SK Hynix Canvas SC300 SSD Review

SK Hynix is the least well-known NAND flash manufacturer. Most of the company's flash sells directly to the mobile market, but with increased manufacturing capacity we'll see more SK Hynix on the market.

SK Hynix has the lowest monthly output of the five NAND flash foundry owners, but that's about to change. By 2024, the company says it will have invested $38.9 billion in two new factories and an existing factory upgrade. The first $12.7 billion will go into an existing foundry, M14, pushing production to about 200,000 300mm wafers per month.

Currently, most of the company's NAND goes directly to the mobile market. SK Hynix supplies flash to Apple, the world's largest NAND customer, along with other mobile device manufacturers. This growing market leaves little inventory for the company's SSDs. We've only tested a handful of retail drives with the company's memory inside, though this is changing. Adata's SP550 ships with SK Hynix's 16nm TLC flash, and today we're evaluating an SSD that comes straight from the company itself.

As you might imagine, SK Hynix does more than just sell flash. In early 2012, it acquired Link A Media Devices (LAMD) for $248 million, adding controller IP to its portfolio. Around the same time, SK Hynix released the SH910 SSD, a branded drive sold under its own name and still one of the best-looking SSDs around. Since then, though, the other SSD manufacturer from South Korea kept fairly quiet... until now.

Technical Specifications

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SK Hynix released its Canvas SC300 in three capacities: 128GB, 256GB and 512GB. The drive's controller is nearly identical to the LAMD Amber used in Corsair's original Neutron SSD, launched back in 2012. The processor does support DevSlp, TCG Opal and a better error correction implementation.

All three SC300 drives utilize 16nm MLC flash. In fact, this is our first time testing a product based on this process node from SK Hynix in MLC form.

There's also an SL300 product family for the entry-level market using 16nm TLC flash. That's the same stuff used in Adata's SP550. We aren't sure what controller SK Hynix is using in its SL300, though.

The Canvas SC300's performance is in line with other modern mainstream SSDs. This class is dominated by the Silicon Motion SM2246EN and Phison S10 controllers paired with MLC NAND from Micron and Toshiba. But the most prolific offering SK Hynix has to contend with is Samsung's 850 EVO, the performance and market share leader.

Pricing, Warranty And Accessories

The Canvas SC300 is not available domestically yet, though you can find it in Asia and Europe. One seller in the UK has all three models in stock. The 512GB version goes for 140 pounds (about $210), the 256GB model sells for 76 pounds (about $114) and the 128GB model is available at 52 pounds (about $78). All prices include VAT. Shopping at the same website, the Canvas SC300s are comparable in price to other mainstream SSDs. They end up at the lower end of the mainstream price range, but at the upper end of the value/entry-level segment.

The SK Hynix SH910 did show up in the U.S. a few months after appearing overseas, so we suspect the Canvas SC300 will end up here eventually as well.

To help the SC300 stand out in a crowded mainstream market, it comes with a five-year warranty. Most mainstream SSDs only carry two- or three-year warranties. SK Hynix does limit its coverage to just 72 terabytes written (TBW) for all three capacities, though. In comparison, Samsung's 850 EVO 500GB is rated at 150 TBW.

You get a paper manual inside the box, along with online access to custom data migration software and a firmware update tool. You do not need to make an account to download the tools; they are publicly available for all SK Hynix SSDs.

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  • mavikt
    One question that pops up when reading SSD benchmarks nowadays, especially the Real world software performance, is how much the SSD's are hamstrung by the SATA interface?
    I know I'll be aiming for an M.2 NVMe model when I get a new rig next year.
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  • mamasan2000
    How is PCMark real world?
    Try transfering files, one big file, tons of small etc
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  • CRamseyer
    The sequential write test at QD1 and QD2 show your large file transfers. The QD1 and QD2 random tests show what to expect when transferring many small files.

    We like to look well beyond simple file transfers. PCMark 8's Storage Tests are traces of actual workload. The trace is replayed in the software and does a very good job representing what you would reasonably expect in a real world environment.
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  • mavikt
    The rational for my question was that when looking at the "PCMark 8 Real-World Software Performance", World of Warcraft, Battlefield 3, Adobe, etc. all of them results are so alike across all the SSD's that it seems they're 'artificially' capped. Is that a SATA interface bottleneck we're seeing?
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  • CRamseyer
    Mavikt - There is more to it than just the SATA 6Gbps bus but you are on the right track. Sequential transfers (copy and paste type operations) can be limited by SATA with large block size loads.

    Most applications use small block size loads so performance can be limited by SATA's efficient overhead and Window's file system. This is why we test 4KB blocks and measure in IOPS.
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