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SK hynix SL308 SSD Review - LAMD Goes TLC

SK hynix has a hot, new, low-cost SSD that looks amazing and performs well with TLC flash.

Software Performance And Conclusion

PCMark 8 Real-World Software Performance

For details on our real-world software performance testing, please click here.

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We've found that strong mixed-workload performance correlates to strong real-world application performance.

Of course, if you only looked at our four-corner charts, you'd expect the SL308 to outperform everything else.

Total Application Storage Bandwidth

In the averaged results, SK hynix's SL308 outperforms Intel's SSD 540s, though in many of the individual tests, Intel is a little faster. In particular, the SSD 540s has trouble with both Adobe Photoshop workloads.

SK hynix made real progress with this drive, but it could use fine-tuning to become a truly stellar low-cost SSD.

PCMark 8 Advanced Workload Performance

To learn how we test advanced workload performance, please click here.

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In this section, we'll focus on the recovery states of PCMark 8's Advanced workload test. The products in this price range were not made to deliver high steady-state performance. Even so, the SL308 again delivers lower throughput performance than Samsung's 850 EVO, but outmaneuvers the other products. 

Total Access Time

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We've already mentioned the SL308's great flash management, but the PCMark 8 Advanced access time measurement drives our point home. Under the duress of taxing workloads, SK hynix's SL308 outperforms all of the other drives. This is a rarity from TLC-based storage.

When we allowed the drives to recover between tests, Samsung's 850 EVO joined the SL308 with very low latency. This is one of the most illustrative charts in our suite, as it relates directly to your experience with the SSD.

Disk Busy Time

Disk busy time refers to how long it takes a device to service read and write requests. Perhaps strangely, this is separate from both throughput and latency. Yes, storage is a complicated beast. The faster a drive can work through a task, the quicker it drops back into a low-power state. Usually, that means it also consumes less energy, too.

The SL308 performs well in this test, besting all of the other products on the chart. We'd even compare it some of our favorite mainstream and premium MLC-based SATA drives.

Notebook Battery Life

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The notebook run time test results can be explained by looking at the low disk busy time numbers. SK hynix's SL308 delivers exceptional battery life, according to this benchmark. The gap between the best and the worst is just over 100 minutes, or more than an hour and a half of extra juice while working in real-world applications. The SL308's performance doesn't drop significantly in order to achieve the longer battery life, either.

Conclusion

SK hynix's presence in the consumer SSD market is continually growing; the company is the third-largest (by revenue) semiconductor manufacturer in the world. The company recently announced a significant investment in NAND fabs, which should improve SK hynix’s bit output into second place (behind Samsung).

The SL308 we tested today shows a lot of promise in the value-focused storage segment. With some additional firmware tuning, it could be an exceptional product. Though the SL308 doesn't quite dethrone Samsung's 500GB 850 EVO in the performance charts, it comes close. In these situations, we turn to pricing for our guidance. SK hynix needs to be cheaper than the 850 EVO if it wants to be more attractive. The SL308 does serve up the same flash endurance rating as the 850 EVO, but doesn't match its five-year warranty.

The SL308 500GB retails for $129.99 at Newegg, which is less than SK hynix's $149.99 MSRP. The Samsung 850 EVO 500GB currently sells for $179.99 at Newegg. The 850 EVO is a slightly better product, but it is not worth the $50 premium over the SK hynix SL308 500GB.

SK hynix's SL308 does include two valuable features we want to call out. First, it supports hardware-accelerated AES encryption for extended data security beyond software tools. Not all users will exploit this capability, but some of the folks working in industries that require strong data protection will find it useful. The SL308 also includes access to well-designed software tools that go far beyond reading SMART data.

We would like to see the SL308 get a firmware update that focuses on mixed-workload performance. This is the drive's missing link right now. It's so close to being exceptional; it just needs a little more tuning to make it one of the best entry-level SSDs available.

In particular, we're fans of the way SK hynix handles data and its background activity algorithms. The company figured out how to balance wear-leveling and disk busy time. The drive is a good candidate in notebooks, given the battery life measurements we recorded. Latency is also kept in check. In our testing, we found that this is the best low-cost SSD for more demanding workloads because it delivers the best access times.

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  • anbello262
    Im definitely waiting to see if that optimization it lacks is ever implemented by firmware.
    If it is (and a new benchmark proves it), it could easily dethrone the 850 as the most recommended product.
    Reply
  • Brian_R170
    Waiting for an indication of reliability and durability...
    Reply
  • Sakkura
    I wish you'd compared it with the Sandisk Ultra II. That's been one of my go-to recommendations between the 850 Evo and the budget TLC drives. The SL308 looks like a similar kind of product.
    Reply
  • littleleo
    Started selling these in place of the SanDisk X400 models because of the WD/SanDisk fake shortage and mega price increase. Everyone that has tried them has been very happy with their performance. Very close to Samsung 850 Evo in performance yet one of the best price points available if they only made a 1TB model.
    Reply
  • helopilot
    I'd like to see how this drive compares against the Sandisk X400. TomsHardware has yet to review the Sandisk X400. What's up with that?
    Reply
  • CRamseyer
    The X400 is in the pipeline. It's a really fast drive with excellent features.
    Reply
  • littleleo
    I've been selling both brands, and the SK Hynix competes very well against the SanDisk X400. Since WD/SanDisk created a shortage in the X400 models and raised prices at the beginning of this month. The SK Hynix has the edge in pricing from around $11 to $25 depending on the model. The SK Hynix seems faster on most specs except for the Seq. write specs. The SanDisk X400 does offer a 5 year warranty to the SK Hynix 3 warranty. For now pricing and good stock it makes the SK Hynix a very nice replacement for the SanDisk X400.
    Reply
  • anbello262
    Can I have some more info on that 'fake shortage'?
    Sounds like an interesting piece of information.
    Reply
  • LordConrad
    LAMD controllers are very good, but I refuse to use TLC NAND that is manufactured at less than 20nm. For me, it's MLC drives or the Samsung EVO.
    Reply
  • Nintendork
    Finally a drive that gives the EVO a run for it's money.

    Samsung 850 EVO
    SK Hynix SL308
    Kingston HyperX Savage
    Reply