Vid & Review: More Storage for your Laptop -SK Hynix Gold 2.5″ S31 SSD

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SK Hynix isn’t a new company – in fact, you’ve probably been buying their products for years without even knowing it. As the 3rd largest semiconductor manufacturer on the planet, they’ve been providing memory, flash chips and SSDs for the likes of Dell, IBM and Apple to put into their own lines of laptops, phones and other goods. But this time, SK Hynix is going directly to the consumer with their 2.5” SSD line, the Gold S31.

DESIGN / PACKAGING

The packaging is minimal. You get a small black box that includes the SSD, installation instructions in several languages, terms & conditions – and that’s about it. It’s a good thing actually since there’s very little waste and the product is something that you’ll probably never see again once you install it into your laptop.

Physically, the Gold S31 is a 2.5” drive that’s a little bit larger than credit card size (though much thicker). It’s got an aluminum exterior with the SK Hynix logo stickered on the front and the serial number and certifications stickered on the back. The interface is SATA III, and the drive can be installed into laptops, desktops or be used externally (though you’d have to buy an enclosure.)

TECHNOLOGY

Internally, both major components -the 3D NAND chips AND the controller- are designed and manufactured by SK Hynix in-house. Only a handful of companies are able to do this, and it’s got huge benefits. Having full control from soup to nuts guarantees solid integration of the device from hardware to software. The result? Longer life expectancy, lower failure rates and consistent performance within the drive.

In comparison, most other SSD brands buy chips from company X (like Samsung or SK Hynix), then buy a controller from company Y (like Phison or Marvell) and marry those two together and hope they don’t end in divorce. While most of these “marriages” are fairly well integrated, it’s hard to beat a product that’s custom made to work together.

A closer look at the type of chips in the SSD reveal 72-Layer 3D NAND (TLC type). Which are, of course, made by SK Hynix.

USAGE / PERFORMANCE

The Gold S31 comes in three capacities of 1TB, 500GB and 250GB and have excellent TBW (TeraBytes Written) ratings as well. And after enduring several years of rising NAND prices, we’re finally at a place where demand for them has (presumably) been slowing and prices of SSD’s are more affordable than ever:

CapacityTBWPrice
1 TB600$118.99
500 GB300$69.99
250 GB200$49.99

For those unaccustomed to TBW, it’s a measure of the drive’s lifespan. Since there are no moving parts in these chips, lifespan can be measured by the number of times the chips can theoretically be written over before they wear out.

To illustrate how long a 1 TB drive will last, you’d have to write 328.8 GB of data per day, EVERY DAY before your drive theoretically konks out in 5 years (the drive comes with a 5 year warranty). So unless you’re working on a film set backing up raw video files, I can’t think of anyone needing to write anywhere near this much data.

This is how I calculated (insert your own numbers for different drives):

  1. You can write this much data total: 1000 (GB) * 600 (TBW) = 600,000 GB
  2. You have these many days under warranty: 365 (days) * 5 (years) = 1825 days
  3. For daily usage numbers, divide the top number by the bottom number.

If you’re worried about how long the SSD will last, don’t be. It’s far more likely for a drive to work beyond its expected TBW and have problems elsewhere (like failure due to bad soldering for example). 5 years should be plenty enough time for any flukes to pop up.



INTERNAL OR EXTERNAL?

Obviously, the drive is made with internal use in mind but there’s nothing stopping you from using it externally. But to make full use of SATA III speeds, you have to buy the right kind of enclosure – or rather the connection type.

To take full advantage of your drive, you need an enclosure that says:

“USB 3.1, Gen 2

Read and re-read, “Gen 2”. If you cheap out for the $10-$15 one, you probably have a generation 1 version which tops out at 5 gbps. Gen 2 goes up to 10 gbps, and even though SATA III only goes as fast as 6 gbps, you’ll be taking a 15-20% performance hit otherwise. If you don’t care about that, you can safely ignore this and simply make sure that the cable plug is the correct type for your computer (e.g. USB-C, USB-A, etc.)

We ran two tests for drive speed, with the first one being CrystalDiskMark.

Sequential transfers of large files are very fast with an average read speed of 556 MB/s and write speed of 516 MB/s. Where it doesn’t shine is much is with smaller files: 12 MB/s read and 65 MB/s write. What we’ve noticed with our SSDs are that they tend to work better with either big files or small files – but not both.

The second test is rather unscientific, but offers a glimpse of how the drive might work in real life. In Windows 10, we transferred 100GB of large video files from our main NVMe drive to the SK Hynix Gold S31.

The transfer rate ranged from an observable high of 417 MB/s to a low of 270 MB/s. Overall however, it was more or less consistent around 370 MB/s, which I’m rather happy with.

In comparison, the 2 TB Micron 1100 SSD we looked at went super fast – until it hit 32GB of transfer, then took a nose dive to a dismal 270 MB/s average transfer speed. That’s 100 MB/s slower than the SK Hynix if you happen to be transferring a lot of data.

Here’s the takeaway from these tests: the people who’ll benefit the most from using the Gold S31 are video editors, photographers and anyone working with and/or transferring large files like videos and raw format photos.

CONCLUSION

As the end consumer, most people may not have heard of SK Hynix. But as an OEM however, they’re one of the biggest names in the world of semiconductors. Knowing this, you’d be nuts to buy from a no-name brand using low grade components just to save a few bucks.

As prices keep falling in this arena, it’s getting more and more affordable to pick up a good SSD like the one offered here from a company that’s trusted by big hitters such as Dell and IBM. It’s an easy decision – for the price, performance and reliability, the Gold S31 should be on the top of your consideration list.

FINAL RATING

Star 4.5/5
Ratings Break-down
  • Design/Packaging
  • Technology
  • Usage/Performance
4.7

Check prices: https://amzn.to/31iV11a —Amazon affiliate link


More info: https://www.skhynix.com
(Test unit provided by SK Hynix for this review.)

What the stars mean:
5 – Excellent (up there with the best, no flaws/issues)
4 – Very Good (better than expected, may have minor flaws)
3 – Good w/caveats (works, but has some issues)
2 – SMH (serious issues, needs major improvement)
1 – 0_0;; (just… why?)

Young

Young is a Jack-of-many-trades. He's lived/worked on several continents for all sorts of companies (and has had his own too.) He meditates with origami and likes coffee, though he really should lay off that stuff.

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