SK hynix Gold S31 SSD review: Decent speeds, affordable price

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SK hynix Gold S31 SSD label

Even with SATA III speed limitations, the SK hynix Gold S31 SSD is a decent and affordable upgrade for gamers and content creators.

9.5/10 rating

Hard drives have evolved over the years. While the current favourite for speed is NVMe SSDs, there are still plenty of computers that only accept SATA III SSD hard drives. The good news is that these do offer speed improvements over HDD or HDD/SSD hybrid drives and there are plenty of options out there. Our SK Hynix Gold S31 SSD review takes a look at the company’s first consumer SATA III SSD drives which targets gamers and content creators. Read on to see how it performs compared to some other options.

Specifications

The SK Hynix Gold S31 SSD has the following features and specifications:

  • Premium upgrades to your PC with SSD from global semiconductor powerhouse
  • Top tier speed, best-in-class sequential read speeds. Sequential read speeds up to 560MB/s and sequential write speeds up to 525MB/s.
  • Leading-edge solution powered by in-house 3D NAND, controller and DRAM
  • Superior reliability and stability (MTBF/TBW). 1.5 Million Hours MTBF, best-in-class 600 TBW (terabytes written)
  • 5-year warranty and rock-solid support from technology pioneer, now available to PC builders and upgraders
  • Capacity: 1TB/500GB/250GB
  • Interface: SATA III 6Gb/s
  • Form factor: 2.5-inch
  • Sequential Read Speed: Up to 560MB/s
  • Sequential Write Speed: Up to 525MB/s
  • TBW (Terabytes Written): Up to 600TBW (1TB)
  • Controller: SK hynix “Quartz” Controller
  • NAND Flash: SK hynix 3D-V4 72-layer 3D TLC, 512Gbi
  • DRAM: SK hynix LPDDR3
  • Dimensions: 3.94 x 2.75 x 0.28 in
  • Weight: 2.15 ounces

What’s in the box

  • SK hynix Gold S31 SSD
  • User Instructions
  • SK hynix Terms & Conditions
The SK hynix Gold S31 SSD drive
The SK hynix Gold S31 SSD drive.

Design

As far as design is concerned, there’s really not much to say here. The SK hynix Gold S31 SSD features the familiar 2.5-inch SATA SSD form factor. The drive itself is enclosed in a sturdy aluminum shell with your typical SATA connector recessed into the bottom of the drive. The top of the drive has a black sticker with the SK hynix logo on it.

As for mounting options, there are two mounting holes on either long edge of the drive as well as four in the bottom for different mounting options.

To be honest, there isn’t much to say about the design of a SATA SSD drive but SK hynix has opted for a nice shell and multiple mount options on the Gold S31 SSD drive.

Installation

Installing the SK hynix Gold S31 SSD SATA drive into your desktop or laptop will vary by system. Still, it should be fairly easy and straightforward. Start by powering down your system and unplugging it. For a desktop, you should be able to remove a side panel, plug it into a free SATA cable (or replace your existing drive slot), screw it in place, and replace the panel before plugging it back in.

Bottom view of the SK hynix Gold S31 SSD drive
Bottom view of the SK hynix Gold S31 SSD drive.

We installed our review unit in an ASUS laptop. We removed the bottom cover which covers the hard drive, removed the existing Samsung SSD 840 EVO from the SSD drive caddy, and replaced it with the Gold S31 SSD.

While you may want to start with a clean drive, as my laptop only has one main SATA drive bay, I then cloned the 840 EVO to the Gold S31 SSD using Clonezilla and then resized the partition from 500GB (which was the capacity of the Samsung drive) to its full 1TB capacity using Paragon Partition Manager.

The installation took about 5 minutes while the cloning took another 30 minutes to complete.

Performance

As we’ve mentioned before, benchmarking software is an odd thing. Each one has their peculiarities and while numbers are similar, you can get some wildly varying results. Our test machine was an ASUS GL752V laptop with an Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU and 16GB of RAM.

Because geeks love numbers, we ran a few disk benchmark tests, namely the one with the Samsung Magician SSD app, CrystalDiskMark, and finally AS SSD Benchmark. While we ran all tests against the Samsung SSD 840 EVO and added in numbers from the WD Black SN750 NVMe drive we recently reviewed for comparison.

Samsung SSD 840 EVOSK hynix Gold S31 SSDWD Black SN750
Samsung Magician Seq Read489 MB/s534 MB/s3,219 MB/s
Samsung Magician Seq Write309MB/s469 MB/s2,952 MB/s
Samsung Magician IOPS Read52,00160,302118,896
Samsung Magician IOPS Write16,60117,578104, 980
CrystalDiskMark Seq Read526.63 MB/s539.09 MB/s3367.5 MB/s
CrystalDiskMark Seq Write466.85 MB/s441.50 MB/s2960.9 MB/s
AS SSD Seq Read479.69 MB/s490.66 MB/s2876.66 MB/s
AS SSD Seq Write421.91 MB/s408.07 MB/s2,044.22 MB/s

As you can see from the above tests, the Gold S31 SSD is no match for the WD NVMe SSD, as expected. As for competing with the Samsung SSD 840 EVO, the SK hynix edged it out in all the Read benchmarks but was slightly slower in the CDM and AS SSD Write benchmarks. Interestingly enough, the Gold S31 SSD was significantly faster in the Write test than the 840 EVO while using Samsung’s own benchmarking tool.

To start with, as mentioned in the Software section, we cloned the Samsung SSD 840 EVO to the SK hynix Gold S31 SSD so we could run boot tests and use both drives as system drives. For our real-world tests, we measured boot time from when the ASUS boot logo first showed up on the screen until you hit the Windows 10 login screen. For games, load time was measured from when we double-clicked the desktop icon to the first menu screen requiring user interaction.

Samsung SSD 840 EVOSK hynix Gold S31 SSDWD Black SN750
Cold boot w/
fast boot enabled
22.05s16.65s15.08s
Forza Horizon 4 65s55s40.53s

Of course, real-world usage is where it matters most and the Gold S31 was faster than the 840 EVO in boot and game load times. To be honest, I was surprised that the Gold S31 booted as fast as it did and ran the test multiple times with both to make sure. As you can see, it was almost as fast as the WD Black SN750 NVMe SSD when it comes to booting up, even though the SN750 numbers are from a different system (still an i7 with 16GB of RAM, however).

You might be thinking that it’s great that your game loads faster with SSD, but a faster drive also improves load times between levels, when respawning after dying, and so forth. All these little chunks of time definitely add up to more actual gameplay over time.

It should be noted that at this point, the Gold S31 SSD and the 2.5-inch form factor SSDs from most other manufacturers perform close to or at the limitations of the SATA III specifications.

Price/Value

The SK hynix Gold S31 SSD starts at US$39.99 for the 250GB. Other MSRP prices sit at $59.99 for 500GB and $118.99 for 1TB. When comparing other 2.5-inch SATA III SSD drives at regular price, the Gold S31 SSD sits pretty much within the same price range given a few dollars.

If you’re running an HDD or hybrid HDD/SSD drive, upgrading to the SK hynix Gold S31 SSD is a no brainer. If you’re currently running an SSD drive, you may want to run a few benchmarks on your current drive before upgrading. That being said, if you’re after more storage, this drive is definitely worth considering as well.

Wrap-up

The SK Hynix Gold S31 SSD definitely offers improved speeds over HDD and some other SATA III SSD drives. While it doesn’t match NVMe speeds, it’s still a decent and affordable upgrade for gamers and content creators on a budget or who are limited by the SATA slot types in their computers.

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SK hynix Gold S31 SSD

US$39.99+
9.5

Design

9.5/10

Installation

10.0/10

Performance

9.0/10

Price/Value

9.5/10

Nailed it

  • Decent performance given SATA III limitations
  • Multiple mounting options
  • Affordable price

Needs work

  • Given SATA III limitations, none really

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