Kingston's A1000 is the company's first foray into the growing entry-level NVMe SSD market, and their second consumer NVMe SSD. The A1000 features Toshiba's latest 64-layer 3D TLC NAND flash memory and Phison's second-generation PS5008-E8 NVMe SSD controller. We've previously reviewed that same basic combination in the MyDigitalSSD SBX and found it to be the best drive yet for establishing the viability of the entry-level NVMe market segment.

Kingston brings a few potential advantages to the table that MyDigitalSSD doesn't offer. Kingston is one of the largest fabless memory companies, and they buy DRAM and NAND flash by the wafer. They can perform their own binning and packaging, which gives them extra flexibility in choosing what grade of memory goes into which product line. Kingston also has very close technical and financial relationships with both Phison and Toshiba Memory.

Even before running the benchmarks, there are several differences apparent between the Kingston A1000 and the MyDigitalSSD SBX. Both drives are clearly derived from the same reference design, but the A1000 seems to use an updated PCB layout with fewer unused pads for debugging (and a slightly different color). The A1000 also seems to feature a newer Kingston-specific firmware version, and it is configured to reserve a larger spare area than the SBX (hence the 480GB vs 512GB usable capacities). MyDigitalSSD and Kingston both give their E8 drives a 5-year warranty, but Kingston gives their drive a slightly lower write endurance rating and less optimistic performance specifications. Kingston is also not offering a 120GB-class capacity option with the A1000, instead starting the product line at 240GB.

Kingston A1000 Specifications
Capacity 240 GB 480 GB 960 GB
Model Number SA1000M8/240G SA1000M8/480G SA1000M8/960G
Controller Phison PS5008-E8
NAND Flash Toshiba 256Gb 64-layer BiCS3 3D TLC
Form-Factor, Interface M.2-2280, PCIe 3.0 x2, NVMe 1.3
Sequential Read 1500 MB/s 1500 MB/s 1500 MB/s
Sequential Write 800 MB/s 900 MB/s 1000 MB/s
Random Read IOPS 100k IOPS 100k IOPS 120k IOPS
Random Write IOPS 80k IOPS 90k IOPS 100k IOPS
Pseudo-SLC Caching Supported
DRAM Buffer Yes
TCG Opal Encryption No
Warranty 5 years
MTBF 2,000,000 hours
Write Endurance 150 TB
0.3 DWPD
300 TB
0.3 DWPD
600 TB
0.3 DWPD
Price $69.99 (29¢/GB) $144.77 (30¢/GB) $279.99 (29¢/GB)

The Phison PS5008-E8 controller is one of their two second-generation NVMe SSD controllers. Phison's first NVMe controller was the PS5007-E7, which was used primarily with Toshiba 15nm MLC NAND flash in consumer SSDs and a few enterprise SSDs. Phison's second generation consists of the E8 and E12 controllers, splitting the family into low-end and high-end parts. E8 hit the market first with drives shipping by the end of 2017, while the E12 controller is currently sampling with drive shipments expected later this year. (We received an engineering sample with the E12 controller last week, and will be reviewing it soon.).

The E8 controller features a PCIe 3 x2 host interface and has four NAND channels, so at first glance it seems clearly inferior to the earlier E7 controller that aspired to be high-end. However, the E8 is getting paired with much more advanced NAND than the planar MLC the E7 was used with, and the E8 controller features numerous architectural refinements over the E7, especially in its error correction capabilities. The end result is that drives using the E8 controller are able to offer a much more attractive balance of price and performance. The upcoming E12 controller should surpass the E7 in every way and we expect it to provide better performance and power efficiency than the E7 even when comparing E7+MLC against E12+TLC.

The Competition

MyDigitalSSD was first to market with their Phison E8 drive, and they set an aggressive pricing standard. With this product generation, Phison doesn't seem to have scored quite as many design wins, so we haven't seen the same flood of alternatives from Phison's usual turnkey SSD customers. The MyDigitalSSD SBX seems to be the closest competition for the Kingston A1000 in both price and technology.

Silicon Motion's low-end NVMe SSD controller for this generation is the SM2263, also available in the DRAMless SM2263XT variant. That latter controller has seen a few design wins in the retail market, most notably in the HP EX900. The SM2263(XT) features a PCIe x4 interface compared to the x2 interface used by the Phison E8, but the host interface is seldom the bottleneck for low-end NVMe SSDs.

Silicon Motion has been making more of an impact with their SM2262 high-end NVMe controller, which has proven to be a huge success compared to their disappointing first-generation SM2260 controller. The SM2262 is shipping in drives like the Intel 760p, HP EX920 and ADATA SX8200. Sale prices occasionally bring these drives down near the price level of the Kingston A1000.

This year, the high end of the NVMe SSD market is more competitive than ever before. Samsung still dominates with their premium MLC-based 970 PRO, but the more reasonable TLC-based 970 EVO faces stiff competition from both SM2262 drives and Western Digital's second-generation WD Black SSD.

There are also still some older cheaper NVMe SSDs on the market using 32L 3D NAND or even planar NAND. The Intel 600p and first-generation WD Black can't keep up with newer drives for performance, but they may still occasionally be found at low prices. The Patriot Hellfire and Team T-Force Cardea are Phison E7 drives with 15nm MLC, comparable to Kingston's existing KC1000 NVMe SSD.

In spite of the wide array of NVMe competitors now on the market, the most important competition for the Kingston A1000 still comes from SATA SSDs. It's relatively easy for a NVMe SSD priced like the A1000 to make an attractive value proposition in comparison to premium NVMe drives, but it's much harder for the A1000 to prove that it is a worthwhile upgrade from mainstream SATA SSDs that are much cheaper.

AnandTech 2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.6
Spectre/Meltdown microcode and OS patches current as of May 2018
AnandTech Storage Bench - The Destroyer
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  • romrunning - Monday, July 02, 2018 - link

    Any NVMe drive that doesn't beat the Intel 600p in every category shouldn't be made. I really wish all mfgs would keep NVMe drives to at least PCI x4 & 8 channels with a minimum performance level that is much higher than SATA. The bar for the next tech level of storage products should be at a higher level than the previous.

    Forget the low-end marked for NVMe. SATA can easily take care of any needs there.
    Reply
  • peevee - Monday, July 02, 2018 - link

    Given that only Samsung barely saturates PCIex2, and only on artificial tests, at this point even x4 is useless, let alone x8. They'll need many more channels.

    Actually, I'd prefer x1 for ultra-low-power, if it is fully saturated in more or less real-life tests (like AT's "Light"), vs x4 which only saturates 1/10th of x1 capacity.
    Reply
  • romrunning - Tuesday, July 03, 2018 - link

    I was thinking more along the lines of every mfg creating NVMe drives have to attain to a minimum performance level. It becomes easier to understand what is higher-performing from the end-user's perspective. So if NVMe's minimum performance level is 2x SATA, then anytime you see NVMe you know it's better than SATA. Too bad whatever storage consortium finalized specs for NVMe didn't require min perf levels for storage.

    It's annoy to me when these mfgs put out "new" drives that don't exceed the older tech.
    Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, July 02, 2018 - link

    " I really wish all mfgs would keep NVMe drives to at least PCI x4 & 8 channels with a minimum performance level that is much higher than SATA. "

    some wag put it, "you sell the sizzle, not the steak".
    Reply
  • Gunbuster - Tuesday, July 03, 2018 - link

    Okay Kingston, reviews are done, feel free to swap in cheaper/slower NAND chips. ;) Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, July 03, 2018 - link

    In the ATSB Heavy Data Rate chart, for the 1TB 970 EVO, I think you have the full and empty numbers transposed. I.e. you show 525 empty and 635 full. I assume that should be 635 empty and 525 full? Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Tuesday, July 03, 2018 - link

    They're not transposed. I'm not sure what happened with those test runs, but I'm re-running them. I do know that Samsung drives lie about when they've finished a secure erase, so it's possible the "empty" drive test run was still working on an erase operation in the background even though I try to ensure all drives have plenty of idle time to finish cleaning up after they claim to be done erasing. Reply
  • leexgx - Wednesday, July 04, 2018 - link

    Surprised it works like that when using secure erase, zapping page area and all NAND chips should not take long to do, also what can i use to use secure erase on all drives (seagate own tool seems to lack it, it has full erase but it's not secure erase and it killed my seagate firecuda doing it) Reply
  • SanX - Tuesday, July 03, 2018 - link

    Everyone here knows that in the shops the average Joe will see on the product tag "Sequential Read 1500 MB/s" which is plain lie and conveniently keeps mum about this. Which test gives 1500, show me? At best 2-3 times less.

    This site degraded long ago to serve salespeople.
    Reply
  • rocky12345 - Wednesday, July 04, 2018 - link

    Great review but this drive does seem rather unimpressive for sure. It acts like it doe snot have a dram cache at all since most if it's scores are well below the mark. I like Kingston for their memory products which work well in the systems I build for my clients. These NVMe drives that are considered lower end give a false picture of great speed and performance because NVMe drives are known for their great performance level. Then you get these drives trying to break into this sector and do not perform any where close to what you would expect from a NVMe drive. Heck my samsung 860 Pro 512GB Sata SSD can get better numbers in a lot of the tests done in the review than these cheap low end NVMe drives and it is only based off of the Sata port and limited to a max 600MB's from the port itself that is kinda sad if you think about it really. Reply

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