Presented for the first time at CES 2022, SK hynix is finally launching sales of its new consumer SSD, the Platinum P41, this morning. Successor to the popular Gold P31, the P41 incorporates the latest controller and NAND technology from SK hynix, upgrading their flagship line of SSDs with PCIe 4.0 connectivity and performance to match. Although with prices reaching $260 for the 2TB model, it looks like SK hynix has even bigger ambitions than before, putting the P41 squarely in the high-end segment of the SSD market.
While SK hynix has been an established name in the NAND and OEM SSD markets for years, their presence in the retail market is much more recent. The company only launched its (contemporary) SSD retail efforts in August 2020, with the Gold series P31. But in a single generation and with a single product, SK hynix was able to carve out a place in the market thanks to the power of its first P31 discs. With solid performance and incredible power efficiency, the P31 is a very popular PCIe 3 SSD, especially for aftermarket laptop upgrades. And now SK hynix can try to improve that for PCIe gen 4 with the Platinum P41.
Starting from the top, the Platinum P41 SSD is the direct sequel to the P31. Using an updated controller (Aries) and their latest generation 176-layer NAND TLC, SK hynix aims to duplicate their first success with an even faster NVMe drive. And yet, there’s also an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” element to the P41’s design when it comes to its build and functionality, which isn’t a bad thing coming from the P31. It’s little more than a faster PCIe 4.0 version of the venerable P31, but not much more.
|SK hynix Platinum P41 SSD Specifications|
|Form factor||M.2 2280 unilateral|
|Interface||PCIe 4×4 NVMe|
|Controller||SK hynix Aries|
|DRACHMA||SK hynix LPDDR4|
|NAND-flash||SK hynix 176L 3D TLC|
|Sequential read (128 KB)||7000 MB/s|
|4700 MB/s||6500 MB/s|
|Random Read IOPS (4 KB)||960k||1400k|
|Random Write IOPS (4 KB)||1000k||1300k|
|L1.2 Inactive||< 5mW|
|Write Endurance||500 TB
At the heart of this new SSD is SK hynix’s internal controller, Aries, the company’s first PCIe 4.0 controller. Although SK hynix does not offer a detailed breakdown of its specifications, we do know that it implements a multi-core processor configuration. And based on the build of the drive – as well as what is known of the company’s 176L TLC NAND – it would appear to be another 4-channel design. Which, like the P31 before it, is a notable departure from other high-end NVMe SSDs, which are still typically 8-channel designs.
Coupled with Aries is a DRAM buffer, in the usual ratio of 1GB per 1TB of flash. SK hynix again uses its own internal DRAM, again using LPDDR4 memory. Given how new Aries is, I’m a bit surprised that SK hynix isn’t using LPDDR5 here, but ultimately, unless they have a way to use the added benefits of LPDDR5, benefits would be limited.
On the NAND side, this is the first retail SSD with SK hynix’s TLC 176L 3D NAND. And while SK hynix doesn’t have the honors of being the first to come out of this generation with 176L NAND (Micron takes that title), it’s still one of the few drives on the market with what’s essentially the latest generation of NAND.
Based on the revelations of ISSCC and other happenings, it looks like SK hynix’s 176L is very similar to their previous generation 128L NAND. We’re still looking at 512GB dies organized into 4 planes, with the company apparently investing most of its gains in downsizing its physical dies. Thus, SK hynix can fully fill the P41 with just 1TB of NAND, which is reflected in the performance figures. Meanwhile, the I/O interface speed has been increased by 50% over the last generation (to 1.6Gb/s), although the program throughput of the new NAND is only 27% faster, at 168 MB/s for a single die. .
Otherwise, given that SK hynix’s 176L NAND doesn’t improve their die capabilities at all, it’s not too surprising that their overall SSD capabilities remain unchanged from the P31. That means the range starts at 500GB and goes up to 2TB, which is enough for most of the market, but not particularly impressive in mid-2022. However, this also means that SK hynix has been able to retain its single-sided construction – placing all components on top of the drive – making it particularly well suited to cramped laptops and other devices where NAND on the back may be undesirable. .
When it comes to performance, in many ways the new P41 drives are very much like a dubbed P31. Sequential read speeds are rated at up to 7GB/sec – essentially hitting the PCIe bottleneck – and meanwhile fully populated drives are rated to write at up to 6.5GB/sec. As always, it’s against the SLC cache, so speeds after overflowing to TLC will be much slower. SK hynix doesn’t release official throughput figures, but based on the P31 specs and the faster program throughput of the 176L NAND, we’re probably looking at 2.0-2.1 GB/s for sequential writes. So, like other PCIe 4.0 drives, the gap between cached and uncached writes increases, as PCIe speeds improve faster than the write speeds of TLC NAND itself.
Random IOPS performance is also significantly improved over the previous generation P31. SK hynix claims 1.4 million random read IOPS and an equally impressive random write IOPS of 1.3 million. These are at high queue depths (QD32), so performance at QD1 will be much more humble – although still in the tens of thousands of IOPS range. In this regard, even the partially populated 500GB model is still rated for a higher IOPS rate than the fastest P31.
Meanwhile, the drive/NAND write endurance remains unchanged from the P31. This means 500 TBW for the 500 GB disk, 750 TBW for the 1 TB disk, and 1200 TBW for the larger 2 TB disk. Which equals 0.3 disk writes per day for the largest disk, and increases slightly to nearly 0.5 DWPD for the smallest disk.
Performance aside, the other major factor in the popularity of the original P31 was its power consumption, and that’s going to warrant a close eye with the new P41. At the top end, the official active power consumption rating is 7.5W, which is 1.2W more than the P31. Given that we’ve never seen the 1TB P31 hit 6.3W, it’s unlikely the P41 will hit 7.5W either. However, the power consumption of SSDs – and especially SSD controllers – has increased with the move to PCIe 4.0, and SK hynix is not immune to this. It will therefore be very interesting to see where the P41s are at and if they are able to maintain their high active power efficiency. Meanwhile, the Standby and Deep Standby power consumption figures remain unchanged at under 50mW and under 5mW respectively.
Beyond peak performance numbers, SK hynix does not release any additional performance data/benchmarks, so it’s hard to say where they officially expect the drive to land against the competition. However, if their retail prices reflect their performance expectations, it would seem that SK hynix is aiming for the higher end of the market. To $260the price of the 2TB P41 is to rival Samsung’s flagship 980 Pro, and it’s a similar story to $150 for the 1 TB model and $105 for the 500GB model. That puts drives at 13¢/GB for the 2TB model, and goes up from there.
Suffice it to say, these prices are a big step up from the P31 price, where even when the drive isn’t on sale (and it often is) it’s a drive at a very reasonable price which is usually less than 10¢/GB. Compared to the P31, the P41 should be significantly faster in any case, but SK hynix is certainly not selling a cheap drive here. The flip side is that if SK hynix wants to charge flagship prices, then they’ll have to be sure to deliver flagship performance with the P41. Otherwise, they’ll likely have a hard time moving this drive in a market with plenty of other options for high-end PCIe 4.0 TLC SSDs.
Either way, today’s launch means PC users will have the chance to experience the new discs first-hand. SK hynix already started selling the new drives a few hours before today’s embargo, and like the P31, they’re focused on selling them direct to consumers through their Amazon Showcase. All three drive capacities are backed by a 5-year warranty.
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