SK Hynix has been in the NAND and SSD business for a long time, but we haven't had the opportunity to review a drive with SK Hynix NAND in years. In most respects, SK Hynix fared the worst with the transition to 3D NAND, and their 3D NAND has not been used in very many SSDs aside from their own models. SK Hynix 3D NAND has been considerably more popular in mobile applications like smartphones and memory cards, and their client OEM SSDs are widespread but not sampled for review. This year, SK Hynix decided to start competing directly in the retail SSD market by introducing the SK Hynix Gold S31 SATA SSDs. (Outside North America, SK Hynix has been selling some SSDs under subsidiary brands.)

The Gold S31 showcases SK Hynix's vertical integration with the NAND, DRAM, controller and firmware all produced in-house. Samsung is the only other company that regularly produces SSDs with this degree of vertical integration; Micron uses third-party controllers for most of their SSDs, and the other NAND manufacturers have in-house controllers but don't make their own DRAM.

 SK Hynix Gold S31 SSD Specifications
Capacity 250 GB 500 GB 1 TB
Form Factor 2.5" 7mm SATA 6Gbps
Controller SK Hynix "Quartz"
NAND Flash SK Hynix 3D-V4 72-layer 3D TLC, 512Gbit
DRAM SK Hynix LPDDR3
Sequential Read 560 MB/s
Sequential Write 525 MB/s
Warranty 5 years
Write Endurance 200 TB
0.4 DWPD
300 TB
0.3 DWPD
600 TB
0.3 DWPD
Current Retail Price $39.99
(16¢/GB)
$59.99
(12¢/GB)
$118.99
(12¢/GB)

The NAND in the Gold S31 SSDs is SK Hynix's fourth generation 3D NAND, a 72-layer design that is competing against the 64L and to some extent 92/96L generations from other manufacturers. All three capacities of the S31 are made using 512Gbit TLC dies.

SK Hynix didn't share much information about the SSD controller that the S31 uses, but it's codenamed "Quartz" and is a fourth generation design. Based on the chip markings of "SH87830CC" it would appear to be a descendant of the LM87800 controller that was part of Hynix's 2012 acquisition of Link A Media Devices (LAMD).

The Gold S31 uses LPDDR3 for its DRAM cache. Aside from Samsung, most SSD vendors use DDR3L or DDR4 instead of any generation of LPDDR. Since Hynix is one of the major DRAM manufacturers, it isn't too surprising to see them go a bit fancier here.

Combined, these components are the backbone of a mainstream SATA SSD. SK Hynix has attached the typical 5-year warranty and ~0.3 drive writes per day endurance rating, and priced it to compete against other mainstream SATA drives.

The Gold S31 is only available in the 2.5"/7mm SATA form factor, but a peek inside at the PCB layout shows how easy it is now to fit a reasonable amount of storage on a much smaller M.2 card. The PCB takes up only a fraction of the interior of a 2.5" drive case, and the board is held in place by a plastic insert. The PCB is double-sided to accommodate two NAND flash memory packages, and on the primary side of the PCB are one package each for the controller and NAND.

SK Hynix sampled us the full range of capacities for the Gold S31. Their competitors haven't sent us any current-generation 250GB-class mainstream SATA drives, so we're only comparing the smallest S31 against the DRAMless Toshiba TR200 and against larger drives. To see how the 250GB S31 matches up against older drives of similar capacity, head over to our Bench database.

AnandTech 2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.6
Spectre/Meltdown microcode and OS patches current as of May 2018
SLC Cache Sizes
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  • jabber - Friday, November 15, 2019 - link

    I think the thing is we are now at the point of diminishing returns. I find it hard to tell the everyday difference between running a desktop on a 550MBps SATA or a 3000MBps NVMe (NVMe was a real disappointment for the boost it gives). 20+ years ago if I got another 5FPS in Quake I could tell. Now if my games jump from 130FPS to 140FPS...meh.

    I was upgrading my CPU every 6 months at one point many years ago. Now it's lucky if i change it every 6 years...
    Reply
  • Samus - Friday, November 15, 2019 - link

    Actually a pretty impressive drive. The steady state performance is excellent. When I'm pushing out images to new PC's it's ridiculous a lot of the SSD's bottleneck even the network connection (which is realistically around 160MB/sec via (1Gbps Multicast) as you see it write VERY fast for the first half of a 15GB image then fall off.

    Imaging over USB 3.0 is totally brutal and only slightly faster than via the network. The SSD's are a mix of Intel OEM 540/545s drives and Micron 1100/1300 OEM drives, depending on the vendor. HP seems to use the Intel and Dell the Micron's. They're such shit all around drives for my job, but as you can imagine the users don't care because they're writing maybe a few GB a day via Outlook OST caching and general paging in Windows.
    Reply

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