Kingston KC3000 review

Being a little late to the PCIe 4.0 NVMe party, Kingston gets the advantage of not making the same mistakes as others, balanced against not having products to sell.

Looking at the specifications of the KC3000 range, the designers wanted to deliver a premium solution that was equal or better than any other retail NVMe, at least in raw performance terms.

Given how the NVMe market has adjusted to inconsistent supply chains and the additional demands that games console owners are creating, is the KC3000 poised to steal the performance crown from Seagate and its FireCuda 530?


Aesthetically, the KC3000 looks identical to most 2280 sized NVMe drives.

Kingston has chosen to put a heat spreader on one side and a label on the other obscuring the surface-mounted silicon. Now a common practice, these coverings avoid awkward conversations when makers change the NAND supplier or other discrete components, and its customers notice.

With the supply issues that all electronics makers have experienced over the past two years, I should cut Kingston some slack on this point unless they also change the quoted specifications without mentioning it.

I can say with more certainty that under those labels is a Phison PS5018-E18 PCIe 4.0 controller, the same popular silicon used in the Seagate FireCuda 530, Crucial P5 Plus and Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus.

Used on a PCIe 4.0 M.2 slot with eight channels, this controller can shift 1,600MT/s per channel, delivering theoretical 7400MB/s reads and 7000MB/s writes using triple 32-bit ARM Cortex R5 CoXProcessor technology.

This chip is fabricated by TMSC using a 12nm process, and as has been widely reported, this chip maker recently put its prices up by 20%. The other critical part of this design is Micron’s 176L TLC NAND modules, and depending on the size of KC3000, these come in slightly different package plans.

Reading between the lines of the quoted speeds, the 512GB model has a package layout that cuts the parallel write operations by half, but the 1TB, 2TB and 4TB all have a similar NAND structure.


The TBW for the KC3000 SSDs is dependent on the amount of NAND on that model, with more TBW for the larger drives than the smaller ones. Available models include 512-, 1024-, 2048- and 4096GB options and these offer 400TB, 800TB, 1.6PBW and 3.2PBW.

Even on the smallest model, those numbers represent a tremendous amount of writing, as a 400TB limit would only be reached at near 22 years if you wrote a full 50GB Blu-ray to the drive every day.

Those editing UHD resolution videos might write much more than 50GB per day. However, the TBW on larger capacity models should handle hundreds of GBs per day and still give many years of reliable service.

Given that it isn’t practical to test the review hardware to the point of failure, as it would take nearly a month at full speed to write 1.6PB, these quoted numbers must be taken on faith. The likelihood of running into the actual limits is still improbable for average users and remote even for those that bludgeon their systems daily.

For those wanting even greater TBW, the Seagate FireCuda 530 offers 5,100TB on its 4TB capacity drives, using the 3D TLC NAND.


I’ve seen what the Phison PS5018-E18 can do before, specifically in the Seagate FireCuda 530, and it is an impressive controller.

One function of this controller is to dynamically allocate part of the drive to an SLC cache, putting off the evil day that the user is confronted with true NAND performance, dramatically below the 7,000MB/s headline numbers.

The KC3000 uses the same logic, but where it differs from the Seagate implementation is that it is less conservative about how much NAND is relocated to SLC cache operations, with up to a third of the drive being used for this purpose.

To explain, the NAND used in this drive has two modes, the fast SLC and the much slower TLC mode, that takes up a third of the space of data written in SLC. Once all the remaining drive capacity has been used in SLC mode, it must recover this space into TLC mode to make room to continue writing.

This is a balancing act because while this approach does allow the drive to accept write data for much longer before the cache is saturated, performance will suffer more dramatically as the drive approaches being full.

At the point where all the remaining space is used for SLC, performance drops to around 1,500MB/s as it converts SLC space into TLC. That’s a very respectable number, as I’ve seen other designs drop to 400MB/s once they exhaust their cache.

Obviously, as the free space on the drive reduces, we move closer to the point at which the SLC cache is saturated and overall performance will suffer. As a rule, using up all the space on an SSD drive is generally a bad plan, and with the KC3000, this logic has never been truer.


With TSMC having hiked its costs for NAND, we’re now seeing this ramping through to retail products, unfortunately.

The Kingston MSRP for the KC3000 in US dollars is $106.99, $174.99, $399.99, and $999.99 for the 512GB, 1TB, 2TB and 4TB models respectively. You can buy it from Insight or AmazonUS.

In the UK, these numbers translate into £88.79, £142.79, £300.17, and £778.79 from online retailer Insight, but you can also buy it from Amazon or Ebuyer.

At most capacities, the KC3000 undercuts the Seagate FireCuda 530 range, but the 4TB model is more expensive than the Seagate equivalent.

Those looking for cheaper options with similar performance profiles don’t need to look too far. The Mushkin Gamma Gen 4.0 4TB is under £700, and the new Corsair MP600 PRO LPX 4TB is £744.99.

With TSMC having hiked its costs for NAND, we’re now seeing this ramping through to retail products, unfortunately.

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