SK Hynix launches first 128 layer 3D NAND SSD: gold P31 NVMe

Last year SK Hynix re-entered the consumer retail SSD market with their Gold S31 SATA SSD. At CES 2020, they previewed a pair of consumer NVMe drives, the first of which has now arrived: The SK Hynix Gold P31, the industry’s first retail consumer SSD using 128-layer 3D NAND.

The Gold P31 is now available in 500GB and 1TB capacities. A forthcoming 2TB model will instead be branded as the Platinum P31, marking it as a more premium product on the basis of capacity alone rather than any major technological difference. These drives  use a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface even though the era of PCIe 3.0 is coming to a close. In other respects, however, these are fairly high-end drives. The rated performance is about as high as can be achieved with these capacities and a PCIe 3.0 interface, and the rated write speeds after filling the SLC cache are quite good. Write endurance is rated for 0.4 DWPD which is also competitive with other high-end consumer TLC SSDs.

As one of just three major DRAM  manufacturers and one of the few major NAND manufacturers, SK Hynix is capable of vertical integration that can only be matched by Samsung and Micron. But despite that potential advantage, for most of the 3D NAND era SK Hynix has been almost an also-ran in the SSD market. That’s been changing recently: instead of merely announcing higher 3D NAND layer counts than the competition, they’re starting to actually deliver it on time.

The new 128L 3D TLC used in the P31 is Hynix’s second generation using what they call a “4D NAND” structure that puts a lot of the memory chip’s peripheral circuitry under the array of memory cells instead of alongside. This is quite similar to what Intel and Micron have been doing with their “CMOS under the array” design for their 3D NAND. Between the high layer count and the density advantage of the “4D NAND” structure, the Hynix 128L TLC NAND should be very cost competitive, and this is reflected in the launch MSRPs for the Gold P31 SSDs.

Our 1TB review sample of the SK Hynix Gold P31 arrived yesterday and is currently on the testbed. We’ll have a full review ready soon.