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
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

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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  • MenhirMike - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    We're not going to get under 10c/GB anytime soon, will we? SATA SSDs seem to be stagnant - performance is OK, power consumtion is OK, price is $100 for 1TB, endurance is the usual 0.3 WPD - and yet there are constantly new products with different components and basically the same performance/power/price.

    Is there a limitation that currently causes stagnation? (I know that SATA is inherently limited in performance, but price shouldn't be stagnant if the main need in that sector is more capacity for less money, with performance/power/endurance being the same)
  • FunBunny2 - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    "price shouldn't be stagnant if the main need in that sector is more capacity for less money"

    all of these companies face the Tyranny of Fixed Cost, i.e. the BoM is almost all amortization of the plant and equipment to make the various bits and pieces. sand, some chemicals, and a watchman or two to hover over the machines amount to the variable cost. in such a situation, the only way to lower *average cost* (and shut up the bean counters) is to ship more product and thus spread the fixed cost a tad thinner. lots more product. but that, in turn, is strictly limited by user demand. they're caught between a rock and a hard place. they end up viewing the situation as zero-sum game; one can win only if the other(s) lose when there's little to no global (in every sense of the word) growth. welcome to Earthly Stagnation.
  • dromoxen - Thursday, November 14, 2019 - link

    Having Dr ManHattan looking after your machines is a very expensive business , Rorschach is very unreliable too.
  • eek2121 - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    Except prices have been falling. You just don't realize it because it happens over time.

    These drives are as cheap as Samsung's QLC drives, without the disadvantages.
  • Slash3 - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    SSD prices have been basically flat since October/November 2018. Check the price tracking for a 500GB/1TB MX500 or 860 Evo and there have been a few variations but nothing substantial or permanent.

    I'd love to pick up more large capacity solid state to replace some of my HDDs, but I bought two 2TB SSDs over a year ago and they're actually a few dollars *more* expensive now.

    At this point, it may actually be cheaper to build a large NAS using MicroSD cards...
  • eek2121 - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    I paid the same amount for my 2 TB 970 evo as I did my 1 TB 960 evo 2.5-3 years ago. Also, don't track specific drivers, look at charts. NAND is coming down. It just takes time.
  • Slash3 - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    /s implied with respect to the MicroSD card NAS, if it weren't obvious.

    Although that would be fun to build.
  • nandnandnand - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    Sale prices are hitting 8c/GB. Don't pay 10c/GB if you live in America. As the average drive capacity goes up, the prices will continue to go down.

    Thankfully, 100 GB and larger games are a thing, so that should create some demand.
  • deil - Thursday, November 14, 2019 - link

    we might PLC coming soon, so we might see some 1 TB/1.5 TB/2TB/3TB sata's soon and as they are 20% bigger after amortization wears off, almost 20% cheaper it will become.
    main focus will go to PCIE4.0 now though. so I would say next December expect 2 or 3 products with same nand. 120GB/240 will not go lower than its is now.
  • deil - Thursday, November 14, 2019 - link

    in there on the article. We already did on 1 TB ones. and PLC will go even lower.
    ADATA SU800 $34.99
    (14¢/GB) $57.99
    (11¢/GB) $91.99
    (9¢/GB) $209.99

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