Go faster with PCIe 4 and 176L NAND

Introduced for the first time at CES 2022, the SK hynix this morning began sales of its new retail consumer SSD, the Platinum P41. The successor to the popular Gold P31, the P41 incorporates SK hynix’s latest NAND controller and technology, upgrading their flagship SSD lineup with PCIe 4.0 connectivity and proper performance. Despite prices rising to $260 for the 2TB model, the SK hynix seems to have more ambition 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, its presence in the consumer retail market is more recent. The company only started its (contemporary) SSD retail effort in August of 2020 Gold P31 series. But in one generation and with just one product, the SK hynix was able to carve out a place in the market based on the power of the initial P31 engines. With powerful performance and amazing power efficiency, the P31 is built for a very popular PCIe 3 SSD, especially for aftermarket laptop upgrades. And now SK hynix is ​​trying to improve that for PCIe 4 generation with Platinum P41.

Taking things from the top, the Platinum P41 SSD is the direct follow-up to the P31. By using an updated controller (Aries) and the latest generation of 176-layer TLC NAND, SK hynix aims to replicate its early success with a faster NVMe engine. However, there is also an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” element to the P41’s design regarding its build and feature set, which isn’t a bad thing from the P31. It’s a little more than the faster PCIe 4.0 version of the venerable P31, but not much more than that.

Specifications of SK hynix Platinum P41 SSD
capacity 500 GB 1 TB 2 TB
form factor Single-sided M.2 2280 slot
user interface PCIe 4 x4 NVMe slot
Foreman SK hynix Aries
dirhams SK hynix LPDDR4
NAND flash SK hynix 176L 3D TLC
Sequential reading (128 KB) 7000 MB/sec
sequential writing
(128 KB)
4700 MB/sec 6500 MB/sec
IOPS random read (4 KB) 960 thousand 1400 K
Random write IOPS (4 KB) 1000 kilo 1300 kilo
Energy Energetic 7.5 W
unemployed <50 MW
L1.2 inert <5 MW
Guarantee 5 years
type endurance 500 TB
0.5 weight DWPD
750 TB
0.4 DWPD
1200 TB
0.3 DWPD
MSRP USD 104.99
(21 ¢/GB)
(15 ¢/GB)
(13 ¢/Gb)

At the heart of the latest solid-state drive (SSD) is SK hynix’s internal controller, the Aries, the company’s first PCIe 4.0 controller. Although SK hynix does not provide a detailed breakdown of its specifications, we do know that it implements a multi-core CPU setup. And based on the drive’s build – as well as what’s known about the company’s 176L TLC NAND – this appears to be another 4-channel design. It, like the P31 before it, is a marked departure from other high-end NVMe SSDs, which are still typically 8-channel designs.

Pairing with Aries is temporary DRAM, typically 1 GB for every 1 TB of flash ratio. SK hynix again uses its own DRAM here, again with LPDDR4 memory. Given how fresh the new Aries is, I’m a little surprised to see SK hynix not use LPDDR5 here, but at the end of the day unless they have a way to use the added benefit of LPDDR5, the benefits will be limited.

On the NAND side of things, this is SK hynix’s first retail solid-state drive with 176L TLC 3D NAND. And while the SK hynix didn’t get the honors for being the first out of the gate in this generation with a 176L NAND (Micron takes that title), it’s still one of the few drives on the market with what’s essentially the latest generation NAND.

Based on disclosures from ISCC Elsewhere, SK hynix’s 176L appears to be very similar to the previous generation 128L NAND. We’re still looking at 512GB molds organized into 4 planes, and the company appears to be investing the bulk of its earnings into reducing physical block sizes instead. So the SK hynix can completely fill the P41 with 1TB of NAND, which is reflected in the performance numbers. Meanwhile, the speed of the I/O interface has been increased by 50% compared to the last generation (to 1.6 Gbit/s), although the new NAND program’s data transfer rate is only about 27% faster, at 168 MB/s for a single die.

Other than that, since SK hynix’s 176L NAND doesn’t improve its capabilities at all, it’s no surprise that the overall SSD capacity remains unchanged against the P31. This means that the lineup starts at 500GB and goes well beyond 2TB, which is enough for most of the market, but not particularly impressive in mid-2022. However, it also means that the SK hynix has been able to retain its one-sided chassis – placing all the components At the top of the drive – making it particularly suitable for narrow laptops and other devices where NAND on the back side can be undesirable.

In terms of performance, the new P41 engines look in many respects the same as the overdrive P31. Sequential read speeds are rated up to 7 GB/s – essentially hitting a PCIe bottleneck – while fully filled drives are rated at writes up to 6.5 GB/s. As always, this is against the SLC cache, so speeds after moving to TLC will be much slower. SK hynix doesn’t reveal official throughput numbers there, but based on the P31’s specs and the faster software throughput of the 176L NAND, we’ll likely be looking at 2.0-2.1GB/s for sequential writes. So like other PCIe 4.0 drives, the gap between cached and non-cached writes is growing, with PCIe speeds improving faster than TLC NAND write speeds themselves.

The random IOPS performance is also significantly improved compared to the previous generation P31. SK hynix claims that 1.4M read random IOPS, and 1.3M write random IOPS just as much. These are at high queue depths (QD32), so performance on QD1 will be more modest – although still in the tens of thousands of IOPS range. In that regard, even the partially populated 500GB model is still rated higher IOPS than the fastest P31.

Meanwhile, the write endurance of the drive/NAND remains unchanged from the P31. This means 500TB for the 500GB drive, 750TB for the 1TB drive, and 1200TB for the largest 2TB drive. Which works out to 0.3 drive writes per day for the largest drive, and increases slightly to approximately 0.5 DWPD for the smallest drive.

Aside from performance, another major factor in the original P31’s popularity was its power consumption, and this will require the new P41 to be closely monitored. In the end, the official rating for active power consumption is 7.5 watts, which is 1.2 watts more than the P31. Since we’ve never seen a 1TB P31 reach 6.3 watts, the P41 is unlikely to reach 7.5 watts either. However, the power consumption of SSDs – especially SSD controllers – is increasing with the transition to PCIe 4.0, and SK hynix is ​​not immune to that. So it will be interesting to see where the P41 stands, and whether they are able to maintain their high energy efficiency. Meanwhile, idle and deep sleep power consumption figures remain unchanged at less than 50 MW and below 5 MW respectively.

Other than the peak performance numbers, SK hynix doesn’t publish 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 pricing reflects their performance expectations, it appears SK hynix is ​​aiming for the highest quality on the market. at $260the 2TB P41 was priced to compete with Samsung’s flagship 980 Pro, and it’s a similar story in $150 For 1 TB and 105 bucks For the 500 GB model. This puts the drives at 13¢/GB for the 2TB model, and it increases from there.

Suffice it to say that these are a huge step up from pricing the P31, since even when the drive isn’t on sale (which it often is), it’s a very affordable drive and is usually under 10¢/GB. Compared to the P31, the P41 should be noticeably faster in all cases, but SK hynix certainly isn’t selling a budget-priced motor here. The flipside is that if SK hynix wanted to charge flagship prices, they would have to make sure to deliver leading performance with the P41. Otherwise, they will likely have trouble moving this drive into a market with plenty of other options for high-end PCIe 4.0 TLC SSDs.

In any case, today’s launch means that PC users will have the opportunity to check out new drives live. SK hynix already started sales of the new drives a few hours before today’s ban, and like the P31, it’s focused on selling it directly to consumers via Amazon store front. All three drive capacities come with a 5-year warranty.

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