Model: SK hynix Gold P31 1TB PCIe M.2 Solid State Drive
Manufacturer: SK hynix
Provided By: SK hynix
As one of the biggest names in the semiconductor market, SK hynix doesn't need much of an introduction. Founded in 1983 as Hyundai Electronic Industrial Co., Ltd., the company quickly made its mark by producing Korea’s first 16Kb SRAM. Since then, SK hynix has continued to lead the industry with smaller, faster and lower power semiconductors. Today, they are the world's second-largest memory chipmaker as well as the third-largest semiconductor company. Their memory, NAND flash and CMOS image sensors are found in products from some of the biggest names in the computer industry including Apple, ASUS, Dell and HP.
With its background in NAND flash, it should come as no surprise that SK hynix is a major player in the SSD industry. In addition to supplying client and enterprise drives to PC OEMs, the company has begun a push into the U.S. retail market. Building on the success of its Gold S31 SATA SSD, SK hynix recently launched its first consumer-facing PCIe SSD, the Gold P31. Aimed at gamers, designers and content creators, this M.2 form factor drive is powered by SK hynix's own "Cepheus" controller and is available with up to 1TB of their new 128-layer 3D TLC NAND flash. The Gold P31 also features the company's HYPERWRITE technology, which accelerates sequential write speeds, and is equipped with an ultra-fast PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe 1.3 interface.
The Gold P31 is available in 500GB and 1TB capacities. For this review, SK hynix sent us the 1TB version of the drive which is capable of delivering up to 3,500 MB/s sequential read and 3,200 MB/s sequential write speeds as well as up to 570,000 random read and 600,000 random write IOPS.
|SK hynix Gold P31 1TB PCIe M.2 Solid State Drive|
Dimensions and Weight
Needless to say, this is only a taste of what the Gold P31 has to offer. To give you an idea of what to expect, we'll take a closer look at SK hynix's new PCIe SSD and then see how well it performs. Does the Gold P31 have what it takes? Can it deliver the value and performance we've come to expect from SK hynix? Keep reading as we find out.
The Gold P31 comes in a simple, yet attractive, black box with what appears to be a large, gold "nugget" on the front. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of information regarding the drive's specification or features. If you want detailed product information, you will need to visit SK hynix's website.
Like most manufacturers, SK hynix doesn't include a lot of extras with the Gold P31. Aside from the SSD, the only other things in the box were a couple of small, fold out guides containing warranty information as well as some brief installation instructions.
The Gold P31 uses the 2280 form factor for M.2 (NGFF) SSDs. It measures 22 x 80 x 2.23 mm and tips the scales at 7g. The drive also has an "M key" edge connector which provides PCIe SSDs with up to 4x lanes of bandwidth.
The Gold P31 is the first drive to utilize SK hynix's "Cepheus" ACNT038 controller. Not much is known about this controller aside from that it has four channels and was designed and produced in house.
For the 1TB version of the Gold P31, SK hynix has opted to use its own 128-layer 3D TLC NAND flash. If you'd remove the sticker, you'd see that there are two 512GB NAND flash packages on the top of the PCB. The drive also has a single 1GB LPDDR4 DRAM chip that is used for caching.
The test system used in this review is equipped with an Intel Core i7-6700K CPU, GIGABYTE GA-Z170X-UD3 motherboard, 32GB (16GB x 2) of Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 memory, Samsung 960 PRO 512GB SSD and a GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1060 WINDFORCE OC 6G graphics card. For the operating system, I used the latest version of Windows 10 Enterprise.
To test the performance of SK hynix's Gold P31 SSD, I ran a series of benchmarks using CrystalDiskMark, HD Tach RW, ATTO Disk Benchmark, AS SSD, HD Tune Pro, Anvil's Storage Utilities, Iometer and PCMark. For comparison, I've also included test results from the Crucial P5, ADATA SWORDFISH, ADATA FALCON, Lexar NM610, Silicon Power P34A60, Patriot P300, Plextor M9PG Plus, Plextor M9PY Plus, ADATA XPG SX6000 Pro, Western Digital WD Black SN750, Samsung 970 EVO Plus, ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, Crucial P1, ADATA XPG SX8200, Western Digital WD Black NVMe, Samsung 970 EVO, Samsung 970 PRO, Plextor M9Pe, Plextor M8Se, Patriot Hellfire, ADATA XPG SX8000, Samsung 960 PRO, Toshiba OCZ RD400, Samsung 950 PRO, Samsung 870 QVO, Silicon Power P60, SK hynix Gold S31, ADATA Ultimate SU750, Samsung 860 QVO, Samsung 860 PRO, Crucial MX500, Plextor M8V, Samsung T5, Crucial BX300 and ADATA Ultimate SU900.
As I mentioned earlier, the Gold P31 uses SK hynix's ACNT038 controller chip. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that it performs equally well with both incompressible (0%) and compressible (100%) data.
First, I ran a few quick tests using CrystalDiskMark. This benchmark tool measures the performance of a storage device by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its random read and write speeds using blocks 512K and 4K in size.
According to SK hynix, the 1TB version of the Gold P31 is capable of reading at 3,500 MB/s and writing at 3,200 MB/s. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that the drive had no problems reaching these speeds in CrystalDiskMark's sequential read and write tests.
The Gold P31 performed equally well when using highly compressible 0x00 (0 Fill) data. This time around, the drive was able to read at 3,565 MB/s and write at 3,308 MB/s.
HD Tach RW 184.108.40.206:
Next, I used HD Tach to test the Gold P31's read, write and burst speeds as well as its seek times and CPU usage.
Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that the Gold P31 had average read and write speeds of 1,550.7 MB/s and 1326.6 MB/s respectively, as well as a burst speed of 1328.0 MB/s. The screenshot also shows that, like most other TLC-based SSDs, the Gold P31 uses some sort of SLC caching. The drive starts writing at about 1,650 MB/s and then drops to about 1,300 MB/s when the write operation exceeds the size of the cache.
ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46:
I also used ATTO Disk Benchmark to test the Gold P31's sequential read and write speeds. The tests are run using blocks ranging in size from 0.5KB to 8192KB and the total length set to 256MB.
When tested with ATTO, the Gold P31's read speeds topped out at about 3,547 MB/s and its write speeds at 3,115 MB/s.
AS SSD is a relatively new benchmark designed specifically for solid state drives. The application contains five synthetic tests used to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of a drive.
AS SSD also includes a copy benchmark. This test copies an ISO (two large files), program (many small files) and game (small and large files), returning the speed and duration of each.
HD Tune Pro 5.75:
Next, I ran a series of tests using HD Tune Pro. This hard disk utility measures a drive's performance by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its access time, burst rate and CPU usage. For this review, I'm also going to use it to benchmark the Gold P31's random read and write speeds, random access times and the number of operations per second.
The Gold P31 performed relatively well when benchmarked with HD Tune. The drive had average read and write speeds of 2,388.9 MB/s and 1,620.4 MB/s, respectively.
When reading 4KB blocks, the Gold P31 reached 48,169 IOPS and had an average speed of 188.162 MB/s. The drive was a bit faster when writing, reaching 48,494 IOPS with an average speed of 189.431 MB/s.
Anvil's Storage Utilities:
Anvil's Storage Utilities is another benchmark designed with SSDs in mind. The standard storage benchmark measures a drive's performance by testing its transfer speeds, access times and IOPS.
Lastly, I ran a series of tests using Iometer. This tool can be configured to benchmark a number of things. In this case, I used it to measure the Gold P31's read and write speeds and the number of operations per second. The tests were run using random bytes and a queue depth of 3.
The Gold P31's performance was very similar to what we saw in our other tests. The drive was able to read at 3385.87 MB/s and write at 3162.02 MB/s.
The Gold P31 also performed very well when doing random reads and writes. In our tests, the drive was able to read at 361.07 MB/s and write at a blazing 848.54 MB/s.
According to SK hynix, the 1TB Gold P31 is capable of 570,000 IOPS when reading and 600,000 IOPS when writing 4K blocks. In our tests, the drive reached 92,443 random read IOPS and 217,277 random write IOPS. As with most drives, the Gold P31 performed better at higher queue depths. With four threads and the queue depth set to 32, it reached 423,211 random read IOPS and 391,909 random write IOPS.
PCMark 8 - Storage Test:
PCMark 8 is a complete benchmark for Windows. It includes five benchmark tests, each designed around a specific scenario. The storage benchmark measures drive performance using real-world traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games.
PCMark 8 also includes a consistency test which measures the performance consistency and degradation tendency of a storage system. The test reports the performance level at the start, the degraded steady-state and the recovered state as well as the number of iterations required to reach the degraded state and the recovered state. For this test, we are focusing on the Adobe Photoshop (Heavy) trace and will look at both the bandwidth and latency of the drive
The Gold P31 did quite well throughout PCMark's consistency test. While not nearly as fast as the Crucial P5, it performed better than the drives from Lexar, Silicon Power and Plextor during the degradation and steady state phases. The Gold P31's performance also increased during the recovery phase, topping out at about 1,525 MB/s.
PCMark 10 - Full System Drive Benchmark:
PCMark 10's Full System Drive Benchmark uses a wide-ranging set of real-world traces from popular applications and common tasks to fully test the performance of the fastest modern drives. This benchmark produces an overall score as a measure of drive performance. Comparing devices is as simple as comparing scores. The tests also measure and report the bandwidth and average access time performance for the drive.
Thanks to its high bandwidth and low latency, the Gold P31 did quite well in PCMark 10's Full System Drive Benchmark. The only drive that performed better was the Plextor M9PG Plus.
While SSD's offer many benefits, there are some downsides to using flash memory. One of the biggest issues people run into is performance degradation. Over time, an SSD will run out of fresh blocks and will have to write over data the file system has marked as deleted. This procedure is very complicated and can slow an SSD's write speeds considerably.
To fix this problem, most manufacturers have added TRIM support to their SSDs. The TRIM command allows an operating system, such as Windows 10, to tell an SSD which data blocks are no longer in use. Using this information, the drive pro-actively erases these blocks and adds them to the free block pool.
To test the Gold P31's TRIM and garbage collection functions, I first put the drive in a "dirty" state. I used Iometer to fill 80% of the drive and then ran a random write test for 30 minutes. Looking at the screenshot below, you can see that the Gold P31's average read and write speeds dropped to 2313.67 MB/s and 1486.24 MB/s, respectively.
SK hynix Gold P31 - Dirty
To see how well the Gold P31 could recover, I let the computer sit for about 30 minutes and then reran the test. The drive wasn't able to reach the factory fresh performance shown in our earlier tests. However, its sequential write speed jumped up to 2715.29 MB/s.
SK hynix Gold P31 - After TRIM
Lastly, I used Parted Magic to perform a secure erase on the Gold P31. With the drive wiped clean, it had average read and write speeds of 2951.20 MB/s and 2782.48 MB/s, respectively.
SK hynix Gold P31 - Secure Erased
While PCIe SSDs like the Gold P31 offer impressive performance, they also generate a good amount of heat. At idle, the drive's temperature hovered around 41 ºC. When pushed hard, the drive reached temperatures as high as 66 ºC when reading and 74 ºC when writing.
Surprisingly, these temperatures had no impact on the Gold P31's performance. No matter how hard I pushed it, the drive did not throttle its read or write speeds in any noticeable way.
The SK hynix is an excellent choice for the gamer, designer or content creators looking for a fast, yet affordable, PCIe SSD for their notebook or desktop computer. This compact, M.2 form factor drive is powered by SK hynix's own "Cepheus" controller and is available with up to 1TB of their 128-layer 3D TLC NAND flash. Combine this with the company's HYPERWRITE technology and a PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe 1.3 interface and you have one of the fastest mainstream PCIe 3.0 SSDs on the market today. The 1TB version of the Gold P31 flew through our sequential transfer rate tests, reading at speeds as high as 3,565 MB/s and writing at more than 3,308 MB/s. The drive also did very well in our random write tests, producing more than 217,000 IOPS at low queue depths.
Aside from the fact that the Gold P31 does not support hardware based encryption, the only real issue I have is that I can't buy one in a 2TB capacity. Given, SK hynix did show off a 2TB version in the form of the Platinum P31 at CES 2020 but there has been no word as to when it will be available.
The Gold P31 is available now in 500GB and 1TB capacities and is offered exclusively through Amazon for $75 and $135, respectively.
- Available in 500GB and 1TB capacities
- PCIe 3.0 x4 interface with NVMe protocol
- Equipped with 128-Layer 3D TLC NAND
- Excellent sequential and random read and write performance
- Good random read and write performance
- Small M.2 2280 form factor
- Large DRAM cache
- Reasonably priced
- 5 year warranty
- Not available in higher capacities
- Does not support hardware based encryption
- Gets hot under heavy workloads
- Limited availability