Kingston HyperX Predator PCIe M.2 SSD Review
By Olin Coles
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by Kingston.
Are you in a hurry? Solid state Drive Technology has been serving up data at the fastest rates available to consumers, quickly earning the distinction of ‘instant’ storage. SSDs built for the SATA interface already make most computers open applications in a snap, but the latest generation of PCI-Express 2.0 based SSDs bring that title closer to the truth. The new Kingston HyperX Predator PCIe M.2 SSD is one such example, and boasts 1400 MB/s read speeds with 1000 MB/s compressible data writes. Available in 240/480GB storage capacities, and available as a single M.2 drive or installed to a half-height half-length PCI-Express 2.0 adapter, in this article Benchmark Reviews tests the Kingston Predator against the fastest SSDs on the market.
Based on the Marvell 88SS9293 “AltaPlus” PCIe four-lane storage controller, the HyperX Predator is capable of reaching speeds not possible through the SATA interface. The 480GB HyperX Predator SSD model we received for testing was installed on a PCIe x4 HHHL (half-height, half-length) adapter, and is specified for 1400 MB/s reads and 1000 MB/s writes. IOPS performance is on-par with SATA variants, serving up to 130,000 I/O requests per second. Kingston-supplied specifications for HyperX Predator are shown below:
Solid State vs Hard Disk
Despite decades of design improvements, the hard disk drive (HDD) remains the slowest component of any personal computer system. Consider that modern desktop processors typically have a 1 ns response time (nanosecond = one billionth of one second), while system memory responds between 30-90 ns. Traditional hard disk technology utilizes spinning media, and even the fastest mechanical storage products still exhibit a 9 ms (9,000,000 ns) initial response time (millisecond = one thousandth of one second). In more relevant terms, the processor sends the command, but must wait for system memory to fetch data from the storage drive. This is why any computer system is only as fast as the slowest component in the data chain, which is usually the hard drive.
In a perfect world all of the components would operate at the same speed: system memory signals as quickly as the central processor, and the storage drive fetches data as fast as memory. With present-day technology this is an impossible task, so enthusiasts try to close the speed gaps between components as much as possible. Although system memory is up to 90x (9000%) slower than most processors, consider that the hard drive is an additional 1000x (100,000%) slower than memory. Essentially, these three components are as different in speed as crawling (HDD) is to walking (RAM) is to running (CPU).
Solid State Drive technology bridges the largest gap in these response times. The difference a SSD makes to operational response times and program speeds is dramatic, and takes the storage drive from a slow ‘crawling’ speed to a much faster ‘walking’ speed. Solid State Drive technology improves initial response times by more than 450x (45,000%) for applications and Operating System software, when compared to their mechanical HDD counterparts. The biggest mistake PC hardware enthusiasts make with regard to SSD technology is grading them based on bandwidth speed alone. File transfer speeds are important, but only so long as the operational I/O performance can sustain that bandwidth under load.
Bandwidth Speed vs Operational Performance
As we’ve explained in our SSD Benchmark Tests: SATA IDE vs AHCI Mode guide, Solid State Drive performance revolves around two dynamics: bandwidth speed (MB/s) and operational performance I/O per second (IOPS). These two metrics work together, but one may be more important than the other. Consider this analogy: bandwidth determines how much cargo a ship can transport in one voyage, and operational IOPS performance is how fast that ship moves. By understanding this and applying it to SSD storage, there is a clear importance set on each variable depending on the task at hand.
For casual users, especially those with laptop or desktop computers that have been upgraded to use an SSD, the naturally quick response time is enough to automatically improve the user experience. Bandwidth speed is important, but only to the extent that operational performance meets the minimum needs of the system. If an SSD has a very high bandwidth speed but a low operational performance, it will take longer to load applications and boot the computer into Windows than if the SSD offered a higher IOPS performance.