COUNTERFEIT MEMORY IDENTIFIED
In examining the photographs that we had taken for our planned review of the KingFast F3 Plus, we observed a funny pattern when we enhanced the shot. This was only visible when hitting the face of the memory a certain way in the light. On the left is what we saw initially, followed by just a bit of light change on the right. If you can’t see what we see, click on each picture for a higher resolution:
Are you starting to see it yet? Believe it or not, it still hadn’t become apparent to many at this point. Lets make it a bit easier…
It was at this point that we finally understood what the term ‘blacktop’ meant. In the case of this SSD, all eight modules of NAND flash memory had been coated with a hard black coating and re-designated as Micron Memory with a product number of 29F256G08CJAAA. Accordingly, this specific memory was labeled as Micron 25nm MLC memory of a 32GB capacity. In searching the web, this specific product number was very common in flash drives, however, we could not locate another SSD containing same.
From there, we checked all other reviews available on the internet and learned that KingFast has utilized Intel NAND flash memory in every product reviewed, whereas this specific instance used Micron.
CONTACT AND RESPONSE
Our next step was to contact KingFast directly in order to advise them. That occurred on the same night and the KingFast representative stated that the website was being shut down and shipments immediately halted in order to conduct an internal investigation. I hate to say it but I can be a bit pessimistic at times. We all understand the term lip service and I thought this was definitely the case. This time I would be wrong. After all, this was a company that shipped 50,000 SSDs monthly.
Within 15 minutes, the website was shut down and shortly thereafter we were notified by their Canadian distributor that they were to return their present stock immediately.
In the next few weeks, several e-mails were exchanged between TSSDR and KingFast. Their investigation concluded that a bad batch of memory had been received from a new distributor (HongWang International (HK)) in December of 2012. That batch was utilized in the production and distribution of approximately 30 SSDs, all of which were able to be located and recalled as this issue had been identified in such a short span of time. We questioned KingFast with respect to quality control, as it appears that each SSD is inspected personally, and they provided:
- that a more detailed Supplier Evaluation was being prepared;
- IQC (Quality Control) would be required to conduct a 100% check of the new flash supplier; and
- enhanced final inspection procedures were being initiated.
In situations such as this, the consumer loses and one of the hardest things to do is see both sides of the story. Our natural first thought would be that such mistakes should not occur, especially with such stringent quality control in place. Conversely, our reasoning behind providing pictures as we have is to demonstrate just how hard it is to distinguish between authentic and fake memory. In our examination of its occurrence, we provide benefit of the doubt for three specific reasons:
- it is quite possible that IQC simply checks the SSD as a final product as well as ensuring the packaging and accessories are correct before shipping;
- even if they were able to inspect the printed circuit board (PCB) of the SSD itself, the quality of such counterfeit memory is very good and such that this would be hard to detect, especially coming from a new supplier; and
- the fact that KingFast identified the source of this fake memory as being from their new supplier HongWang International (HK) has merit. HongWang International (HK) sells NAND flash memory and making such a statement without proof could prove costly to KingFast.
We did not include the fact that KingFast insisted on shipping a new sample F3 Plus for our evaluation (review forthcoming), as well as comparison to the original counterfeit SSD. We believe this provides support to their intentions of conducting an investigation, along with assisting us with our report.