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SK Hynix Gold S31 SATA SSD Review: SK Hynix Barrels Into US Market

SK Hynix barrels into the U.S. SSD market

Editor's Choice
(Image: © SK Hynix)

Comparison Products

We tested the SK Hynix Gold S31 against the most popular SSDs in this segment. We include the Adata XPG SX8200 Pro and Intel SSD 660p as two mainstream NVMe contenders. We also included a bunch of SATA competitors, including the Crucial MX500, Samsung 860 EVO and QVO, and WD Blue 3D. Finally, we threw in a WD Black HDD for good measure. 

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Game Scene Loading - Final Fantasy XIV

The Final Fantasy XIV StormBlood benchmark is a free real-world game benchmark that easily and accurately compares game load times without the inaccuracy of using a stopwatch.

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While the SK Hynix Gold S31 is beaten by the two NVMe SSDs, it only lost by a second or two. The Gold S31 is actually one of the fastest SSDs during game scene loading, beating even the Samsung 860 EVO. Compared to an HDD, it cuts off 1/3rd off the load time. 

Transfer Rates – DiskBench

We use the DiskBench storage benchmarking tool to test file transfer performance with our own custom 50GB block of data. Our data set includes 31,227 files of various types, like pictures, PDFs, and videos. We copy the files to a new folder and then follow-up with a reading test of a newly written 6.5 GB file.

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The SK Hynix Gold S31 can copy and read files without a sweat. Samsung’s 860 EVO took the crown as the fastest SATA SSD to copy the 50GB file folder, but the Gold S31 still did well and scored similarly to the MX500. 

Trace Testing – PCMark 8 Storage Test 2.0

PCMark 8 is a trace-based benchmark that uses Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, World of Warcraft, and Battlefield 3 to measure the performance of storage devices in real-world scenarios.

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The Gold S31 is just as good as any other mainstream SATA-based SSD. It landed in fourth place overall, making it the second-fastest in our test pool. It also delivered up to 16 times more performance than the HDD.

Trace Testing – SPECworkstation 3

Like PCMark 8, SPECworkstation 3 is a trace-based benchmark, but it is designed to push the system harder by measuring workstation performance in professional applications.

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While not the best option for your workstation, the Gold S31 still did a great job while handling I/O heavy applications. Compared to the Adata drive, it took twice as long to complete the test, but landed in second place in time to completion, and third place overall. Again, it outscored the 860 EVO and MX500.

Synthetics - ATTO

ATTO is a simple and free application that SSD vendors commonly use to assign sequential performance specifications to their products. It also gives us insight into how the device handles different file sizes.

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We tested the Gold S31 in file access tests with various block sizes. It performed similarly to most SATA SSDs, but was easily outperformed by the PCIe NVMe competition across the board.

Synthetic Testing - iometer

iometer is an advanced and highly configurable storage benchmarking tool that vendors often use to measure the performance of their devices.

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Peak sequential throughput clocks in at 562/529 MBps, which is a great result for a SATA SSD. Random performance is similar to most other SATA drives.

Sustained Write Performance, Cache Recovery, and Temperature

Official write specifications are only part of the performance picture. Most SSD makers implement a write cache, which is a fast area of (usually) pseudo-SLC programmed flash that absorbs incoming data. Sustained write speeds can suffer tremendously once the workload spills outside of the cache and into the "native" TLC or QLC flash. We use iometer to hammer the SSD with sequential writes for 15 minutes to measure both the size of the write cache and performance after the cache is saturated. We also monitor cache recovery via multiple idle rounds.  

When possible, we also log the temperature of the drive via the S.M.A.R.T. data to see when (or if) thermal throttling kicks in and how it impacts performance. Bear in mind that results will vary based on the workload and ambient air temperature.

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The SK Hynix Gold S31 features a small 12GB cache that recovers within 30-seconds. We noted a write rate of about 522 MBps until it degraded. After degradation, throughput averaged 471 MBps. This result isn’t too shabby for our 1TB model, but smaller capacities will degrade to a slower data rate. The controller didn’t overheat because the case does a great job of transferring heat out of the controller.

Power Consumption

We use the Quarch HD Programmable Power Module to gain a deeper understanding of power characteristics. Idle power consumption is a very important aspect to consider, especially if you're looking for a new drive for your laptop. Some SSDs can consume watts of power at idle while better-suited ones sip just milliwatts. Average workload power consumption and max consumption are two other aspects of power consumption, but performance-per-watt is more important. A drive might consume more power during any given workload, but accomplishing a task faster allows the drive to drop into an idle state faster, which ultimately saves power.

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The Gold S31 scored fourth overall in our efficiency metric. On average, it consumed less than 2W during out file copy test and peaked at just 3.2W. It also consumed very little power at idle: The drive consumed the least amount of power in the group with LPM disabled, and matched the WD Blue 3D when we enabled the feature.

MORE: Best SSDs

MORE: How We Test HDDs And SSDs

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  • mdd1963
    Impressive results...

    (I rarely use a SATA SSD larger than 500 GB or 1 TB anyway)

    However, with pricing roughly equal to Crucial's MX500, I'm not sure I'm willing to make the leap without someone else first taking the risk on reliability/endurance testing, etc...

    Given a need for a SATA drive, when someone else is paying, I'll take Samsung's 860 EVO

    When I am paying , it's Crucial MX500... :)

    Given a year's worth of history of lots of samples tested with few to no failures noted, I'll gladly try this Hynix unit, but, they will have to undercut Crucial by more than $3 or so.... Given equal pricing (which seems to be the case based on 1 TB unit current prices), I'd stick with Crucial at this point....
    Reply
  • computerprogrammer2028
    Currently I have a WD VelociRaptor 500 GB Workstation Hard drive: 3.5 inch/10000 RPM. The speed of which was blazing for a HDD. But is aging since I got it back in 2013 (7 years ago). So I decided to take a dive into the world of SSD's. I ran across the SK Hynix Gold and was impressed with the price for a 500GB SSD and the speed. I'm not so much concerned about reliability since I'm keep my old Raptor HDD and use it to backup the SSD. But with the review + a 5 year warranty, how can you lose here? The price is competitive as well with provided friendly migration tools. I'll miss using my Raptor, but no more noisy HDD mechanical drive, and welcome to the world of quiet and fast HDD's. One day I'll replace my Raptor HDD backup probably with a 1TB WS Blue drive(7200RPM) to take over backup chores, but at least it won't be due to a failed drive and lost data.
    Reply