Last year SK Hynix re-entered the consumer retail SSD market with their Gold S31 SATA SSD. At CES 2020, they previewed a pair of consumer NVMe drives, the first of which has now arrived: The SK Hynix Gold P31, the industry's first retail consumer SSD using 128-layer 3D NAND.

The Gold P31 is now available in 500GB and 1TB capacities. A forthcoming 2TB model will instead be branded as the Platinum P31, marking it as a more premium product on the basis of capacity alone rather than any major technological difference. These drives  use a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface even though the era of PCIe 3.0 is coming to a close. In other respects, however, these are fairly high-end drives. The rated performance is about as high as can be achieved with these capacities and a PCIe 3.0 interface, and the rated write speeds after filling the SLC cache are quite good. Write endurance is rated for 0.4 DWPD which is also competitive with other high-end consumer TLC SSDs.

SK Hynix Gold P31 SSD Specifications
Capacity 500 GB 1 TB
Form Factor M.2 2280 single-sided
Interface PCIe 3 x4 NVMe
Controller SK Hynix in-house
DRAM SK Hynix LPDDR4-4266
NAND Flash SK Hynix 128L 3D TLC
Sequential Read (128kB) 3500 MB/s
Sequential Write
SLC 3100 MB/s 3200 MB/s
TLC 950 MB/s 1700 MB/s
Random Read (4kB) SLC 570k
TLC 500k
Random Write (4kB) SLC 600k
TLC 220k 370k
Power Active 6.3 W
Idle < 50 mW
L1.2 Idle < 5 mW
Warranty 5 years
Write Endurance   750 TB
0.4 DWPD
MSRP $74.99

As one of just three major DRAM  manufacturers and one of the few major NAND manufacturers, SK Hynix is capable of vertical integration that can only be matched by Samsung and Micron. But despite that potential advantage, for most of the 3D NAND era SK Hynix has been almost an also-ran in the SSD market. That's been changing recently: instead of merely announcing higher 3D NAND layer counts than the competition, they're starting to actually deliver it on time.

The new 128L 3D TLC used in the P31 is Hynix's second generation using what they call a "4D NAND" structure that puts a lot of the memory chip's peripheral circuitry under the array of memory cells instead of alongside. This is quite similar to what Intel and Micron have been doing with their "CMOS under the array" design for their 3D NAND. Between the high layer count and the density advantage of the "4D NAND" structure, the Hynix 128L TLC NAND should be very cost competitive, and this is reflected in the launch MSRPs for the Gold P31 SSDs.

Our 1TB review sample of the SK Hynix Gold P31 arrived yesterday and is currently on the testbed. We'll have a full review ready soon.

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  • Chaitanya - Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - link

    Price looks quite reasonable, I would like to see some reviews of this SSD.
  • Billy Tallis - Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - link

    Initial, partial test results are in Bench:

    The power efficiency numbers look almost too good to be true, so I'm working to verify that and the results in Bench may be updated before the review is ready.
  • MrCommunistGen - Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - link

    That's just... WOW. Trading blows with the Samsung 970 EVO Plus while showing those kinds of efficiency numbers (assuming they're accurate) is really impressive.

    Maybe SK Hynix focusing on building SSDs to be used as original equipment in laptops WITHOUT also having to chase peak performance figures for the retail market has allowed them to design a supremely efficient drive that still has pretty good performance.

    The drive also seems to idle at pretty low power without compromising on idle wake-up time.

    Really curious to read the review and see if there's any details to be published that can shed some light into how they've achieved all of this... because this looks like a great drive to be used in a road-warrior focused laptop.
  • MrCommunistGen - Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - link

    Not that Samsung, Crucial/Micron, or WD/SanDisk are even remotely absent from the OEM laptop space... but they have also been selling into the retail channel the whole time and have had to split their focus in controller, firmware, NAND, etc design and development to hit big numbers that seem to matter so much in the retail space.
  • Beaver M. - Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - link

    Yeah very impressive, but still useless for me.
    I need a 2TB SSD in that form. So the 970 Evo Plus is still the only option for me.
    If I want a low capacity SSD for the OS, I will buy a 970 Pro instead.
  • eek2121 - Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - link

    You can get NVME SSDs up to 8TB in size. There are many 2TB drives that are cheaper and faster than Samsung drives.
  • Beaver M. - Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - link

    Yeah, I checked. Theres nothing better actually, if you care about speed at an still tolerable price.
    Others might be better in some irrelevant benchmarks, they might be a lot cheaper, but in real life usage the 970 Evo Plus is still all around the best one for the price.
    Normally I only buy 9x0 Pro, but they are too expensive at those sizes and theres no 2 TB version anyway.
  • Chaitanya - Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - link

    That is mighty impressive, now will be waiting for full review.
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - link

    >The power efficiency numbers look almost too good to be true,

    IIRC, increased layers increases power efficiency.

    Very happy to see power consumption added! Is this new?!
  • Billy Tallis - Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - link

    I don't think layer count directly affects efficiency in any big way. Higher per-die capacity leads to fewer dies per drive which can improve efficiency, provided performance doesn't suffer. Newer generations of NAND also tend to use lower IO voltages. I expect the P31 results will turn out to be the combination of several factors, for both NAND and the controller.

    I've been testing power with Quarch equipment since the end of 2017, with an upgrade in spring 2019 that mainly affected idle power measurement. Before getting the Quarch stuff, we used an Extech multimeter for years, with some custom wiring to measure current for SATA drives and an Adex riser for PCIe drives.

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