Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0, The Value USB 3.0 SSD

This is the DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0. It looks like a fat thumb drive:

While not quite as sleek looking as the Enyo, it’s far more compact. Other than the thickness, the DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0 looks like your standard thumb drive. Its performance however is far from typical.

Inside the drive is a Jmicron JMF612 controller, the same controller used in Kingston’s value SSDs. Kingston connects the JMF612 via two ribbon cables to a separate PCB with four Toshiba NAND devices on it. Remember SSDs get their performance by reading from/writing to many NAND devices in parallel, so the use of four chips helps.

The result is a thumb drive that performs more like a value SSD rather than a traditional thumb drive. With the USB 3.0 connector built in, there’s no need to carry around an extra cable. Well, not exactly.

While I had no problems using the DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0 in my test board’s USB 2.0 ports, the recommended method to ensure USB 2.0 compatibility is to use the supplied Y-cable. The USB 3.0 spec allows for more power over a single port than USB 2.0, I suspect on normal systems that don’t have higher powered USB 2.0 ports you’ll need to use this cable for the drive to function properly.

Carrying the Y-cable is a pain but one way or another you’re going to have to carry around some additional bulk if you want an external USB 3.0 SSD these days.

The performance Kingston’s drive delivers is respectable:

Performance
  Sequential Read (128KB) Sequential Write (128KB) Random Read (4KB) Random Write (4KB)
Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0 USB 3.0 89.7 MB/s 67.2 MB/s 5.6 MB/s 2.75 MB/s
Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0 USB 2.0 33.2 MB/s 27.0 MB/s 5.6 MB/s 2.75 MB/s
OCZ Enyo 128GB USB 3.0 178.1 MB/s 169.6 MB/s 21.9 MB/s 7.9 MB/s
OCZ Enyo 128GB USB 2.0 35.0 MB/s 31.1 MB/s 7.8 MB/s 7.4 MB/s
Kingston SSDNow V Series 30GB SATA 181.8 MB/s 52.6 MB/s 9.4 MB/s 2.12 MB/s

Sequential writes were over 60MB/s on USB 3.0, pretty much on-par with a mainstream internal hard drive. Random access is still faster than any mechanical drive. Peak performance is much lower than a standard SSD simply because there aren't as many NAND devices to stripe reads/writes across.

Like the Enyo, there’s no TRIM support but the drive is fairly resilient. The HDTach pass below was taken after I filled the drive and ran a 4KB random write torture test for 20 minutes across all LBAs:


Kingston drive after torture

Read speed is mostly unaffected, and although minimum write speed has dropped you can see the drive is trying its best to clean itself up. Another pass of HDTach after being idle for 30 minutes showed a slight improvement in performance:


The valleys are still there, but they’ve all been pulled up a bit. Subsequent writes should continue to bring performance up.

You’ll notice from our internal shots of the DT Ultimate that Kingston uses a lot of thermal padding inside the drive. The good news is that the pads help, the bad news is that under load I recorded a maximum drive surface temperature of 100.4F. Kingston claims that the drive’s operating temperature ranges from 32F - 140F, and I never the DT Ultimate 3.0 come close to that 140F maximum. I have to admit the temperatures do bother me but Kingston warrantees the drive for 5 years. Just don’t use it for your only copy of any data and you should be covered.

The DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0 is a more value oriented drive than OCZ’s Enyo, which is reflected in its pricing:

Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0 Pricing
  16GB 32GB 64GB
Kingston DT Ultimate 3.0 $89 $138 $270

Unfortunately, cost-per-GB is actually higher than OCZ's Enyo. A 16GB drive will set you back $89, while the 64GB drive we tested today will run you $270. Unless you're absolutely married to the smaller physical size I see no point in going for the 64GB model as OCZ's Enyo is cheaper. The 16GB and 32GB drives reach price points that OCZ doesn't compete at however.

Final Words

We’re on the verge of seeing new SSDs for the high end consumer market and as we get them I’m certain we’ll see more products like OCZ’s Enyo and the DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0 hit the market. Technology does trickle down and for those of you looking for fast external storage, we do have some competent (although pricey) options.

To put the sort of performance we're talking about here in perspective, you can copy a full dual-layer 9GB DVD image from an SSD to the OCZ Enyo in under 55 seconds over USB 3.0. Kingston's DataTraveler Ultimate 3.0 will do the same in less than two and a half minutes.

It’ll still be years before we get this sort of performance at throw-away pricing, but at least you have the choice if you’re shopping today.

The OCZ Enyo
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  • vol7ron - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    Yes, but you should be thinking of using this more as a drive for the external OS.

    Reusing that horrible controller is a good move in this case; using it for sequential reads/writes is all that's needed. It should also help keep the cost down.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    Anand,

    I'm guessing based on your text that the 2nd and 3rd graphs are reversed?
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    Things like this are why Intel needs to figure out how to get USB3 into their Sandy Bridge chipsets. USB3 devices probably won't be widespread at launch, but in 3 years they certainly will be, there is too much extra performance to ignore. Reply
  • theagentsmith - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    Hey Anand
    as you said the SF-1200 is the most advanced SSD controller out there, and you recommend it though you warned about possible issues when going with a not tried and true platform.

    Well, I bought a Corsair Force 60GB drive last month only to discover that the drive suddenly disappear when the PC is idling, causing Windows crash, and it's not detected from the BIOS until you cycle power off and on.

    There is a 26-page topic on Corsair forums about this, it would be great if you investigate a little bit on this issue. Is it Corsair only related? Does it happen on all modes (like TRIM on or off, AHCI or IDE mode etc...)?

    http://forum.corsair.com/v3/showthread.php?t=88341
    Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - link

    When you say that TRIM is not supported, is that a limitation of this particular device?

    Or is this a limitation of the USB3 mass storage interface? (Because, god knows, after all the problems that arise when other ATA commands can't be transferred over USB, eg SMART, or command queuing, I guess it was a bit much to hope that this be fixed for USB3. I mean, they've only had, what, 6 years to work on this.)
    Reply
  • mino - Wednesday, September 15, 2010 - link

    Why on earth would oe want to go SATA->USB3->USB3->PCIE when he can go just SATA->Southbridge ?

    USB is a very good thing for the future but they screwed up on 2 things:
    1) mixing 2 TOTALLY different topologies on a single cable (read bulky cables)
    2) still insufficient power envelope (at least Power eSATA got this right)

    USB3 for (even SSD class) sticks ? Great.
    USB3 for SSD connectivity via cable? eSATA is faster, cheaper, uses less power (controllers) and has bigger power envelope.
    Reply
  • name99 - Wednesday, September 15, 2010 - link

    "Why on earth would oe want to go SATA->USB3->USB3->PCIE when he can go just SATA->Southbridge ?"

    Uhh --- because not every person in the world has a box that they can easily open to get at the SATA ports? What about if you have a portable or an iMac-style computer. Just because SSDs are expensive and low capacity now doesn't mean they are going to stay that way forever.
    Reply
  • kvoz123 - Thursday, September 16, 2010 - link

    1. I have good experience with OCZ Throttle 32 GB (USB 2 + eSATA ports). It cost me about 90 USD and it is speedy -- 90/35 MB/s in eSATA mode and about 32/32 MB/s is USB 2.0 mode (I never saw faster drive in this class).

    2. What about new SuperTalent USB 3.0/2.0 drives? I would like see some comparison with competitors.
    Reply

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