Kingston NV2 2TB Review
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Being an entry-level SSD, the Kingston NV2 range was launched in September 2022, with only a brief press release and little fanfare. This is in stark contrast to most high-end NVMe SSD releases, but not surprising considering the NV2’s budget nature. It uses Phison’s new PS5021-E21 controller with four flash channels, designed for DRAM-less operation, along with what we believe are TLC NAND memory chips (more on this later).
As the name implies, the NV2 lineup is a successor to the NV1 – a range with even more modest specs and one that has hardly been a household name among PC builders. What makes the NV2 a bit more interesting, however, is that it utilizes the PCI Express (PCIe) 4.0 interface, which has so far been reserved mainly for more expensive enthusiast SSDs.
|Form Factor||M.2 2280||M.2 2280||M.2 2280||M.2 2280|
|PCIe 4.0 x4/|
|PCIe 4.0 x4/|
|PCIe 4.0 x4/|
|PCIe 4.0 x4/
|Sequential Read||3,000 MB/s||3,500 MB/s||3,500 MB/s||3,500 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||1,300 MB/s||2,100 MB/s||2,100 MB/s||2,800 MB/s|
|Endurance||80 TBW||160 TBW||320 TBW||640 TBW|
As mentioned, a few key details are missing from the official spec sheet. Kingston leaves out any mention of random IOPS performance, NAND memory type, and controller. This essentially leaves room for Kingston to revise these details at a later date as long as it stays within the specs they do mention (notably including Gen4 support).
A closer inspection of the device reveals that our 2TB-capacity NV2 uses a Silicon Motion SM2267XT controller, which is a relatively recent, value-oriented model launched in 2020 and designed for DRAM-less operation (by comparison, the non-XT SN2267 is for use with LPDDR4). This controller offers four NAND channels and is capable of 500K 4K random IOPS read/write throughput according to Silicon Motion. All of the drive’s four 512MB NAND memory modules are mounted on the same side.
Considering the Gen4 bandwidth, the drive’s sequential performance specs may seem a bit lackluster, maxing out at a level that matches the cap imposed by the old Gen3 interface, more or less. On the other hand, sequential transfer rates are not everything, as real-world benchmarks repeatedly show. Random performance at low queue depths is far more critical for everyday workloads.
Kingston NV2 2TB Benchmarks
We will run our usual range of benchmarks to find out how the drive performs in practical terms. As a side note, this NV2 was purchased in retail and is not a review sample provided by the manufacturer.
AS SSD results tend to vary quite a bit between individual runs, but still provide some general insights into overall performance with incompressible data in particular. The significantly more expensive WD Black SN850 is not really competing with the Kingston NV2, of course, but shows what the PCIe 4.0 interface is capable of. Clearly, the NV2 is not intended to make full use of this bandwidth, but it is often a small step ahead of DRAM-less Gen3 alternatives such as the Samsung 980 (non-PRO) and WD Blue SN550.
Compared to the budget competitors, the Kingston NV2 does similarly well in CrystalDiskMark. Although there is certainly nothing spectacular about these numbers, we see the NV2 consistently outpacing Gen3 drives as far as sequential read performance goes. It’s also slightly ahead in the 4K Q1T1 area.
Response Times/Latency (Anvil’s Storage Utilities)
In spite of its unimpressive sequential throughput, Intel’s now-retired Optane SSD lineup remains among the best ever in terms of real-world performance. One of the key reasons was their very low latency – a hugely important factor for user experience. The entry-level Kingston drive impresses here and is only clearly outperformed by the SN850.
Loading Times (PCMark 10, FF XIV)
At the end of the day, actual loading times are more important than the (mostly theoretical) maximum sequential transfer rates used in the marketing materials. It is also an area for entry-level PCIe/NVMe SSDs to show their real value in the price/performance equation.
Kingston’s 2TB NV2 really stands out in the official Final Fantasy XIV Shadowbringers benchmark, which (other than measuring frame rates) loads five different levels, with the above being the combined loading times in seconds. It surprisingly comes out ahead of even the WD Black SN850.
PCMark 10 includes a subset of tests to determine an “app start-up score” to be weighed into the total. In these apps, the NV2 continues to impress, with startup times that surpass the Samsung 980 in every single test and the SN850 in some.
We are in the process of adding the 3DMark Storage Benchmark to our routine, as it’s another useful tool for gauging real-world performance as it relates to gaming. It consists of loading three different games, as well as recording, installing saving, and moving game data. In this benchmark, the overall picture is somewhat moderated compared to the previous results. The SN850 is clearly the most responsive SSD in this context out of our admittedly tiny sample size.
Conclusion: Great value at current price point
Although it is quite far from utilizing the full bandwidth of the PCIe Gen4 interface, that’s not the point of the DRAM-less and value-oriented Kingston NV2. What it does manage to do is perform largely on par with more expensive and formerly high-end SSDs from the previous generation, using the newer interface and comparatively low-end configuration.
It also offers a great deal of value at a very reasonable price point. At the time of writing, you can find the 2TB NV2 for around the same price as a SATA SSD with the same capacity, or a high-end 1TB drive. Compared to the 2.5″ SATA alternatives, the choice is easy as the Kingston NV2 will run circles around any such drive.
A potential concern is the rather incomplete spec sheet. Again, there is no mention of NAND type or controller, so we don’t know much at all about the former. And as for the controller, you may need to remove a ‘warranty-void’ sticker to find out. In other words, Kingston may be flexible with these details as long as sequential performance, Gen4 interface, and endurance ratings remain the same.
Then again, this is a budget SSD, and as long as it delivers on its base premises these details probably don’t matter to the vast majority of users. At the time of writing, the Kingston NV2 2TB is nevertheless one of the most affordable SSDs at this capacity – and quite a capable one at that – meaning that it offers exceptional value.
A Gen4 PCIe/NVMe SSD for the price of a SATA model, offering performance on par with older high-end drives.
- Excellent value
- Good real-world performance
- Reputable brand
- Vague specifications
- Endurance ratings could be better
- No 4TB model