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SK hynix Gold P31 M.2 NVMe SSD Review: High-Performance, Unprecedented Efficiency (Updated)

The first SSD with 128-layer NAND, SK hynix’s Gold P31 sets the bar for efficiency

SK hynix Gold P31 500GB
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Looking back on SSD design over the years, we have seen the trend of manufacturers trying to achieve complete vertical integration not only to gain better profit margins but also to deliver a much more competitive, better-performing product. From the low power DDR4 DRAM, the high-density 128L 4D NAND flash, and the extremely-efficient NVMe SSD controller, SK hynix’s Gold P31 is built from the company’s own components through and through. This has helped the company develop and nearly perfect a high-end PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD.

While SK hynix hasn’t competed in the retail market for a few years, the Gold P31 is out to break the mold. You don’t need eight channels to saturate a PCIe 3.0 x4 link as long as the flash is fast enough. With Quartz NVMe controller leveraging only half of the channels of a conventional high-end SSD, but at a much faster flash I/O speed, the Gold P31 sips power and sets new efficiency records. Charge trap flash is looking to be the way to go.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Although Intel is sticking to the floating gate design for at least one more go, when Intel’s 144L QLC flash products hit the market, Micron will be migrating to replacement gate technology on the company’s next generation of NAND to avoid scaling issues at 128L and beyond. By the same token, Kioxia is not too far off with 112L BiCS5, which ups the performance a bit with a 4-plane die design and also utilizes CuA. Also, Samsung’s next-gen 136L V6 V-NAND TLC is just around the corner with a fast 2-plane design. Regardless of what the future holds, SK hynix is the first manufacturer with an SSD with NAND of such a high layer count and great bit density. 

When it comes to its performance, SK hynix’s Gold P31 delivers the goods. SK hynix’s Gold P31 will load your games, copy and read back your files, and handle whatever kind of workload you throw its way in a responsive manner. That’s not something you can say so easily in today’s SSD market with DRAMless and QLC NAND-based SSDs prevalent. The only drawback to the Gold P31’s performance is its SLC cache design.

While SSDs like Crucial’s P5 or Phison’s E12S and E16-based SSDs, or even Samsung’s SSDs, all recover their respective caches fairly rapidly to maintain responsiveness for the end-user, the Gold P31 takes much longer to recover its cache space (similar to Adata’s XPG SX8200 Pro). Fortunately, it delivers some very competitive sustained performance that bests even WD’s Black SN750. So, while the SSD may not write at over 3 GBps right away after filling the cache, its performance should have you covered even under rather heavy abuse.

SK hynix’s Gold P31 touts market dominance as the first retail SSD product to launch with 128L NAND flash. With SK hynix’s newest NAND reaching incredible bit density, the Gold P31 can hit the market at a very low cost. Listed at just $75 and $135 for the 500GB and 1TB models, respectively, the Gold P31 is a fantastic value that will make you think twice about spending that extra $25-$50 on the Samsung 970 EVO Plus. 

For those looking for a refined and proven reliable product that has improved generation after generation and stood the test of time within the machines of the masses, Samsung’s 970 EVO Plus may still be worth it to you, though. When it comes to Samsung’s SSD’s it’s about premium design from the black PCB, nickel-coated IHS, and copper heat spreader to the AES 256-bit encryption support. Not to mention that the company’s Magician software sets the standard for SSD Toolboxes. It’s worth the premium for those who can afford it. But SK hynix looks to undercut their competition. 

The lack of encryption is not much of an issue for gamers, but SK hynix still has some work to do on the SSD’s design. At roughly the same price, Adata’s SX8200 Pro offers nearly the same performance and comes with arguably better looks. The Gold P31 looks unsightly with its green PCB in contrast to the much-sleeker, blacked-out competition. It’s the little details like this that can make or break a product’s appeal. 

SK hynix’s Gold P31 is very well suited for those looking to up their laptop storage to not only gain capacity, but to gain battery life, too. While Adata’s SX8200 Pro performs well against the Gold P31 in benchmarking, the SK hynix is much more power-efficient, which will lead to longer off-the-charger sessions. But, while I want to say that the Adata is the better buy for desktops and the SK hynix for laptops, the much stronger write performance and ultra-high efficiency from the SK hynix Gold P31 make it the better choice for many users, including me, who do a lot of file copying. Depending on the current street price of both drives, the SK hynix Gold P31 may also be noticeably cheaper.


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  • King_V
    Some nits to picK pick (because, clearly, I'm more likely to fumble when I'm pointing out someone else's fumbles)
    Spec table column headers both say 1TB, the first one should be 500GB (or 512?)
    Paragraph below spec table says "though the 500GB model suffers a minimal performance loss with a write speed that is 100MBps lower" but the table shows the 500GB model having a faster sequential write speed. Which one is correct?That aside - I'm definitely intrigued that it's competitive speed-wise, and manages that impressive level of power efficiency. I think this one might be on my list for a future PC.
  • seanwebster
    Thanks, I actually saw that too not too long ago and already alert the team on the errors. The write speeds should be swapped. 3,200 on the 1TB and 3,100 on the 500GB. Correction should go live shortly.
  • derekullo

    Kermit does not agree!
  • cknoettg
    One more possible point of contention.

    The article states that the P31 Gold does not support AES-256.

    But SK Hynix's own website for the P31 gold states that it does:
    "All SSDs from SK hynix come with the AES 256-bit encryption feature. "

    I have seen manufacturer's documentation be wrong, but is there any way to test to see if it does or not?
  • seanwebster
    cknoettg said:
    One more possible point of contention.

    The article states that the P31 Gold does not support AES-256.

    But SK Hynix's own website for the P31 gold states that it does:"All SSDs from SK hynix come with the AES 256-bit encryption feature. "

    I have seen manufacturer's documentation be wrong, but is there any way to test to see if it does or not?
    Nice find. This wasn't posted nor articulated at the time of publishing. We will update to include this.
  • DZIrl
    And what is benefit for user in using 128 layers SSD? Nothing! Drives even cheaper to produce are not cheaper then any other.
    Why then?