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Kingston, PNY substituting components in SSDs, consumers not told

updated 02:14 pm EDT, Sat June 21, 2014

In some cases, sub components cause much poorer performance

Various enthusiast websites, who spend a great deal of time benchmarking and comparing competitive computer components are discovering that SSD manufacturers Kingston and PNY are changing hardware components after launch reviews are published. In one case, a website reader purchased a drive, expecting a Silicon Motion controller, but found that the drive had a different (and slower for the purchaser) SandForce controller.

A post at Tweaktown lays out the whole saga. A PNY Optima SSD was purchased, and when it failed to live up to performance metrics, the reader delved into the situation. A different (unannounced) firmware version was found on the drive, and more importantly, the swap for the older SandForce over the Silicon Motion drive controller. The speed difference isn't much, but it is noticeable.

PNY was asked about the substitution, and told Tweaktown that they were aware of the swap and did in fact "ship some Optima SSD's with SandForce controllers, but only if they meet the minimum advertised performance levels (in most of the benchmark tests, LSI controllers outperform SMI controllers). The readers assumption that PNY has abandoned SMI controllers is wrong as we have been shipping mostly SMI controllers, but also utilizing LSI to fill in the gaps."

A more dramatic "bait and switch" was allegedly performed by Kingston. The budget V300 SSD was found to have switched to asynchronous NAND at a speed penalty, over the synchronous NAND it launched with without a change in branding or consumer notification. Tests performed show that the original V300 drive transferred data more than twice as fast as the newer, slower version of the drive.

Kingston claims that "all builds of our V300 meet our published ATTO and IOmeter specifications." Puzzlingly, it notes that "We realize that we underestimated the importance of other benchmarks that the more technical segment of our customers use when testing the performance of their SSDs." Kingston's own test results show the difference in speed between the V300 120S drive, and the newer, but still sold as the V300 to consumers V300 120A drive.

Kingston
Kingston's speed test on V300 drives


The V300 is faster than a hard drive, and Kingston isn't shy about pointing that out in their defense. Kingston writes that "the real-life benefits of our SSD over HDD technology coupled with our aggressive price points, we believe that the V300 will continue to be the most popular entry-level SSD in the marketplace."

Internal component swap with little impact to the consumer has happened in the computer industry for decades. This is aggravated by reviewers often receiving early hardware which may differ from what is ultimately shipped. However, when given a storage medium touted for maximum speed, swaps potentially affecting performance or other such consumer-evident metric should be announced by the company while the product is on store shelves, even if just in "some" drives.

Electronista has reached out to Kingston and PNY for more details.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. James Katt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-02-08

    Kingston and PNY are SSD repackagers. They do not make their on SSD chips. As a result they are dependent on the true manufacturers of these chips. And their profits are tied to how low a price they can obtain when buying components for their SSDs.

    So long as they are not false advertising on their website or packaging, there is nothing wrong with what Kingston and PNY are doing.

    True enthusiast sites who benchmark SSDs such as StorageReview.com realize this so they no longer review any manufacturer of an SSD - like Kingston and PNY - who don't make their own Flash chips. They realize also that manufacturers like Kingston and PNY will soon die since the companies that make their own Flash chips will be undercutting their prices. Just look at how Samsung is undercutting its competitors.

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    This is a sin of omission. "Up to" are weasel words that the broadband industry uses as well. The drop in performance after the NAND swap is dramatic, and relevant, despite matching what the performance claims the company makes.

    If a repackager can't get the same chips for a product, then MAKE A NEW ONE. Don't use the same branding, with the same customer expectation from reviews and word-of-mouth.

    And saying "hey, it's still faster than a hard drive" is true, but still insulting.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    There's two companies to add to my list of "never do business with" firms ...

  1. sdp4462

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-21-09

    There goes market share, I wonder if these brands will now be sold off in the next year as consumers flee to more reputable brands. Let's hope so!

  1. Stuke

    Junior Member

    Joined: 02-11-05

    Ditto, chas_m

  1. FastiBook

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-17-05

    Shameful.

  1. scottbohlen

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-23-14

    Kingston I trust... PNY I do not. Kingston 100% on Warranty replacement on the VERY few problems, and PNY is awful on Warranty / Customer Service on a product that is 50/50 on working well.

  1. b9bot

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-22-08

    PNY and Kingston are not to be trusted. I'm sorry but if you are going to market something with certain components then you have to sell that product with those same components, not change them. That to me is bait and switch and I would return the product for a refund. SSD's are expensive and to get a product that doesn't live up to what was advertised makes it worse. I hope other manufacturers learn from PNY and Kingston or the consumer backlash will be very bad.

  1. techdude71

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-23-14

    I don't what the big blow up is about. Especially with PNY since they didn't change NAND. Thought (the guys at SSD review) summed it up pretty good.

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    The "big blow up" is about not getting what you paid for. The flash substitution is egregious, but PNY's controller swap is still not optimal. If I bought a V8 car, and got a V6 and they hoped I wouldn't notice, and told me that it's faster than a lawnmower engine, that would be insulting- this is no less so.

    Two boxes on the shelf. Identical packaging. You want the faster drive for your money, right? What PNY and Kingston have done here is not giving you any way of knowing which is faster, and telling you that no matter what, it's still faster than a hard drive.

    How is this acceptable?

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