SK hynix Platinum P41 SSD Review

SK hynix Platinum P41 SSD Review

The fitting successor to the popular Gold P31 is finally here Epblogs goal is to be the tech side of trust. We are proud of our independence and of our SK hynix Platinum P41 SSD Review thorough testing methods, in which we take our time with a product. We regularly check our test reports for changes and thus keep them up-to-date over a longer period of time – regardless of when a device was released.guaranteed reviews . Trust our Epblogs comprehensive reviews. We tested the products over a longer period of time and were able to see how they cope with everyday tasks. This is how we help you to find the best product for your read our guaranteed reviews .

Epblogs verdict

The SK hynix Platinum P41 delivers on expectations with unrivaled performance and power efficiency. It’s the best consumer PCIe 4.0 SSD we’ve tested to date, proving that a winning formula can be made even better.

We can say, without hyperbole, that SK hynix’s Platinum P41 is one of the most anticipated consumer SSDs in recent memory due to the pairing of its new Aries SSD controller with 176-Layer TLC flash, thus delivering headline specs of up to 1.4 million IOPS. Storage enthusiasts have looked askance at drives like the Samsung 980 Pro, instead holding out for the P41’s inevitable arrival. There was every reason to believe that the day would soon come as SK hynix had announced the drive earlier this year with a general date in mind. 

SK hynix’s proprietary Cepheus controller has been a noteworthy champion even as Crucial’s in-house controllers for the P5 and P5 Plus have demonstrated growing pains. However, SK hynix stepped up to the new Aries SSD controller in the Platinum P41. This new Aries controller offers 33% higher bus speeds, twice the number of channels, and more than doubles the IOPS compared to the previous-gen Cepheus, making us wonder if it can retain its throne as the efficiency king. Moreover, Micron beat Sk hynix to 176-Layer flash, with SK hynix playing catch-up. We’re particularly curious to see how this rivalry plays out.

Specifications

The Platinum P41 has a five-year warranty with 500TBW, 750TBW, and 1200TBW ratings for the 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB SKUs, respectively. You might be dismayed by the lack of awe-inspiring endurance, but the TBW rating (terabytes written – endurance) only refers to total writes during the warranty period, and 99% of users will never exceed that amount of writes within the given time frame. The drive also supposedly supports AES-256 encryption from TCG Pyrite (but not OPAL) this time around, unlike the company’s Gold P31 SSDs, although the value in that is questionable for consumers.

Otherwise, this is a typical M.2 2280 NVMe drive that’s designed to be a high-end PCIe 4.0 option. The 1TB and higher-capacity models claim 7/6.5 GBps of sequential read/write throughput and up to 1.4M/1.3M random read/write IOPS, exceeding anything we’ve seen before in this space. These numbers separate the P41 from the rest of the pack, but the market is competitive and the P41’s MSRP is arguably most competitive at 1 and 2TB, particularly the latter. The real-world value may be dependent on sales pricing, however, as other products have been on the market longer.

Software and Accessories

The Platinum P41 comes pretty barebones, but SK hynix has some useful software available on its website. The first is the SK hynix SSD System Migration Utility, or clone tool, which assists with data migration. This utility is powered by Macrium, which makes the popular Reflect software, which is useful for backups, cloning, and disk imaging. 

SK hynix also includes Drive Manager, or Easy Kit, which has typical SSD toolbox options. This includes providing information about the drive, S.M.A.R.T. data, a firmware check, an update function, etc. Software is often an afterthought, so it’s nice to see this type of support from SK hynix.

A Closer Look

The Platinum P41 is plain-looking, with just top and back labels. The drive is single-sided with a controller, DRAM, and two NAND packages. The back label offers some basic information about the drive, including the fact it’s rated to pull up to 8.25 watts. Continuous and peak draw are separate stories, of course, but users have been curious about this drive’s power efficiency. SK hynix states 7.5W for the drive, which is also stated in the S.M.A.R.T. data. For comparison, the 1TB Kingston Fury Renegade is rated at 8.8W.

The M.2 specification has a nominal power limit of around 7W. However, we’ve seen many PCIe 4.0 drives rated for more than this, from 2.5A with the 1TB Kingston KC3000 to 3A with the 2TB MP600 XT Pro – and we have seen a drive pull over 10W with the 8TB Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus. As drives get faster, power draw is increasingly a concern – especially for laptops — and extraordinary efficiency is one reason the Gold P31 has been so popular.

This drive is single-sided, but there’s clearly only enough space for two NAND packages. Double-sided designs, as with the Phison E18 controller, can reach up to 8TB, and NAND packages can contain up to 16 dies – although eight tends to be more reasonable unless you’re very constrained. Dies have to meet physical requirements for area and height. SK hynix has stated the launch Platinum P41 drives use 512Gb dies, so the 2TB here has two sixteen-die, or 16DP, packages.

Most consumer NVMe controllers use architectures based on ARM’s Cortex-R series, which are processor cores specialized for real-time applications such as latency-sensitive I/O. The new Sk hynix Aries SSD controller is larger than its previous-gen Cepheus, and the increased surface area will play a part in heat dissipation. SK hynix has confirmed this is an eight-channel design with a doubling of cores over the Cepheus. The package measures 17 x 17mm, which is larger than the 15 x 15mm specified by SMI for the SM2264. The ‘2149’ on the controller likely refers to the manufacturing date — week 49 in 2021. This is not unusual, but the current marketplace is struggling to provide microcontrollers, so perhaps SK hynix stockpiled or otherwise waited for flash production to ramp up.

SK hynix also uses its own LPDDR4 DRAM on the P41, matching what they used on the Gold P31. DDR4 uses less voltage than DDR3 and, further, the low-power variant is even more efficient. DRAM for SSDs is most commonly used for metadata, particularly, mapping and addressing for translation between physical and logical data locations. DRAM has far lower latency than NAND, so it is particularly useful for many small and random I/O operations. This is especially true for writes as they require an update of the look-up table (LUT). DRAM works optimally by storing the most recent or “hottest” data accesses.

We often talk about DRAM configuration in reference to the bus bit width. A lower bit width tends to have more bandwidth, but a higher bit width is cheaper. Due to the type of access used on SSDs, the latter is a better choice, so we typically see a 16-bit configuration.

SK hynix listed several challenges in its 2021 ISSCC technical digest for the 176-layer TLC flash it uses on this drive. We don’t list flash density on our specs table. This is an important characteristic as it is one factor that limits capacity. Flash manufacturers constantly try to increase the number of cells and bits they can cram into a given surface area, encouraging improvements like CMOS-under-Array (CuA). SK hynix’s 176-layer 512Gb TLC is rated for 10.8Gb/mm2, which is comparable to Micron’s 10.27Gb/mm2 and BiCS6’s 10.4Gb/mm2. SK hynix has therefore improved density by more than a third over its previous generation of TLC flash, keeping up with the competition. For comparison, Micron’s 176-layer 1Tb QLC, with 33% more bits per cell, should be at 14.7Gb/mm2.

SK hynix’s specifications for this flash came from the 2021 International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), which referenced their 512Gb die design. The Gold P31 uses both 512Gb and 1Tb dies depending on capacity, while SK hynix states 512Gb for the three launch SKUs. There are similarities to the previous 128-layer generation, with the 176-layer flash being somewhat faster in latency but with a much faster I/O interface speed — 1066 MT/s versus 1600 MT/s. While this can improve response time to some degree, any bandwidth limitation is dependent on the controller, that is, the bus rate and the number of channels.

Array efficiency, the ratio between total gate layers, and the number of word lines for data have continued to improve. Some layers might be relegated for use as dummy word lines, generally at either end of the data word lines and between decks to mitigate electron injection effects at the edges. Others may be used for source and drain gate selectors. All of this is relevant if one is trying to gauge the “real” layer count, although, in practice, that just gives an idea of architectural efficiency. It suffices to say we expect this flash to perform reasonably well as SK hynix has addressed height concerns.

Comparison Products

The 2TB Platinum P41 is to be compared against other high-end PCIe 4.0 drives at the same capacity, as well as its Gold P31 predecessor. This includes the proprietary controller drives of the WD Black SN850, the Crucial P5 Plus, and the Samsung 980 Pro. Other drives tested use Phison’s E18 controller coupled with 176-layer Micron TLC, the fastest variant but with some differences in caching and optimization between models. These drives include the Kingston KC3000, the Seagate FireCuda 530, and the Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus.

Trace Testing – 3DMark Storage Benchmark

Built for gamers, 3DMark’s Storage Benchmark focuses on real-world gaming performance. Each round in this benchmark stresses storage based on gaming activities including loading games, saving progress, installing game files, and recording gameplay video streams.

The Platinum P41 tops all three charts in this test, demonstrating that SK hynix has certainly focused on optimization. Drives using Phison’s E18 controller with Micron’s 176-layer TLC are not too terribly far behind.

Trace Testing – PCMark 10 Storage Benchmark

PCMark 10 is a trace-based benchmark that uses a wide-ranging set of real-world traces from popular applications and everyday tasks to measure the performance of storage devices.

The Platinum P41 dominates here, too, which is not unexpected. This test tends to favor the P5 Plus and SN850, which nonetheless are significantly behind the P41.

Transfer Rates – DiskBench

We use the DiskBench storage benchmarking tool to test file transfer performance with a custom, 50GB dataset. We copy 31,227 files of various types, such as pictures, PDFs, and videos to a new folder and then follow-up with a reading test of a newly-written 6.5GB zip file.

The Platinum P41 tops all three charts in this test, demonstrating that SK hynix has certainly focused on optimization. Drives using Phison’s E18 controller with Micron’s 176-layer TLC are not too terribly far behind.

Trace Testing – PCMark 10 Storage Benchmark

PCMark 10 is a trace-based benchmark that uses a wide-ranging set of real-world traces from popular applications and everyday tasks to measure the performance of storage devices.

The Platinum P41 dominates here, too, which is not unexpected. This test tends to favor the P5 Plus and SN850, which nonetheless are significantly behind the P41.

Transfer Rates – DiskBench

We use the DiskBench storage benchmarking tool to test file transfer performance with a custom, 50GB dataset. We copy 31,227 files of various types, such as pictures, PDFs, and videos to a new folder and then follow-up with a reading test of a newly-written 6.5GB zip file.

This bandwidth-heavy test caps the PCIe 4.0 drives with the read workload, but we see the Platinum P41 pull ahead of the pack during the file copy tasks. The controller and flash combination are fast, exceeding even Phison E18-equipped drives which are optimized for this type of performance.

Synthetic Testing – ATTO / CrystalDiskMark

ATTO and CrystalDiskMark (CDM) are free and easy-to-use storage benchmarking tools that SSD vendors commonly use to assign performance specifications to their products. Both of these tools give us insight into how each device handles different file sizes.

While the Platinum P41 does not break records in ATTO it’s hard to match drives with the E18 and 176-layer flash in these sequential tests it remains more than competitive on the whole. This is also true of Crystal Disk Mark’s sequential tests, which with QD (Queue Depth) 8 is limited by the x4 PCIe 4.0 interface. With QD1, the Platinum P41 clearly takes the lead with reads but dips closer to the SN850 and P5 Plus with writes. Nevertheless, this is a strong showing overall.

The Platinum P41 is also competitive in Crystal Disk Mark’s random performance tests. We again see a bit of disparity when looking at the very high QD256 results, as the drive dominates with reads but falls behind a bit with writes. Most users look at low queue depth, random results to get an idea of general performance, which is valid, but the Platinum P41’s strengths here do imply some interesting things. For one, it really can hit 1.4M+ IOPS with reads, but the QD1 sequential read test is also quite high. These metrics may become more important once the DirectStorage API matures. As such, this is a future-looking drive.

Sustained Write Performance and Cache Recovery

Official write specifications are only part of the performance picture. Most SSDs implement a write cache, which is a fast area of (usually) pseudo-SLC programmed flash that absorbs incoming data.  Sustained write speeds can suffer tremendously once the workload spills outside of the cache and into the “native” TLC or QLC flash. We use Iometer to hammer the SSD with sequential writes for 15 minutes to measure both the size of the write cache and performance after the cache is saturated. We also monitor cache recovery via multiple idle rounds.

The Platinum P41 writes at up to 6.6 GBps for almost 50 seconds, suggesting a total cache size of around 325GB (the initial response indicates a slightly slower static portion at 5.35 GBps). After that, it continues at 1.7 GBps for a while before having a bit of a rebound. This puts its peak closer to the drives using Phison’s E18 controllers but with slower speeds after the pSLC cache is exhausted. Nevertheless, it is still a good response compared to the 980 PRO, P5 Plus, and SN850.

It’s possible SK hynix could get more out of this hardware at 4TB. Otherwise, the design decision indicates the company had this performance target in mind as it provides a good balance. In addition, the drive never hits a bottom performance state, as you eventually may find with Micron’s comparable B47R TLC flash, so it is potentially more consistent in edge cases.

The 2TB Platinum P41 has a hybrid cache like its predecessor, with both static and dynamic pSLC portions. SK hynix has marketed this as Hyperwrite. Static and dynamic caches do work differently and have slightly different origins, with SanDisk – now under WD’s umbrella – and Micron patenting static and dynamic pSLC schemes as nCache and Dynamic Write Acceleration (DWA), respectively. Samsung’s TurboWrite was an original hybrid scheme, but many others have taken a page from that playbook. This scheme offers some flexibility to the user.

Like the Gold P31, the Platinum P41’s pSLC cache recovery was relatively quick for the static portion and slow with the dynamic. Samsung’s TurboWrite, as a point of comparison, was designed to work in a first-in, first-out (FIFO) fashion, with the static cache being filled first. This is not always ideal as you want to balance the endurance of the static pSLC with the native-dynamic portion of flash, particularly as random writes prefer pSLC for performance and endurance reasons. Caching schemes, as such, continue to get more complex as drives accelerate.

Power Consumption and Temperature

We use the Quarch HD Programmable Power Module to gain a deeper understanding of power characteristics. Idle power consumption is an important aspect to consider, especially if you’re looking for a laptop upgrade as even the best ultrabooks can have mediocre storage.

Some SSDs can consume watts of power at idle while better-suited ones sip just milliwatts. Average workload power consumption and max consumption are two other aspects of power consumption, but performance-per-watt is more important. A drive might consume more power during any given workload, but accomplishing a task faster allows the drive to drop into an idle state more quickly, ultimately saving energy.

We also monitor the drive’s temperature via the S.M.A.R.T. data and an IR thermometer to see when (or if) thermal throttling kicks in and how it impacts performance. Remember that results will vary based on the workload and ambient air temperature.

Those wanting to see how the Platinum P41 fares with power efficiency do not have to look any further. Not only does it beat the other PCIe 4.0 drives, it even exceeds the class-leading numbers put up by the Gold P31. The Gold P31 does have lower peak and average power draw, but the Platinum P41 can finish tasks far faster. The Gold P31 also has lower idle power consumption with ASPM/LPM disabled.

Testing power efficiency with more-nuanced tests might produce different results, but many users buy PCIe 4.0 drives for the raw bandwidth. Consumer workloads are generally pretty light and quick, with lots of idle time. Therefore, the value of power efficiency for an SSD is questionable past a certain point; however, we can get some idea with a quick copy test like this. The Platinum P41 is simply the most efficient of the high-end PCIe 4.0 drives to date.

The Platinum P41’s S.M.A.R.T. report shows two throttle points, at 86C for throttle and 87C for critical. In practice, we saw throttling around the 84-86C range as measured by the sensor, which corresponded to a 70-72C range for the NAND. During a write workload, we recorded the surface temperature at about 85C versus 82C reported by the sensor, so reports of the drive throttling by 90C, on FLIR, are accurate. We were able to find some relatively graceful throttling after writing about 420GB.

Consumer NAND flash is usually rated for a 0-70C operating range – the idea that NAND works better at higher temperatures must be taken within context. We do recommend that users equip this drive with a heatsink, if possible. This is especially true if you expect the drive to dwell in a warmer environment. 

Test Bench and Testing Notes

We use a Rocket Lake platform with most background applications such as indexing, windows updates, and anti-virus disabled in the OS to reduce run-to-run variability. Each SSD is prefilled to 50% capacity and tested as a secondary device. Unless noted, we use active cooling for all SSDs.

Conclusion

Expectations for this drive were high and, it’s nice to say, were generally met or exceeded. SK hynix’s 176-layer TLC has proven itself a contender, and the company’s Aries controller offers excellent performance as well. All of this makes for an exceptional product that is competitive in almost every area, even against optimized products. It should make Crucial want to work even harder on improving their P5 and P5 Plus SSDs. On top of the performance accolades, the Platinum P41 also takes the power efficiency throne from the Gold P31, a nice cherry on top.

The Platinum P41 is also priced right where it matters, at 1TB and 2TB. PCIe 4.0 drives have become more affordable as the install base has widened, and that will continue to be the case, especially as PCIe 5.0-capable motherboards and CPUs are on the horizon. However, for the time being, this drive simply beats every alternative in one or more ways. This overall balance — without any stark weaknesses — makes it impossible to score the drive equally with any other PCIe 4.0 drive we’ve tested. This may change in the future, we have yet to see the SM2264 in action, for example, but for now, this is the crème de la crème.

Would we like to see a 4TB option? Yes, that may be forthcoming, but most users are fine with 1TB or 2TB. Would a heatsink be nice? Yes, but it is not always necessary, and we would prefer not to have a built-in heatsink; a separate one which could be optionally applied would add unnecessary cost. Lastly, sustained performance is less than we’ve seen on some B47R drives, but only in the middle state. SK hynix’s Hyperwrite is a balanced design, and we think its strong read performance will be more applicable down the road.

Our primary concern with this drive is availability. The Gold P31 has remained difficult to find in many regions, and it’s often expensive in places that manage to have some stock. However, users in the United States generally got to enjoy that drive and should be able to find this one, too. We hope that SK hynix can ramp up production and availability so that everyone can enjoy this superlative drive. The Platinum P41 is definitely an SSD that you’ll want in your system.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *