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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  • bananaforscale - Sunday, November 17, 2019 - link

    And PLC will probably suck even more than QLC.
  • netzflickzz - Friday, October 2, 2020 - link

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  • Charlie22911 - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    How about we get some capacity bumps while we are at it too! I’d love to toss a 4TB QLC m.2 SSD in my laptop, one less thing to carry like the portable rust for my extensive Steam library.
  • eek2121 - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    Your laptop likely has a 2.5" sata bay. I expect we shot ourselves in the foot with m.2. There is quite a bit less space for the nand and controller, and m.2 drives are harder to cool. I personally had to buy a heatsink for my 970 evo.
  • kpb321 - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    At 4tb your drive cost is going to have pretty much linear scaling with the size as the cost of the NAND becomes the dominating factor which is what we see in the pricing chart even for 2.5' drives where space shouldn't be an issue. The 250 gb drives have a higher cost per gb reflecting the costs for the enclosure, the controller and dram, and circuit board. By 512gb or 1tb the cost per gb has become flat. A 4tb M2 drive would be a little bit harder to do than a 2.5' drive but I still think the main limitation is the relatively limited market for 400-500 SSD drives and currently 2.5' drives address more of that market.
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, November 14, 2019 - link

    Don't confuse M.2, NVME and SATA. There's a difference between protocoll and form factor. And I have no cooling on 2 out of 3 of my desktop M.2 NVME drives, just normal case ventilation for an upper midrange build, and they are fine around 40 to 50°C idle and never above 60°C when doing things (copy, extract, compress). What sort of situation led to your Evo throttling?
  • firewrath9 - Saturday, November 16, 2019 - link

    You can fit the exact same controller, nand, and dram on M.2 ssd as you can in a 2.5" one.
    Have seen the PCB on any recent SSD, 2.5" or M.2?

    Besides, I'd rather have a larger battery, lighter/smaller laptop, or better cooling system or a combination of those than a 2.5" bay.
  • milli - Thursday, November 14, 2019 - link

    Always loved the Corsair Neutron. While not giving peak performance, it gave very stable performance. It seems that this legacy is still existing with this controller.
  • jabber - Thursday, November 14, 2019 - link

    I see the moaning comments re. these drives, stagnation, low speeds etc.Then I get handed a customers laptop which still has a 500GB spinner in it and I remember how far from reality some of us have come. You've never had it so good!
  • MenhirMike - Thursday, November 14, 2019 - link

    True, but "You've never had it so good!" has been true for decades. That 500 GB spinner is so much better than a 40 GB spinner from a few years before, and despite that 500 GB spinner being the "never had it so good" of its time, we got bigger, faster, cheaper drives.

    That doesn't mean we should just be happy with what we've got and stop asking for more :) I want to see 5c/GB as soon as possible, 2 TB/$100 drive, and maybe some 4 TB/$200 drive would be welcome.

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