Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review

Last month we looked at the 240GB HyperX SSD, but now we'll see if the 120GB is just as impressive.
Published Tue, Sep 6 2011 11:56 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Kingston


Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 01 |

Last month we had our first taste of an internal HyperX branded SSD. The Kingston HyperX SSD 240GB performed very well and was the fastest 240GB SSD we'd tested at the time. This product isn't just about performance, even though it has a bunch of it. The HyperX SSD is available in what's called an Upgrade Bundle and the Upgrade Bundle is an all-inclusive package that elevates the SSD installation experience.

Of course, most of our readers aren't looking for an all-inclusive package; we just want a drive, desktop adapter bracket and for everything else to get out of the way. Kingston has a package for the rest of us as well and it has a competitive price that competes with some of the lowest priced next generation SandForce drives on the market. The Drive Only version includes the same high performance SSD, bracket for desktop use and the cost is quite low.

Today we're looking at the 120GB drive and seeing how the latest SandForce firmware works with these affordable capacity drives.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 02 |

Kingston did a really good job on the specifications list of the HyperX SSD. Here we see quite a few areas covered including some performance numbers. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's cover the basics. Kingston is making the HyperX SSD in two capacity sizes; 120GB and 240GB. Last month we reviewed the 240GB model and you can find that review here. Today we're looking at the price vs. performance vs. capacity champion, 120GB model.

With a read speed of around 555MB/s and a write speed of 510MB/s as per Kingston's specification speed, the 120GB HyperX SSD is offers the same performance as the larger model, but with half the capacity and at half the cost. Both HyperX SSDs are available in two configurations with different accessory packages. Kingston has built an all-inclusive HyperX Upgrade Bundle and made it a large selling point. The Upgrade Bundle includes a USB 2.0 enclosure, Acronis Disk Cloning Software, screw driver with three tips, SATA power and data cables and a desktop adapter bracket. The Drive Only version of the HyperX SSD includes more than the name would specify. With this package you get the HyperX SSD and a desktop adapter bracket.

All four versions are currently available at Newegg and the prices are now less than when we published the 240GB review. The HyperX Upgrade Bundle is now listed at 229.99 (120GB) and 489.99 (240GB), both after a mail-in-rebate. The Drive Only models are listed at 219.99 (120GB) and 469.99 (240GB) and also have a mail-in-rebate. As you already know, SandForce based products devalue quickly since so many manufacturers are making drives. We feel Kingston is in a position to play with pricing and in time the HyperX SSD product line will be able to compete with other products from companies known to move high volumes of products at lower margins. At this time Kingston doesn't have the most expensive Team SandForce SSD on the market, but they are not yet competing with the low price drives from ADATA and OCZ Technology.

When it comes to value added accessories and add-ons, Kingston provides one of the best accessory kits available if you opt for the HyperX Upgrade Bundle. The Drive Only bundle isn't too shabby either since it includes a desktop adapter bracket. Both kits includes a three year warranty and 24/7 Kingston Support.

Let's get down to business and get to the benchmarks!

The Packaging

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 03 |

Kingston put together an attractive package for their HyperX SSD. It should be noted that Kingston and SandForce managed to pull even more performance out of the drive after the first run of boxes were printed, so the media samples were shipped with the older, 525MB/s read and 480MB/s write numbers listed. The final retail drives should have the correct numbers or at least be covered with a sticker showing the correct specifications.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 04 |

On the back of the HyperX Upgrade Kit package we found some general information about SSDs and a detailed list of what is included in the package.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 05 |

The inner package keeps the drive secure in the middle of the box and away from the accessory add-ons.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 06 |

There are three layers of foam; the second is shown here and holds the 2.5" HDD/SSD USB external case that is used in conjunction with the included Acronis software to quickly and easily clone your existing drive. After the HyperX SSD holds the software from the original, you just simply swap the two drives.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 07 |

With the full package laid out we see everything. Kingston has the most extensive add-on package on the market at this time.

The Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 08 |

Ah, our first look at the HyperX and she is a looker. A majority of the case is made of aluminum, but as you can see, Kingston has added a nice touch of blue rubberized plastic to the drive.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 09 |

The back of the drive has the model number and capacity size listed on the sticker. The four mounting points are present and where they should be. Kingston used 1.5mm Torqx security screws so we weren't able to open the drive casing. If we were able to crack the case we'd see a SandForce SF-2281 controller and IMFT 25nm synchronous NAND flash.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 10 |

The side mounting points were located where they should be, so you won't have any issues installing the drive in your notebook mounting bracket.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 11 |

The SATA power and data ports are offset and where they should be. The desktop adapter bracket also offsets the drive so the power and data ports are in line with your 3.5" desktop drives.

Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 14 |

We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, Cooler Master, LSI, Corsair and Noctua.

You can read more about TweakTown's Storage Product Testing Workstation and the procedures followed to test products in this article.

In order to get the most performance out of your HyperX, or for that matter any other SATA III SSD, you need a motherboard with native SATA III built into the chipset. At this time your best performance will come from P67 and Z68 motherboards. I'm currently using a GIGABYTE P67A-UD5 and am very impressed with its performance.

ATTO Baseline Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34

ATTO is used by many disk manufacturers to determine the read and write speeds that will be presented to customers.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 15 |

In ATTO we achieved performance that exceeded Kingston's specifications, a nice surprise that we always like to run across. Our maximum read number was just under 560MB/s and our maximum write number was just over 521MB/s.

Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro

HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.00

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:

Benchmark: measures the performance

Info: shows detailed information

Health: checks the health status by using SMART

Error Scan: scans the surface for errors

Temperature display

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 16 |

In the HD Tune Pro read test we observed solid performance across the drive with just a little variation in the graph. The average speed of 433.5 MB/s is one of the best we've recorded with a single 2.5" SSD. The Kingston HyperX SSD ships with the latest firmware from SandForce and is responsible for a large portion of the drives stellar performance.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 17 |

The write test was a little rocky with a much wider variation. We still achieved an average write speed across the drive of 406MB/s. The minimum speed registered was 360MB/s and the maximum was 429MB/s.

Benchmarks - AIDA64 Random Access Time

AIDA64 Random Access Time

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.60

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

AIDA64 offers several different benchmarks for testing and optimizing your system or network. The Random Access test is one of very few if not only that will measure hard drives random access times in hundredths of milliseconds as oppose to tens of milliseconds.

Drives with only one or two tests displayed in the write test mean that they have failed the test and their Maximum and possibly their Average Scores were very high after the cached fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron and Toshiba.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 18 |

Access times are what most users feel after making the move to a solid state drive. Your programs open quicker and everything just seems to be more responsive. The Kingston HyperX SSD produced a solid line across the graph with absolutely no variation.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 19 |

The write access time produced the same results, an average of .18ms.

Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark


Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Download here:

CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.

Key Features:-

* Sequential reads/writes

* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes

* Text copy

* Change dialog design

* internationalization (i18n)

Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 20 |

Here is where we start to see some variation between the 120GB and 240GB SF-2281 controlled drives. The 120GB HyperX SSD isn't able to take advantage of high queue depths as well as the 240GB drives with the SF-2281. The difference is around 100MB/s with the 240GB having the upper hand.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 21 |

On the write side of the 4K tests we found that the 120GB HyperX SSD hits a wall at around 165MB/s.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage Hard Disk Tests

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0

Developer Homepage:

Product Homepage:

Buy It Here

PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.

FutureMark has developed a good set of hard disk tests for their PCMark Vantage Suite. Windows users can count on Vantage to show them how a drive will perform in normal day to day usage scenarios. For most users these are the tests that matter since many of the old hat ways to measure performance have become ineffective to measure true Windows performance.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 22 |

HDD1 - Windows Defender

HDD2 - Gaming

HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery

HDD4 - Vista Startup

HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker

HDD6 - Windows Media Center

HDD7 - Windows Media Player

HDD8 - Application Loading

In these daily use tests we get to see the new firmware from SandForce stretch its legs. The HyperX SSD performance is amazing when running day-to-day tasks.

PCMark Vantage - Drives with Data Testing

For a complete breakdown on the Drives with Data Testing please read this article. You will be able to perform this test at home with the files provided in the article, full instructions are included.

Brief Methodology

SSDs perform differently when used for a period of time and when data is already present on the drive. The purpose of the Drives with Data testing is to show how a drive performs in these 'dirty' states. SSDs also need time to recover, either with TRIM or onboard garbage collection methods.

Drives with Data Testing - 25%, 50%, 75% Full States and Dirty / Empty Test

Files needed for 60 (64GB), 120 (128GB), 240 (256GB)

60GB Fill - 15GB, 30GB, 45GB

120GB Fill - 30GB, 60GB, 90GB

240GB Fill - 60GB, 120GB, 160GB

Empty but Dirty - a test run just after the fill tests and shows if a drive needs time to recover or if performance is instantly restored.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 23 |

HDD1 - Windows Defender

HDD2 - Gaming

HDD3 - Windows Photo Gallery

HDD4 - Vista Startup

HDD5 - Windows Movie Maker

HDD6 - Windows Media Center

HDD7 - Windows Media Player

HDD8 - Application Loading

The real tests, though, come from when the drive has data present. This is when we see firmware and the hardware configuration come into play. Included on this chart is the OCZ Agility 3, a SandForce controlled drive paired with asynchronous flash. When the HyperX 120GB with synchronous flash has data present it slows quite a bit, but not as much as the asynchronous flash drives.

Benchmarks - AS SSD

AS SSD Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.3577.40358

Developer Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software

Product Homepage: Alex Intelligent Software

Download here:

AS determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without the use of the operating system caches.

In all synthetic tests the test file size is 1GB. AS can also determine the access time of the SSD, the access of which the drive is determined to read through the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke). The write access test is only to be met with a 1 GB big test file. At the end of the tests three values for the read and write as well as the overall performance will be issued. In addition to the calculated values which are shown in MB/s, they are also represented in IO per seconds (IOPS).

Note: AS SSD is a great benchmark for many tests, but since Crystal Disk Mark covers a broader range of 4K tests and HD Tune Pro covering sequential speeds, we will only use the Copy Benchmark from AS SSD.

- Copy Benchmark

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 24 |

Kingston and SandForce have really cranked up the file transfer performance of the SF-2281 controller. Here we see the ISO transfer speed running strong, but the Game and Program tests aren't too shabby either.

Benchmarks - Passmark

Passmark Advanced Multi-User Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.1

Developer Homepage:

Test Homepage:

Many users complain that I/O Meter is too complicated of a benchmark to replicate results so my quest to find an alternative was started. Passmark has added several multi-user tests that measure a hard drives ability to operate in a multi-user environment.

The tests use different settings to mimic basic multi-user operations as they would play out on your server. Variances is read / write percentage as well as random / sequential reads are common in certain applications, Web Servers read nearly 100% of the time while Database Servers write a small amount of data.

The Workstation test is the only single user environment and will be similar to how you use your system at home.

Kingston HyperX 120GB SandForce SF-2281 Solid State Drive Review 25 |

The Kingston HyperX SSD is a consumer class SSD, but it's based on an enterprise controller. If you are mainly using the drive or a cluster of drives in RAID for mainly read applications, you might consider the drive for some server level tasks.

Final Thoughts

The Kingston HyperX SSD product line has a lot of potential, but I don't think Kingston has laid all of their cards on the table just yet. Kingston is a large manufacturer with several product lines and an established SSD business. What the company has lacked in recent years was a high performance product to compete with Intel and the other Team SandForce manufacturers. At this time I believe Kingston is the largest company wearing a Team SandForce hat. If they choose to put some weight behind the HyperX SSD, every SandForce product coming from the company could be a long ball. Kingston's buying power has to be massive and when they want to make it happen the HyperX SSD could easily be the lowest priced SSD on the market and I think that will happen...but in a month or two.

When it comes to performance out of the box, the Kingston HyperX SSD delivers in abundance. Armed with the latest firmware we achieved some of the best performance recorded to date with a 120GB drive. This is real performance that you can see in the transfer speeds and feel in the access times. The performance truly matches the specifications put out by Kingston and then some.

The real question then comes down to the accessory package. Users who don't mind installing Windows and all of their programs will be fine with the Drive Only kit. With this option you get a high quality drive and a desktop adapter bracket. Users looking for an easy upgrade that goes painless and trouble free will want to take a close look at the HyperX Upgrade Kit. This kit adds a bit to the overall cost, but allows you to save a bunch of time by cloning your existing drive. The rest of the kit aids in the processes and includes everything you'll need.

As it sits now, Kingston is knocking on the low cost door. Given that the actual drive is constructed nicer than nearly all competing SandForce based drives, most of us would be willing to pay a little more for the HyperX SSD. Then again, we're all looking for the very best bang for the buck and in this saturated market of Team SandForce players where performance is very close, the all mighty Dollar can be a powerful motivator. Give it a couple more weeks and we'll see the HyperX SSD 120GB 'Drive Only' selling for 199.99 or less. That's when to jump on this product and don't look back, it's a helluva drive.

What do awards mean? Click for details!

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf

Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

Related Tags

Newsletter Subscription

Latest News

View More News

Latest Reviews

View More Reviews

Latest Articles

View More Articles