitely more appealing and it looks pretty damn cool as well.
Due to their special relationship with Marvell, Kingston’s Predator will be one of the first solid state drives to make use of the brand new 'AltaPlus' 9293 controller. This four lane PCIe aware controller may not make use of the newer NVMe architecture, or even PCIe 3.0, it is AHCI based and promises to be much, much more capable in the performance arena than its predecessors - one of which powered the award winning Plextor M6e series.
Backstopping this new high performance controller is pair of 512MB Kingston-branded RAM ICs. With access to a whopping 1GB of RAM cache the HyperX Predator should never run out of room in its temporary storage during normal operations.
Further helping to boost performance Kingston has opted for Toshiba branded A19 Toggle Mode NAND ICs. More importantly this '480GB' drive sports a full 512GB of actual capacity with 32GB worth of NAND set aside for over-provisioning.
This combination of high performance NAND, high performance PCIe 2.0 x4 controller, massive onboard cache, and decent over-provisioning levels explains how Kingston was able to not only list sky high performance specifications but excellent write durability levels of 1.7 Drive Writes Per Day for three years. The only disappointing part is this expensive drive only has a three year warranty.
Eagle-eyed readers will also notice one thing missing from this 2280 form-factor storage device: data loss protection. Unfortunately, this is one aspect that had to be sacrificed in order to fit everything else into such a small form-factor while retaining a reasonable asking price. Whether or not this is a deal breaker will be up to you and should be taken on a case by case basis.
The HHHL version of Kingston’s HyperX Predator simply uses a PCIe x4 slot to M.2 adapter card. As an added bonus Kingston does not use a 'warranty void' sticker over the screw securing the card to the adapter board. This means you can change your mind later and use it in future built that does have an x4 M.2 slot without voiding your warranty.
Kingston has taken the extra and highly unusual step of including a heatpad on the HHHL board. This turns the adapter into a large, if somewhat poor, heatsink and should help keep the HyperX Predator cool.
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