Kingston A400 Review (120GB): Affordable entry-level drive
Gaming PC Builder is reader-supported. When using links on our site to make a purchase, we may earn an affiliate commission.
This isn’t the most exciting SSD you can get your hands on for testing, and it certainly isn’t among the fastest. What makes the Kingston A400 series interesting is the very attractive price point in relation to the manufacturer’s performance claims.
You can often find the 120GB version that we’re testing here – a capacity fully adequate for installing and running any OS including Windows 10 – for well below the $48 MSRP online, which is fantastic even for a small and basic drive. It is also available in 240GB, 480GB, and even 960GB capacities, out of which the 240GB model comes out on top in the GB/$ calculation at the time of writing.
Check prices on Amazon, Newegg, Amazon UK
Endurance and warranty
Unsurprisingly, the A400 uses TLC (triple-level cell) NAND memory chips, which is normal these days even in higher-end drives. Only a few enthusiast-level SATA SSDs like the Samsung 860 PRO uses the more durable and faster alternative, MLC (multi-level cell) NAND. This is combined with no DRAM at all.
The controller is only listed as ‘2ch‘ in Kingston’s official spec sheet. Based on a few news posts that circulated at the drive’s launch, it is supposedly a Phison S11. This sounds plausible as this controller is aimed at DRAM-less, low-cost drives in particular.
All of this might not matter to most buyers of the A400 series, but endurance is always important. While Kingston also includes the less-than-useful MTBF standard in the specs, what counts is the TBW (terabytes written) rating. For the A400 series these are:
- 120GB: 40TB
- 240GB: 80TB
- 480GB: 160TB
- 960GB: 300TB
A TBW rating is not equivalent to instant death once your drive reaches the threshold, but it’s an indication of the memory cells’ life span. And more importantly, it is a warranty limitation.
40TB for the 120GB Kingston A400 might not sound like much (and it is a lower rating than the popular Samsung 860 EVO). But over the warranty period of three years, this comes out as 36.5 GB of writes per day. It’s a relatively safe bet that the average user of this entry-level drive will never come close to this average. So the warranty terms are more than acceptable considering the price bracket.
What can you expect in terms of performance from such a cheap drive? In this case, quite a lot actually. Kingston’s claimed performance figures for the 120GB model are up to 500MB/s read and 320MB/s write. And as it happens, the drive has no problems meeting or exceeding these claims in our test system.
On the left is the CrystalDiskMark using random data (default setting), and on the right compressible (0Fill). Since Kingston is comparing this drive to a 7,200 rpm hard drive on the package, we will add one too. We’ll also throw in yesteryear’s high-end SATA drive in the form of a SandForce SF-2281, MLC-based Intel SSD.
It comes as no surprise that neither the sequential transfer rates nor, in particular, 4K writes can compete with more expensive TLC drives such as the 860 EVO. But again, this is a low-cost drive and it actually delivers more than its claimed sequential performance.
The SF-2281 Intel drive used to be a reasonably high-end drive a few years ago, based on more expensive MLC NAND. It apparently has trouble keeping up even with today’s budget SSDs though.
In the AS SSD benchmark, which tends to be a bit inconsistent, the Kingston A400 comes closer to its listed specification. Sequential reads don’t quite reach the advertised 500 MB/s, but writes are faster here also.
As for the ’10x faster than a 7,200 rpm HDD’ claim, it is unclear what this is based on, but it’s not sequential read speed (less than 3x faster) or random writes (about 80x faster).
The smaller capacities of the Kingston A400 (120GB and 240GB) will likely appeal to a different target audience than the larger variant. These come across as very affordable means of breathing some new life into an old system – replacing the hard drive as a boot device while keeping the old hard drive for spare capacity.
It would make little sense, however, to purchase a 960 GB A400 and use it as a system drive as you can get a smaller but considerably faster drive for the same price. So this and perhaps also the 480GB model may be more interesting for those who need lots of speedy storage space for e.g. video editing.
In either case, the A400 series offers more than adequate performance over the SATA interface at a price point that is currently hard to beat.
The 120GB (and 240GB) Kingston A400 is an exceptionally affordable way to breathe new life into an old PC or install a secondary OS for a smooth dual-boot experience. It can't compete with high-end SSDs in terms of warranty and endurance, but neither does it have to.
- Surprisingly good overall performance
- Fantastic price/performance ratio
- Lower-than-average TBW rating
- No DRAM buffer
I just got one of these used on Ebay for basically $10. I figure for that price, unless it’s been written to a lot, chances are ill still get quite a few years of use out of it, especially given it’s going in a backup computer I have which don’t see too much use in general.
while the official write rating of this is 40TBW, if it’s anything like Samsung etc, chances are it will do at least double that figure before any issues potentially turn up since it appears these write ratings are conservative, if not quite conservative.
even on my primary PC, which has a Samsung 850 EVO 250GB (75TBW is official write rating of this), which ill have had 8 years in May 2023, that still only currently has 26.750TBW according to Linux (sudo smartctl -A /dev/sdx) ‘Total_LBAs_Written’ which shows 57445056323 which to convert that to TBW you… ‘Total LBA’s Written * 512 / 1024^4 =’ which shows “26.749938877” and I rounded it to 26.750TBW. but I tend to avoid writing large files to this as much as possible which I put on my regular hard drives.
so I figure unless that used Kingston A400 120GB has been used heavily for writing, my guess is it’s probably not got more than 20-30TBW tops, especially given it’s only a 120GB model which I can’t imagine people doing lots of writes on a drive that small given it’s limited on what it can hold.
but I am not sure how that Kingston software calculates it’s ‘SSD Wear Indicator’ in the software as it starts at 100% and declines with use. but if it does it based on the official TBW rating that means if it shows 75% that means it’s only written 10TB of data, 50% would be 20TBW and 25% would be 30TBW etc. but it won’t take long for the percentage to drop some as it would drop to 95% after only 2TBW.
UPDATE: I received the USED Kingston A400 120GB SSD today (Jan 30th 2023). temporarily setup Windows 7 (I know this has not been supported by Microsoft since Jan 2020) on my old backup computer (on a regular hard drive) and used the official Kingston software (v220.127.116.11 (as the 64bit version (v18.104.22.168) does not see the Kingston SSD where as v22.214.171.124 does)) and there is no firmware updates. I then booted into Mint 21.1-Xfce from a USB stick and, for good measure (to ensure everything is deleted from previous owner), ran a ‘secure erase’ using ‘hdparm’, which once you get to the actual secure erase part it only takes some odd seconds to finish. but I had to power SSD down when PC was on, then physically remove SATA power, wait some seconds, reconnect it, then it’s ‘not frozen’ at which point I can proceed with the proper secure erase command etc.
anyways, the Kingston software shows ‘SSD Wear Indicator’ as 81% (starts at 100% when new and counts down as it wears out) and power on hours as 23354 (or about 2 years and 8 months of use). so that looks good enough. then I installed Linux Mint v21.1-Xfce to it, installed smartmontools (sudo apt install smartmontools), then ran ‘sudo smartctl -x /dev/sdx’ (where the ‘x’ in ‘sdx’ is the location of your Kingston A400 which you can find easy enough with ‘lsblk’ command) and looked at ‘Logical Sectors Written’, which shows “33589201054” and then I converted it to TBW using 33589201054*512/1024^4 = 15.641190602. which basically means 15.641TBW and the drive is officially rated for 40TBW which means it’s only used up 39.1% of it’s total writes based on official 40TBW spec (but I suspect it will well exceed 40TBW figure before actual failure occurs on the drive). so I got 60.9% of it’s write life left at the minimum. I put the drive in a slower laptop I have (HP2000 with a AMD E-300 CPU as the CPU is easily the weakest link of this setup as it’s got the SSD and 8GB of RAM as you can tell the CPU, by far, is the worst part of it).
so basically 15.641TBW in about 2 years and 8 months of use (from the previous owner) is actually more writes to it than what I did on my Samsung 850 EVO 250GB based on amount of data written in similar time frame as at the rate they were going they would have exceeded me quite a bit in the same usage time frame. because even rough math, at their current rate, doubling their use they would have done 31.2TBW in about 5 years and 4 months of use and I am closing in on 8 years in May 2023 of my Samsung 850 EVO at it’s not even at 27TBW yet. but lets say by May 2023 I am around 28TBW on my Samsung 850 EVO SSD, you can see I would still be about 3TB less of writes with about 2-3 years more of usage based on the previous owners current usage rate.
or another way to put it… the previous owner is averaging about 5.87TBW per year at their current rate of usage where as I am about 3.45TBW on my Samsung 850 EVO. I am sure my write rate on the Kingston A400, which is now in a backup laptop I have, will be well under that figure. so in other words… if the drive only dies from writing data to it, it’s going to last many more years, maybe even decades, before failure.
but like I say I don’t use my SSD for large file writes which cuts back quite a bit on writes to the drive as the years pass.
I can also see Linux’s “SSD_Life_Left” and “Wear_Leveling_Count” on the ‘Value’ section I can use to check the general ‘Health’ of the drive since it’s obviously showing the same as what the official Kingston software shows of 81% on ‘SSD Wear Indicator’.
but in regards to my previous comment on how Kingston calculates that ‘SSD Wear Indicator’, what I was guessing is clearly wrong otherwise it’s current 81% official Kingston software rating would be about 61% given the amount of data written to it currently since based on 40TBW, and it’s written 15.641TBW to it, it’s burned through about 39% of it’s official write rating.
bottom line… buying this used for $10 was worth it as while the 15.641TBW is not a small amount, it’s still got plenty of life left in it and I expect this will easily last years, maybe decades. but in all honesty, unless someone is trying to save maximum money like I was, you are better off spending about twice that and getting a half way decent NEW 250GB range SSD, or depending on ones use, maybe spend even more and get a 500GB range SSD.
Actually one obvious thing I overlooked, the person actually sent me the wrong used Kingston SSD. while it’s still 120GB, it was supposed to be a A400 but instead I got a UV400 as looking at the screenshot I took it shows “KINGSTON SUV400S37120G”, which is the UV400 model. that drive actually has a 50TBW rating, so I gained a bit here but might have lost in some areas. overall I can’t complain though for only $10 and it’s not going to see any heavy use. so it was still a solid upgrade given the price and I can move my Intel 545s 128GB SSD (which is similar to Samsung 850 EVO performance) into my backup desktop computer now and leave the Kingston UV400 in the laptop since that’s my slowest computer of the three I have.