Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB Solid State Drive Review

This isn't just another HyperX 3K review, like the 99 others you've seen. This is the first real and true review of the HyperX 3K, now with working TRIM and it's available to end-users.

Manufacturer: Kingston
16 minutes & 32 seconds read time


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When Kingston developed their solid state drive strategy they realized enthusiasts and power users weren't going to accept reduced performance when working with incompressible data. The HyperX product series has been around for a very long time and when consumers see HyperX branding they know premium components and class leading performance is just part of the package. Kingston still wanted to attack the enthusiast SSD market with a two prong approach. Their solution was to simply build an SSD that was superior to competitor's flagship offering, by using 5K P/E cycle flash on the HyperX SSD. The second prong attack came from the HyperX 3K, an SSD built using 3K P/E flash, the common flash we see on many other enthusiast level SSDs. Both the HyperX and HyperX 3K use Intel synchronous flash, the good stuff we like to see, which offers higher performance than asynchronous flash that is often used in competitor's "tier 2" SSDs.

Now I have you wondering what a P/E cycle is and if a 5K or 3K is any good. Before we get to that, let me toss in another P/E or Program Erase value, this one for SLC flash, 100K.

The P/E cycle doesn't have anything to do with speed; it is a value for endurance. Every few years we all buy tires for our car. Tires are rated several different ways, just like NAND flash and one of those ratings is endurance, also just like with SSDs. Tire A is rated at 5K miles and is "Z-Rated", a speed rating that says the tire can run up to 149 MPH. Tire B is rated for 3K miles, but it is also Z-Rated, it can handle speeds up to 149 MPH. Both tires offer the same adhesion level, they stick to the ground the same, the only difference is one will last longer than the other. With our performance cars we replace the tires every few years and it doesn't really matter if you've worn the tires all the way. A new tire technology is available so it's time for a change, just like enthusiasts and SSDs. On our minivans we run the tires until the day after they wear through because we don't drive mainstream cars the same way, just like mainstream SSD users.

Let me tie all of this together real quickly. For enthusiasts who change SSDs as often as car enthusiast's change tires, the HyperX 3K offers a better value than the longer lasting HyperX. For most of us, it's like getting on EBay and seeing a Lamborghini that cost $200K new, but the owner put 60 miles on it and now the owner is asking $140K. He pretty much spent $10K for every mile he put on the car. The good thing about consumer SSDs, under normal use 3K P/E cycles will last for five to eight years. 5K P/E rated flash will last even longer, I would say by the time a HyperX with 5K P/E cycles wears out under normal use, we will be well into SATA IV or even SATA V.

Kingston first with 5-Series FW with working TRIM

In the summary on the main page I stated this isn't your regular HyperX 3K review and it isn't. This is the first review of the Kingston HyperX 3K built with Kingston's version of firmware 5.0.3, the working TRIM FW. 5.0.3 that brings TRIM back to SandForce based drives after a six month absence.

With Intel's new RAID 0 TRIM drivers working, TRIM takes on a whole new role for enthusiasts. Products like the HyperX 3K 120GB are quickly taking preference over single 240GB drives since two 120GB models in RAID 0 perform much faster than a single 240GB SSD. That story is coming soon, but it's something we will touch on today as well.

Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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Kingston does a really good job publishing SSD specifications as you can see. Since the HyperX and HyperX 3K are so close to each other we chose to include both product specifications in this section. The HyperX 3K ships in four user capacity sizes - 90GB, 120GB, 240GB and a large 480GB. Each capacity size is available in two different packages; the model we are looking at today is a bare drive with a desktop adapter bracket, screws and a paper manual. The Upgrade Bundle includes all of those items in addition to an external USB 2.0 case, SATA and USB cables, screw driver with interchangeable heads and drive cloning software. The Upgrade Bundle SKUs usually cost around $20 more than the regular models.

The sequential read and write speeds for the HyperX and HyperX 3K are identical - 550MB/s sequential read and 510MB/s sequential write. Kingston gives different numbers for IOPS performance, but this is the result of the HyperX shipping with 3-Series firmware on release and the HyperX 3K shipping with 5-Series. With the same firmware, both drives should give identical or nearly identical real-world performance.

Today we're focusing on the HyperX 3K 120GB, but keeping our parallelism and compare it to the HyperX 120GB. Newegg lists the 120GB 3K at $109.99 and the HyperX 120GB is at Newegg for $189.99. Both models have the same three year warranty.


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This is the first time we've reviewed a Kingston SSD in a Stand Alone (bare drive) package. Kingston produced an attractive, colorful and informal package that stands out from most other SSD boxes.

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On the back we found some general information about the drive and a detailed package contents section at the bottom.

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The inner package secures the drive very well with foam all around the actual drive, the desktop adapter bracket separate from the drive so you don't have to worry about anything getting scratched up and a nice paper manual to get you started.

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The accessory package is on par with what we see from other manufactures which fits in line with the pricing and Kingston's HyperX 3K strategy.

Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB SSD

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Looking at the printed specifications it's easy to dismiss the HyperX 3K as just another Team SandForce drive, but it isn't. 3K flash, three year warranty, standalone package with a bracket, these are typical of just an average SSD, but look at the actual drive. Kingston builds a solid drive that outshines nearly everything else on the market when it comes to the physical package.

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On the back you'll find the model and serial number, capacity size and the bottom mounting points that are drilled and tapped into a solid aluminum base. The industry is starting to move to very thin, very soft aluminum to save on expenses, but the HyperX 3K is still a solid build all the way around.

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To date, the HyperX and HyperX 3K are still be strongest cases we've seen.

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The SATA power and data connectors are offset to where they should be and the included desktop adapter bracket also offsets the drive so the cables are closer to in line with 3.5" form factor HDDs.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: AVADirect, GIGABYTE, 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 fully utilize SATA III you need a system with native SATA III support. P67, Z68, Z77 and X79 systems are preferred, but AMD has made advances in their newer SATA III systems as well. Older X58 systems with Marvell based SATA III ports do not deliver the same high levels of performance, so we recommend newer systems when available.

Today we are testing the Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB with Kingston's new 5.0.3 firmware. This firmware fixes the TRIM issue introduced in 5.0.1 and carried over to 5.0.2. We are very excited about this release because TRIM allows your drive to retain performance over time. Let's get started!

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.

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Using ATTO we established our baseline performance of nearly 560MB/s read and 532MB/s write speed. These are a little higher than Kingston's claimed performance, but we're getting used to companies sandbagging claimed performance.

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.

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Technically 5.0.3 is a little slower than 5.0.2 out of the box, but we rarely see it since the performance drops off fairly fast without TRIM. Now that we have TRIM and for that matter, now that YOU have TRIM with the HyperX, HyperX 3K and other Kingston SSDs based on SandForce technology, nobody has to worry about performance dropping off.

In our sequential read test the Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB performed admirably with an average speed of just over 421MB/s. This test uses compressible data; we'll look at incompressible sequential tests a little later on.

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The write speed is where we see real differences between compressible and incompressible data. In this sequential write test we see the HyperX 3K 120GB writing incompressible data at 406MB/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 cache fills. This usually happens only with controllers manufactured by JMicron and Toshiba.

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Read access time is the first thing you notice when moving from a mechanical HDD to an SSD.

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Write access is a little higher with drives based on SandForce architecture because SandForce does not use an external DRAM buffer to fluff the results. The writes go straight to the flash processor unit where the data is compressed if possible and stored on the flash. With TRIM in place the writes take place much faster since the drive doesn't need to do a full read, erase and write cycle in most cases.

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.

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The 120GB and smaller SSDs based on SandForce architecture are being surpassed these days by solutions based on newer Marvell controller technology when it comes to 4K read speeds. The Marvell drives ramp up very well with NCQ, asking for several pieces of data at the same time. This is an area once dominated by SandForce, but in this capacity size, the Marvell drives are simply doing it a little better.

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4K write access times also slow down compared to Marvell solutions in the 120GB capacity size and smaller when working with incompressible data. Looking at the sequential writes with incompressible data, the HyperX 3K has the same brick wall we see with other SandForce based drives, this one just happens to put on the breaks at 180MB/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.

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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

Real-world performance is still very high with the 120GB HyperX 3K since most daily use files are compressible and the pauses built into the software code don't allow your SSD to run at full speed anyhow. To get past these limits programs need to be written to take advantage of the amazing speed offered by SSDs. Still, the HyperX 3K is very fast with the software we have now.

Benchmarks - 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.

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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

With older 5-Series firmware this is where we'd see TRIM crushing the performance of SandForce drives, but as you can see now by the green bar, performance recovers amazingly well as you delete your unneeded data.

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

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In AS SSD's Copy Tests we move data from one area of the drive to another, just like when you cut and paste in your own system. This is an area where SandForce has worked really hard to increase performance and as you can see the hard work has paid off.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: BETA 11

So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? First of all, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests, you can run a full test or just the read or the write test or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K DQ16.

Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. The author, Anvil on several international forums has been updating the software steadily and is adding new features every couple of months.

The software can be used several different ways and to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.

Fill Compressible Data

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Incompressible Data

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Like all SandForce drives, the performance decreases when moving from compressible data to incompressible data. The HyperX 3K 120GB takes a dive as well, but the capacity size makes for a more dramatic dip.

4K 32QD Random Read

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4K 32QD Random Write

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I hate to say it, but we just found a new 'issue' with 5.0.3. This wasn't found before now because we were only looking at 240GB drives even though we had the FW unofficially from another source.

Both of our 120GB drives with 5.0.3 scored between 26K and 28K in QD32 read IOPS. Our FW 3.3.2 120GB drives score around 40K in this same read test (the green one). The good thing is this drop off takes place at a queue depth of 32, an area where most consumers never get their drive to.

The QD32 4K random write is very snappy with a 92K IOPS reading.

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 power user system at home.

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Kingston advertises the HyperX 3K as an enthusiast product, but with a price of less than $1 per GB and very high performance, we're hearing more stories about companies using consumer SSDs in their servers. These tests are for those looking for light use enterprise numbers.

Final Thoughts

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The SSD market is changing rapidly for enthusiasts. Low prices for 120GB models and the introduction of RAID 0 TRIM for Intel Z77 based systems means it's now possible to spend roughly $200 and get 1000MB/s sequential read and write performance. A few years ago it took thousands of dollars to get 1000MB/s, even with consumer Western Digital Raptor HDDs and an enterprise RAID controller off EBay. 1GB/s is nothing to laugh at, it is an amazing amount of sequential performance and unlike spinners, the latency doesn't spike to sky high levels as you add drives to an array.

We're getting a little ahead of ourselves though because today we tested a single 120GB HyperX 3K. Kingston won the new LSI/SF TRIM race, this surprised us since we expected any number of smaller, more enthusiast focused companies to release 5.0.3 first. Even though Kingston's HyperX line is targeted at enthusiasts, the company on a whole always seems a little too 'corporate' when looked at through my enthusiast glasses. Not long ago Intel stated that the overclocker market has become a four billion dollar a year industry, so smaller enthusiast companies really don't stand a chance now that the big power houses are moving in.

When it comes to your data, this really isn't a bad thing because big companies bring massive validation budgets and massive validation labs. For the computer market, there really isn't anything worse than losing your data. Kingston services the enterprise market with several types of products and their validation lab has to be massive given the broad range of products they offer. With that in mind, it makes sense for Kingston to release 5.0.3 first because they were most likely the first to finish validation. The end result is we can finally say officially that end-users have access to TRIM on SandForce drives running 5-Series FW, if you have a Kingston SSD based on SandForce architecture.

When it comes to the performance of the HyperX 3K 120GB, it is pretty good. If this review went live when we received the drive five months ago and TRIM was working, I would have said the performance was great. In that small amount of time Plextor upstaged Team SandForce in the 120/128GB capacity size with the M3 Pro and M5 Pro, the fastest drives in this capacity size.

The saving grace for Kingston and other SandForce Driven partners in the 120/128GB capacity size is that SandForce drives perform much better in RAID than drives based on Marvell controllers. The Marvell drives put a lot of emphasis on background garbage collection, cleaning the drives on the backend during idle time, but the SandForce drives stay fast as long as TRIM is working. With RAID 0 TRIM now a reality on Z77 systems, HyperX 3K would be a perfect low cost drive to double up. We hope to bring that story to you soon.

We've used 5.0.3 on a 240GB drive for around two weeks now and not ran into an issue in a live, daily use system. If you have a Kingston SSD with a SandForce controller in it, feel confident in the upgrade. Your long term performance will increase and it's hard to turn down free performance. We did find a new issue with the 120GB drive at very high read queue depths, but if you are reading at QD32, then you should have an SLC drive anyhow because you are running enterprise workloads.

On paper the HyperX 3K looks like many other SandForce consumer SSDs, but Kingston managed to add a little flare by building a drive with impeccable build quality, truly the nicest on the market matched only by the original HyperX. If you plan to buy and use your next SSD for ten years then opt for the HyperX with 5K P/E cycles, but if you are an enthusiast planning on using your SSD for two to three years, then the HyperX 3K will serve it's propose and still have enough life to be passed down to family members who surf the web and last them another few years. Mainstream users who surf the web more than they run WinRAR and Quickpar will love the HyperX 3K as well. With a price comparable to competitor's asynchronous flash SSDs and much lower than the two Plextor performance offerings, the HyperX 3K has a really good price vs. performance balance.

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