The very first time we reviewed a PCIe SSD, we were blown away by the speeds we were able to achieve. PCI Express (PCIe) is the backbone of a PC, shuttling data between the processor and all other components. Hooking storage up to it directly and cutting out the middlemen is an expensive but incredibly effective way of improving data transfer speeds.
Most common SSDs are designed to the same standards as spinning hard drives in order to be compatible, but that imposes restrictions on their performance – their 2.5-inch bodies are often only half full of components, they use the same SATA protocol which maxes out at a theoretical 600MBps, and they’re saddled with overheads that just aren’t needed anymore.
That said, SATA SSDs are still a lot faster than hard drives and perform well enough for pretty much any casual PC user. It’s only if you want the absolute best that money can buy, that you should seriously think about ditching SATA for PCIe.
Kingston KC1000 features and specifications
One of the simplest ways to implement a PCIe SSD is to simply mount components onto a PCIe expansion card, since PCIe slots that are standard on every motherboard that’s shipped in the past decade or so. With pretty much everything either integrated onto motherboards or plugged in externally via USB, PCIe slots often lie unused. There are also other options, the most common being the M.2 standard for finger-sized cards that slot right onto your motherboard, delivering all the benefits of PCIe connectivity and no dangling cables in a much smaller package. M.2 is already quite popular – slots have been a common sight on motherboards for at least the past two years, and the drives are easily available.
Kingston has gone with a hybrid approach, shipping its new premium KC1000 SSD as an M.2 stick mounted to a PCIe adapter. Everything that makes the drive work is on the M.2 module and you can pop if off and use it on its own if you prefer – Kingston sells just the SSD for a little less in other countries, but only this kit version has been launched here in India. The adapter is clearly multi-purpose, with mounting holes for M.2 cards of various lengths. The M.2 module on its own weighs a mere 10g. As with all such devices, is extremely thin and easy to snap accidentally, so it needs to be handled with care.
The adapter has a PCIe x4 connector, which makes sense as SSDs use four PCIe lanes. It will fit and work just fine in a PCIe x16 slot. It’s half-height and half-length compared to a standard-sized graphics card, which is good because it won’t impede airflow inside your PC cabinet. You also get a second smaller rear bracket which can be swapped onto the card with two screws, for use in low-profile cabinets.
The only other thing you get with the KC1000 is a code for activating one copy of Acronis True Image HD, a tool that lets you clone the contents of one drive onto another. This could help you manage an upgrade easily but does not have most of the features of the well-known Acronis True Image, such as incremental file and folder backups, cloud syncing and ransomware protection.
In terms of specifications, the KC1000 uses Toshiba’s planar MLC flash, not the cheaper, denser stacked TLC variety that’s common across most consumer drives today. You can get it in 240GB, 480GB and 960GB capacities. Because of the increased parallelism possible with more physical chips, the higher capacity models have higher speed ratings. Our 480GB review unit is rated for 2700MBps sequential reads and 900MBps sequential writes. Durability in terms of Total Bytes Written (TBW) is claimed to be 550TB which means you should be able to cumulatively use the drive for that volume of writes before failure is likely. Another measure published by Kingston is DWPD or Drive Writes Per Day. Kingston claims a figure of 0.7 for the 480GB model, which means you should be able to write 70 percent of 480GB (336GB) per day for the duration of the warranty period (five years) without any failures.
Kingston is clearly aiming this drive at enthusiasts and professional users. Compared to the entry-level Kingston A400 SSD we reviewed recently, peak speeds are nearly five times higher and durability is over twice as much. Cache memory is one of the first things to be cut on low-end SSDs, but Kingston boasts of “2X DRAM” with the KC1000, though doesn’t clearly state how much that is. The maximum power consumption is 7.4W in use and 0.11W when idle.