The Kingston HyperX Max 3.0 is an external USB 3.0 drive that uses flash memory to provide either 64GB, 128GB or 256GB of storage, depending on the depth of your wallet. Prices vary, but you’ll need to budget around£89, £199 or £399, respectively.
Sleek and stylish
The Kingston HyperX Max 3.0′s sleek blue aluminium housing looks very smart. It’s fractionally larger than an iPod Touch and has a USB 3.0 micro-B plug on one end and a discreet LED, which shows when it’s active, on the top surface.
The cable supplied in the package is 50cm long and will fit either a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 port, so this activity light indicates the type of connection to make sure you get the most from your expensive new drive. When you make a USB 2.0 connection the LED turns green. It indicates a USB 3.0 connection with a blue light.
A look inside
Once we’d removed the four screws that hold the casing together we were able to see how Kingston has constructed. The Kingston HyperX MAX 3.0 and the answer is remarkably simple. The circuit board at the heart of the action has been lifted wholesale from Kingston’s SSDNow V+ drive, and a USB 3.0 bridge board has been plugged onto the SATA connectors to convert the SSD to USB duties. These roots explain the shape of the final drive. With this lot inside it, there was no way that the Kingston HyperX MAX 3.0 could have looked like a conventional USB flash drive.
The 128GB of flash storage in our review sample consisted of eight memory chips arranged on one side of the board, along with a Toshiba T6UG1XBG SSD controller and 128MB of cache. It’s a safe bet that the 256GB model has flash chips on both sides while, presumably, the 64GB only has four chips. The USB adapter is a small piece of hardware that carries a Genesys Logic GL3310 SATA-to-USB 3.0 bridge chip.
We tested the HyperX Max 3.0 on the Asus P8P67-M Pro motherboard that we recently reviewed, as this has both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, along with a Core i5 CPU and Windows 7. For comparison we lined up an Asus Express Box, which is an external device that accommodates a Seagate Momentus 7200.4 hard drive in a USB 3.0 housing. We also compared the Kingston with a SATA 3.0 Micron RealSSD and SATA 2.0 Intel X25-M Gen 2 and Kingston SSDNow V+ drives.
How we tested
Our suite of benchmark tests consists of HD Tach, Iometer and CrystalDiskMark. These synthetic tests delivered a variety of results that show various strengths and weaknesses of the drives. A simple test in which we copied 2GB of files within each drive in turn made a number of points crystal clear. Using a USB 2.0 connection pretty much levels the performance of the Kingston HyperX (137.3 seconds) and the Asus hard drive (156.8 seconds).
Moving over to USB 3.0 shows the advantage of flash memory over a hard disk. This time the Asus drive took 62.9 seconds, which is a significant improvement, however the Kingston drive managed the job in a mere 28.6 seconds.
That time is very similar to an internal SSD using a SATA connection, but it isn’t entirely accurate to say that SATA and USB 3.0 are identical. Although the Toshiba controller in the Kingston HyperX Max drive supports the TRIM function (a type of built-in spring cleaning that allows flash drives to free up unused space), this is not a feature of USB 3.0 interface. This leads us to suspect that performance of the external Kingston may degrade over time compared to that of an internal SSD.
The other issue is the price. SSD is expensive technology, and the Kingston HyperX Max housing and USB 3.0 interface add a further £50 to the cost. That makes the 64GB model look extortionate, while the 128GB and 256GB are merely rather pricey.
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