Skip to main content

SK hynix Platinum P41 SSD Review: The Best Around

The fitting successor to the popular Gold P31 is finally here

SK hynix Platinum P41
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Tom's Hardware Verdict

The SK hynix Platinum P41 delivers on expectations with unrivaled performance and power efficiency. It’s the best consumer PCIe 4.0 SSD we’ve tested to date, proving that a winning formula can be made even better.

Pros

  • +

    Class-leading all-around performance

  • +

    Competitive performance in sustained workloads

  • +

    Class-leading power efficiency

  • +

    Competitive pricing

Cons

  • -

    Runs hot; no heatsink

  • -

    No 4TB option yet

We can say, without hyperbole, that SK hynix’s Platinum P41 is one of the most anticipated consumer SSDs in recent memory due to the pairing of its new Aries SSD controller with 176-Layer TLC flash, thus delivering headline specs of up to 1.4 million IOPS that will pose a challenge to the leaders on our list of best SSDs. Storage enthusiasts have looked askance at drives like the Samsung 980 Pro, instead holding out for the P41’s inevitable arrival. There was every reason to believe that the day would soon come as SK hynix had announced the drive earlier this year with a general date in mind. 

SK hynix’s proprietary Cepheus controller has been a noteworthy champion even as Crucial’s in-house controllers for the P5 and P5 Plus have demonstrated growing pains. However, SK hynix stepped up to the new Aries SSD controller in the Platinum P41. This new Aries controller offers 33% higher bus speeds, twice the number of channels, and more than doubles the IOPS compared to the previous-gen Cepheus, making us wonder if it can retain its throne as the efficiency king. Moreover, Micron beat Sk hynix to 176-Layer flash, with SK hynix playing catch-up. We’re particularly curious to see how this rivalry plays out.

Specifications

Product500GB1TB2TB
Pricing $104.99 $149.99 $259.99
Capacity (User / Raw)500GB / 512GB1000GB / 1024GB2000GB / 2048GB
Form FactorM.2 2280M.2 2280M.2 2280
Interface / ProtocolPCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4PCIe 4.0 x4 / NVMe 1.4
ControllerSK hynix AriesSK hynix AriesSK hynix Aries
DRAMSK hynix LPDDR4SK hynix LPDDR4SK hynix LPDDR4
MemorySK hynix 176L TLCSK hynix 176L TLCSK hynix 176L TLC
Sequential Read7,000 MBps7,000 MBps7,000 MBps
Sequential Write4,700 MBps6,500 MBps6,500 MBps
Random Read960,000 IOPS1,400,000 IOPS1,400,000 IOPS
Random Write1,000,000 IOPS1,300,000 IOPS1,300,000 IOPS
SecurityAES-256AES-256AES-256
Endurance (TBW)500TBW750TBW1200TBW
Part NumberSHPP41-500GMSHPP41-1000GMSHPP41-2000GM
Warranty5-Year5-Year5-Year

The Platinum P41 has a five-year warranty with 500TBW, 750TBW, and 1200TBW ratings for the 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB SKUs, respectively. You might be dismayed by the lack of awe-inspiring endurance, but the TBW rating (terabytes written - endurance) only refers to total writes during the warranty period, and 99% of users will never exceed that amount of writes within the given time frame. The drive also supposedly supports AES-256 encryption and TCG Pyrite (but not OPAL) this time around, unlike the company's Gold P31 SSDs, although the value in that is questionable for consumers.

Otherwise, this is a typical M.2 2280 NVMe drive that's designed to be a high-end PCIe 4.0 option. The 1TB and higher-capacity models claim 7/6.5 GBps of sequential read/write throughput and up to 1.4M/1.3M random read/write IOPS, exceeding anything we’ve seen before in this space. These numbers separate the P41 from the rest of the pack, but the market is competitive and the P41's MSRP is arguably most competitive at 1 and 2TB, particularly the latter. The real-world value may be dependent on sales pricing, however, as other products have been on the market longer.

Software and Accessories

The Platinum P41 comes pretty barebones, but SK hynix has some useful software available on its website. The first is the SK hynix SSD System Migration Utility, or clone tool, which assists with data migration. This utility is powered by Macrium, which makes the popular Reflect software, which is useful for backups, cloning, and disk imaging. 

SK hynix also includes Drive Manager, or Easy Kit, which has typical SSD toolbox options. This includes providing information about the drive, S.M.A.R.T. data, a firmware check, an update function, etc. Software is often an afterthought, so it’s nice to see this type of support from SK hynix.

A Closer Look

The Platinum P41 is plain-looking, with just top and back labels. The drive is single-sided with a controller, DRAM, and two NAND packages. The back label offers some basic information about the drive, including the fact it’s rated to pull up to 8.25 watts. Continuous and peak draws are separate stories, of course, but users have been curious about this drive’s power efficiency. SK hynix states 7.5W for the drive, which is also stated in the S.M.A.R.T. data. For comparison, the 1TB Kingston Fury Renegade is rated at 8.8W.

The M.2 specification has a nominal power limit of around 7W. However, we’ve seen many PCIe 4.0 drives rated for more than this, from 2.5A with the 1TB Kingston KC3000 to 3A with the 2TB MP600 XT Pro - and we have seen a drive pull over 10W with the 8TB Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus. As drives get faster, power draw is increasingly a concern - especially for laptops — and extraordinary efficiency is one reason the Gold P31 has been so popular.

This drive is single-sided, but there’s clearly only enough space for two NAND packages. Double-sided designs, as with the Phison E18 controller, can reach up to 8TB, and NAND packages can contain up to 16 dies - although eight tends to be more reasonable unless you’re very constrained. Dies have to meet physical requirements for area and height. SK hynix has stated the launch Platinum P41 drives use 512Gb dies, so the 2TB here has two sixteen-die, or 16DP, packages.

Most consumer NVMe controllers use architectures based on ARM’s Cortex-R series, which are processor cores specialized for real-time applications such as latency-sensitive I/O. The new 12nm Sk hynix Aries SSD controller is larger than its previous-gen Cepheus, and the increased surface area will play a part in heat dissipation. SK hynix has confirmed this is an eight-channel design with a doubling of cores over the Cepheus. The package measures 17 x 17mm, which is larger than the 15 x 15mm specified by SMI for the SM2264. The '2149' on the controller likely refers to the manufacturing date — week 49 in 2021. This is not unusual, but the current marketplace is struggling to provide microcontrollers, so perhaps SK hynix stockpiled or otherwise waited for flash production to ramp up.

SK hynix also uses its own LPDDR4 DRAM on the P41, matching what it used on the Gold P31. This is a specialized DDR designed for mobile applications with lower power usage. DRAM for SSDs is most commonly used for metadata, particularly, mapping and addressing for translation between physical and logical data locations. DRAM has far lower latency than NAND, so it is particularly useful for many small and random I/O operations. This is especially true for writes as they require an update of the look-up table (LUT). DRAM works optimally by storing the most recent or “hottest” data accesses.

We often talk about DRAM configuration in reference to the bus bit width. A lower bit width tends to have more bandwidth, but a higher bit width is cheaper. Due to the type of access used on SSDs, the latter is a better choice, so we typically see a 16-bit configuration.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

SK hynix listed several challenges in its 2021 ISSCC technical digest for the 176-layer TLC flash it uses on this drive. We don't list flash density on our specs table. This is an important characteristic as it is one factor that limits capacity. Flash manufacturers constantly try to increase the number of cells and bits they can cram into a given surface area, encouraging improvements like CMOS-under-Array (CuA). SK hynix’s 176-layer 512Gb TLC is rated for 10.8Gb/mm2, which is comparable to Micron’s 10.27Gb/mm2 and BiCS6’s 10.4Gb/mm2. SK hynix has therefore improved density by more than a third over its previous generation of TLC flash, keeping up with the competition. For comparison, Micron’s 176-layer 1Tb QLC, with 33% more bits per cell, should be at 14.7Gb/mm2.

SK hynix’s specifications for this flash came from the 2021 International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), which referenced their 512Gb die design. The Gold P31 uses both 512Gb and 1Tb dies depending on capacity, while SK hynix states 512Gb for the three launch SKUs. There are similarities to the previous 128-layer generation, with the 176-layer flash being somewhat faster in latency but with a much faster I/O interface speed — 1066 MT/s versus 1600 MT/s. While this can improve response time to some degree, any bandwidth limitation is dependent on the controller, that is, the bus rate and the number of channels.

Array efficiency, the ratio between total gate layers, and the number of word lines for data have continued to improve. Some layers might be relegated for use as dummy word lines, generally at either end of the data word lines and between decks to mitigate electron injection effects at the edges. Others may be used for source and drain gate selectors. All of this is relevant if one is trying to gauge the “real” layer count, although, in practice, that just gives an idea of architectural efficiency. It suffices to say we expect this flash to perform reasonably well as SK hynix has addressed height concerns.

MORE: Best SSDs

MORE: How We Test HDDs And SSDs

MORE: All SSD Content

Shane Downing is a Freelance Reviewer for Tom’s Hardware US, covering consumer storage hardware.

  • WrongRookie
    Isn't this nearly the same price as the silicon x power one?

    Anyways, good to see this one doing great...assuming you can get one
    Reply
  • lukemcd
    I'm a little surprised by the availability comments as a US reader because I've been able to purchase the P31 basically at-will.

    Also -- this isn't a big thing, but while both DDR4 and LPDDR4 have similar comparative characteristics to DDR3 and LPDDR3 respectively, implying that this is a transitive property is a bit misleading. The standards have very little to do with each other.
    Reply
  • WrongRookie
    lukemcd said:
    I'm a little surprised by the availability comments as a US reader because I've been able to purchase the P31 basically at-will.

    SSDs are usually available everywhere but for some reason some are exclusive in western territories. In this case, SK Hynix SSDs are like never known in my hometown...
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    The real question is why Samsung has increased the price of the 980 Pro 2TB by $30 since the P41 released...
    Reply
  • dark_wizzie
    What is it about cdm's qd1 seq read vs atto's that causes p41 to excel at cdm's?
    Reply
  • jackt
    its impossible to find so far
    Reply
  • saunupe1911
    Would its high physical temps be OK in a laptop chassis?

    I may add a 2TB to my Razor 14.
    Reply
  • LastStanding
    and we would prefer not to have a built-in heatsink; a separate one which could be optionally applied would add unnecessary cost.

    Interesting review. But, I understand this is just your opinion, this opinion should not be the rule, though. Especially, for many consumers that lives in scorched territories and a inexpensive heatsink added (probably an extra ~1-7 bucks in BOM costs) shouldn't break the bank for these companies to add confidence to their customers.

    80°C+ is pushing danger zones and what happens if that user were to use this drive in more confined hardware e.g. PS5? 🤔
    Reply
  • WrongRookie
    LastStanding said:
    Interesting review. But, I understand this is just your opinion, this opinion should not be the rule, though. Especially, for many consumers that lives in scorched territories and a inexpensive heatsink added (probably an extra ~1-7 bucks in BOM costs) shouldn't break the bank for these companies to add confidence to their customers.

    80°C+ is pushing danger zones and what happens if that user were to use this drive in more confined hardware e.g. PS5? 🤔

    M.2 drives like this one have a thin sheet that does cool down the heat.

    Z4-Tml7y1TMView: https://youtu.be/Z4-Tml7y1TM
    Reply
  • jackt
    yet impossible to buy, it disapeared
    Reply