Kingston HyperX MAX 3.0 USB SSD

Author
Aron Schatz
Posted
February 10, 2011
Manufacturer
Kingston
Product Page
HyperX MAX 3.0
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193283
Kingston HyperX MAX 3.0 USB SSD
The Kingston HyperX MAX 3.0 is the fastest USB 3 device we've tested so far. If you need really fast external storage, this is it.

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Page 1
Introduction

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USB 3 has been out in the market for some time and while we've got a few different flash drives and other such items, Kingston thought it was time to put USB 3 bandwidth to work. Let's say you need a really fast external storage drive for transferring large files from one place to another. Kingston's HyperX MAX 3.0 SSD is here to fulfill that need. This is a SSD crammed into a USB 3 hard drive dock.

About Kingston

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Founded in 1987 with a single product offering, Kingston now offers more than 2,000 memory products that support nearly every device that uses memory, from computers, servers and printers to MP3 players, digital cameras and mobile phones. In 2009, the company's sales reached $4.1 billion.

With global headquarters in Fountain Valley, California, Kingston employs more than 4,000 people worldwide. Regarded as one of the “Best Companies to Work for in America” by Fortune magazine, Kingston’s tenets of respect, loyalty, flexibility and integrity create an exemplary corporate culture. Kingston believes that investing in its people is essential, and each employee is a vital part of Kingston’s success.

Kingston serves an international network of distributors, resellers, retailers and OEM customers on six continents. The company also provides contract manufacturing and supply chain management services for semiconductor manufacturers and system OEMs.

http://www.kingston.com/company/default.asp
Page 2
Packaging

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Since this is a HyperX product, Kingston adds a bit of blue flare to signal the high performance product. All of the HyperX line (except for some special editions) are blue. The box has a window that shows the drive size on the drive itself. Kingston used some smart packaging here.

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The back of the packaging contains additional specifications and to remind you that the product is backwards compatible with USB 2. If you only had USB 2, this is one of those things you'd probably want to pass on, though.

Marketing Summary

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HyperX performance for fast and durable file transfer.

HyperX® MAX 3.0 is an external USB 3.0 drive designed to make file transfer and back up faster and easier. Its durable casing and solid-state Flash components make the drive damage-resistant. It’s ideal for professional photographers and videographers, who can quickly and easily back up their high-resolution images and video, or anyone on the go.

http://www.kingston.com/flash/max.asp


Package Contents

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The Max kit includes the drive and the USB 3 micro to A cable. Since this is basically a flash drive, the documentation wasn't needed. It is plug in and go. It should work with every operating system that has USB mass storage support.
Page 3
HyperX MAX 3.0

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Nealy all the Kingston HyperX products are clad in blue and the MAX 3.0 is no different. Since USB 3 says to use blue connectors, this is a good fit for a SSD paired with a USB 3 controller. The enclosure is pretty tight and there are no visible screw holes, but you can see a seem along the entire device so it isn't sealed. The SuperSpeed logo is on the left and is located above the micro-USB 3 port. The HyperX MAX 3.0 logo is laser etched and silver in color. The MAX doesn't look too bad, just make sure it is secure as it isn't a cheap flash drive.

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SuperSpeed USB 3 added a few new pins to the mix. Remember from our first USB 3 article, there are an additional 4 pins. Here is the one part where USB 3 got it wrong. The new cables are not backwards compatible with older devices. Let's say you just have a USB 3 micro to standard cable. You can't charge up your cell phone with it since micro-USB 3 added another block of connections. There must have been a way to do what they did with the standard A connection so the physical port is the same... but they didn't. Instead, consumers will be floundering figuring out why their "backwards compatible" stuff isn't compatible. As for this product, the MAX can be used with USB 2 hosts since the host connection is the same physical connector.

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The bottom of the MAX contains a label with the serial numbers and other information along with four small rubber feet. The screws are located under these feet.
Page 4
HyperX MAX 3.0 Cont'd

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Kingston sure didn't make it easy to get the screws off. It is one thing to hide the screws, but Kingston went one step further and put epoxy on the screw itself. This covered the screw head and made it a nice and flat surface. Once cleaned with a solvent, the epoxy wiped away and the screw was removed.

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Kingston really doesn't want you to open the drive. When we opened it up, we can see the two pieces of technology that make up the MAX. To the left is the USB 3 to Serial ATA 3 adapter and to the right is the V+100 SSD that gives the speed and data storage. The V+100 is an update to the original V+. It shrinks the NAND packaging to 32nm and the controller received a firmware update. It is still very fast and performs well.

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The last issue you'll face is the pink thermal pad which really sticks to the SSD. We can't stress enough how difficult it was to pry this off. It is not something you should do. It is our job to do this to see what controller we are dealing with.

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If this setup looks familiar, it is the same one used in the V+100 SSD. Really, this is a V+100 SSD with a USB 3 adapter. That's it.

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That pink gooey thermal pad made it tough to see anything on the NAND chips, but we're confident that these are the same types found in the V+100.
Page 5
Installation

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Since the HyperX MAX 3.0 is a USB mass storage device, it works just like any other flash drive would on a supported operating system. You just plug in and it works. The drive is formatted with FAT32, but you can change this to whatever you'd like. We opted to switch to EXT4 for use on Linux. When the drive is plugged into a USB 3 host, the activity light will be blue, when plugged into a USB 2 host, it is green.

Performance

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Since we've seen this controller before, the raw performance of the drive should be the same as the normal Serial ATA variant alone. The difference is with the USB 3 to Serial ATA adapter. The benchmark above was run when the drive was new. We wiped it and ran the destructive read/write benchmark built into Ubuntu's disk utility program.

This synthetic test shows the raw speed that the USB 3 subsystem can handle. The drive is chugging away a bit less than its top speed, so it must be USB 3's protocol overhead causing a minor slowdown. This is to be expected. Compared to USB 2, the overhead isn't that bad. Some of the access times are a bit off. This is also due to the USB 3 overhead. Needless to say, if you need the raw performance, this drive still has it. Even with the USB 3 protocol overhead slowing it down, it is no slouch.

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After we tested the drive as new, we started to load it up with data and fill it up. After that was done, we performed tons of random writes to really give the controller a workout. Since this is the same controller as we've seen before, it has excellent algorithms to keep performance in check. TRIM isn't even needed, the controller is that good. The benchmark above was right after all the random writes were done and showed the most fluctuation. Even then, the drive performed extremely well. 193MB/s reads and 168MB/s writes are nothing to sneeze at.
Page 6
Performance Cont'd

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USB 2 speeds were good as well. Granted, you'll be maxing out the USB 2 controller, but it still works. This benchmark really shows that the USB 2 protocol overhead is very high compared to USB 3. The drive isn't causing the slowdown from USB 2's theoretical speed of 480mbit/s.

We also tested generic file copying that we do for backup. Most systems probably still use magnetic storage, especially if you've got lots of data. Copying random data from a magnetic drive means you'll be waiting for the spinning disk to deliver the data to the USB 3 SSD, not the other way around. We found that random reads from our test system's mechanical drive were much, much slower than the measured performance of the HyperX MAX 3.0. This is one of those future proofing products. If you are using a SSD as your main drive, or RAID, you'll be very happy with the performance of this USB 3 drive. A single magnetic drive probably won't be able to do much unless it is all sequential reads, and that's not likely with the data most people want to backup.

Conclusion

Since this is basically a V+(100) SSD with a USB 3 controller, you'll be paying a slight premium for the bundle. It looks like the retail pricing is about $300 (Amazon Link) which is about 10% higher than the Serial ATA drive alone. While it may be cheaper to buy parts and make the bundle yourself, having the drive and controller in one box with a single power/data cable is great. The HyperX MAX 3.0 looks great and performs well. Gone are the days of not having enough storage... Remember when people worried about floppy disks? The Kingston HyperX MAX 3.0 is worth the price if you've got internal storage that can deliver the speed. It is the fastest USB 3 device we've tested so far. If you're stuck with USB 2, pick up a Kingston flash drive instead.

HardwareLogic would like to thank Kingston for making this review possible.

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