Kingston HyperX Predator PCI Express SSD Unveiled With LSI SandForce SF3700 PCIe Flash Controller

In November last year, we gave you a first look at LSI's forthcoming SandForce SF3700 PCI Express SSD Flash controller. It's an impressive silicon integration of both a native PCI Express x4 interface and SandForce's excellent SSD controller technologies, along with some refinements and advancements baked in.  At the time, LSI mentioned a few OEM partners they were aligning with for manufacturing of their various reference designs and form-factors and Kingston, as well as ADATA and AVANT were on that short list. 

At CES 2014 last week, however, it was Kingston that stepped out with the first incarnation of a PCI Express SSD card based on the technology and targeted at the enthusiast desktop and workstation markets. We're back again today to give you a first-hand look at what Kingston and LSI have in store for us later this year with the Kingston HyperX Predator PCI Express SSD.

Kingston HyperX Predator PCI Express SSD
Kingston's HyperX Predator PCIe SSD

What we're looking at here is what appears to be a half-height x4 PCI Express SDD by Kingston based on the technology.  Our contacts at Kingston note the card is capable of up to 1800MB/s (1.8GB) for reads though write performance is not yet being claimed.  At 1800MB/s the LSI SF3700-based card by Kingston will fall just 200MB/s shy of the theoretical limit of a PCIe x4 Gen2 link - not too shabby.

DuraWrite and RAISE Improvements

The above block diagram shows the front-end interface to either PCIe or SATA serial links. Interfacing directly over PCIe offers much lower latency and of course much higher bandwidth than even SATA 6Gbps. In the core and backend Flash interface is where the SF3700 magic happens. LSI is claiming improvements in their DuraWrite technology for even lower write amplification and higher endurance. In addition, the SF3700 will mark the introduction of two level RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology, which can protect against not only single page and block-level memory failures but now also protects against full die failures with the help of additional over-provisioned chips/die on the board.

Currently, LSI SandForce is showcasing 256GB card performance, though Kingston has yet to announce pricing.  As you can see, though early firmware is reporting about 1450MB/s for reads, the expectation is 1800MB/s for both reads and writes, fully optimized for a 256GB card with 150K read IOPS and 81K write IOPS. Theoretically, this should put the drive on par with what we've seen from Intel, Micron and OCZ thus far for enterprise-class products but potentially at more palatable consumer or "prosumer" price points.

What's interesting about the Kingston announcement and LSI's new single-chip, native PCI Express solution is that LSI's base chip technology will be targeted at products across the spectrum, from mSATA and PCI cards in notebooks, to desktops, servers and workstations.  To achieve this, obviously LSI has to hit competitive price points, so the underlying silicon technology could really help drive PCI Express SSDs even further in the mainstream - which is a very good thing.

We've been beating this drum for a very long time.  When it comes to solid state storage, SATA just gets in the way.  Forget the bridging and translation and bolt it up direct to PCIe for lower latency, more bandwidth and better efficiency.  Kingston is targeting shipments of their new HyperX Predator PCIe SSD in the second half of this year.