SK hynix Tube T31 Stick SSD Review: Bridging Solution Springs A Surprise

SK hynix Tube T31 Stick SSD Review: Bridging Solution Springs A Surprise

SK hynix is ​​one of the few vertically integrated manufacturers in the flash-based storage market (along with Samsung, Micron/Crucial, Western Digital, and Kioxia). The company is well established in the OEM market. A few years ago, they too started searching Direct end consumer products. Internal SSDs (starting with the Gold S31 and Gold P31) were first out the door. Late last year, the company introduced Beatle X31 Portable SSD, its first directly attached storage product. In February, a complementary product was introduced – the Tube T31 Stick SSD.

The Beetle X31 is a portable SSD with a Type-C upstream port and a separate cable. The Tube T31 is a take on the traditional thumb drive with a male Type-A interface. The size of the Beetle X31 illustrates the use of a bridge solution. Our investigation of the Tube T31 also revealed the use of the same internal SSD, albeit with a different bridge. This review takes a detailed look at the Tube T31, including an analysis of its internals and a review of its performance consistency, power consumption, and thermal profile.

Introduction and product impressions

USB flash drives have grown in both storage capacity and speed over the past few years. Thanks to the advent of 3D NAND and faster iterations with performance improvements in the USB specification, we're now seeing 'stick SSDs' capable of delivering 1GBps+ speeds. This segment of the market is slowly gaining members since its introduction. Kingston's Data Traveler Max By the end of 2021. Some stick SSD vendors have tried to differentiate themselves by offering 2TB SKUs.

The high-performance 'stick SSD' segment is relatively new, and has been dominated by native UFD controllers (Silicon Motion's SM2320 In products like Kingston Data Traveler Max Oh And Exceed ESD310C.And Faison U17 I OWC Envoy Pro Mini For example). This is in contrast to early high-performance UFDs such as Corsair Voyager GTX And Muskan Ventura Ultra That put a SATA SSD controller behind the USB 3.0 bridge. In high-performance scenarios, bridge solutions are generally avoided for UFDs due to thermal constraints. BOM cost is also another important aspect, as UFDs generally require less cost than portable SSDs. Factors such as the absence of a separate cable help, but a bridge solution in the PCB can potentially offset the savings.

The Beetle X31 from SK hynix was a traditional portable SSD that mounted a SK hynix BC711 M.2 2242 NVMe SSD behind an ASMedia ASM2362 USB 3.2 Gen 2 bridge chip. Unlike other PSSD families that have a wide range of capacity options, the Beetle X31 was introduced with only two capacity options – 512GB and 1TB. This was due to the single-chip BC711 internal SSD – this package also integrates flash dies, SSD controller, and DRAM for the flash translation layer. The highly integrated nature of the BC711 limited the number of NAND dies, and therefore limited capacity options.

The Tube T31 under review today also comes in the same two capacity points – 512GB and 1TB, hinting at the possible use of the same internal SSD. The integration of flash eliminates some of the concerns of the controller BOM in a single package, and a bridge-based solution based on the BC711 ends up with a native UFD controller-based solution with a similar PCB area. .

The tube T31 is relatively large for a USB flash drive, and is bound to interfere with devices/cables connected to neighboring USB ports. However, the dimensions are unavoidable due to the use of the M.2 2242 internal SSD and the associated thermal solution. As this is a UFD solution, the packaging is spartan – just the user manual and the main unit in an environmentally friendly recyclable box.

The clamshell case design is easily disassembled by pressing the plastic tabs holding it on either side to enable one of them to pop up and slide off. The circuit boards are shielded from a metal sheet held together by three screws, and further affixed to the boards with thermal pads – one over the bridge chip in the mainboard, and another on the NVMe SSD daughterboard. Across the .

The internal SSD is a single-sided board, with a thin thermal pad on the underside that is used to stick it to the main board.

The single chip on the SSD has the 'SK hynix HNB001T14M' package marking – identical to the BC711 M.2 2230/2242 OEM NVMe SSD. It uses SK hynix's 128L V6 NAND, and integrates their in-house controller as well as DRAM.

Unlike the ASMedia ASM2362 used in the Beetle X31, SK hynix has chosen JMicron's JMS583 in the Tube T31. The JMicron solution has been around for over 5 years, and is currently on A3 silicon (the fourth iteration of the same design with silicon bug fixes) to improve and resolve system incompatibility issues. This bridge seems to have had a recent resurgence in the market, as evidenced by its use. Silicon Power PX10 Released earlier this year.

The bridge allows SMART pass-through, as shown in the CrystalDiskInfo screenshot below. TRIM is also available, although it is not explicitly mentioned.

Smart Passthrough – Crystal Disk Info

The table below provides a comparative view of the features of the various storage bridges presented in this review.

Configuration of comparable direct-attached storage devices
Downstream port PCIe 3.0 x2 Local flash
The upstream port USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (Male)
Bridge chip JMicron JMS583-A3 Silicon Motion SM2320
power Bus driven Bus driven
Use the case. The lightweight 1GBps-class stick SSD is marketed as a thumb drive alternative, with a focus on performance consistency. Compact USB thumb drive with retractable cover for 1GBps class, Type-C connector
Physical dimensions 92.5 mm x 30.5 mm x 14 mm 82.6 mm x 22.3 mm x 9.5 mm
The weight 34 grams 12.5 grams
Cable N/A N/A
Smart pass-through Yes Yes
UASP support Yes Yes
TRIM pass-through Yes Yes
Hardware encryption no Not Available
Estimated storage SK hynix BC711 (SK hynix V6 128L 3D TLC) Micron 96L 3D TLC
Price $85

USD 180
Review the link. SK hynix Tube T31 1TB Review Kingston DT Max 1TB Review

Before looking at the benchmark numbers, power consumption, and effectiveness of the thermal solution, a description of the testbed setup and evaluation procedure is provided.

Testbed setup and evaluation procedure

Direct-attached storage devices (including thumb drives) are tested using a Quartz Canyon NUC (primarily, the Xeon/ECC version). Ghost Valley NUC) is arranged with 2x 16GB DDR4-2667 ECC SODIMMs and a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD – the IM2P33E8 1TB From ADATA

The most attractive aspect of the Quartz Canyon NUC is the presence of two PCIe slots (electrical, x16 and x4) for add-in cards. In the absence of a discrete GPU – which does not require a DAS testbed – both slots are available. In fact, we even added a spare SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe SSD to the CPU's direct-attached M.2 22110 slot in the baseboard to avoid DMI bottlenecks when evaluating Thunderbolt 3 devices. It still allows for two add-in cards operating at x8 (x16 electrical) and x4 (x4 electrical). Since the Quartz Canyon NUC doesn't have a native USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port, the Silverstone SST-ECU06 The add-in card was installed in the x4 slot. All non-Thunderbolt devices are tested via the Type-C port enabled by the SST-ECU06.

The characteristics of the test bed are summarized in the table below.

2021 Anand Tech DAS Testbed Configuration
System Intel Quartz Canyon NUC9vXQNX
CPU Intel Xeon E-2286M
memory ADATA INDUSTRIAL AD4B3200716G22
32 GB (2 x 16 GB)
DDR4-3200 ECC @ 22-22-22-52
OS drive ADATA Industrial IM2P33E8 NVMe 1TB
Secondary drive SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D SSD 1TB
Add-on card SilverStone Tek SST-ECU06 USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C Host
OS Windows 10 Enterprise x64 (21H1)
Thanks to ADATA, Intel, and SilverStone Tek for building components

The testbed is only one part of the hardware evaluation. Over the past few years, common direct-attached storage workloads have also evolved for memory cards. High bitrate 4K videos at 60fps have become quite common, and 8K videos are starting to appear. Portable game consoles have also seen a steady increase in game install sizes thanks to higher resolution textures and artwork. With these in mind, our evaluation scheme for portable SSDs and UFDs includes several workloads that are detailed in the respective sections.

  • Simulated workloads using CrystalDiskMark and ATTO
  • Real-world benchmarks using PCMark 10's storage benchmark
  • Custom robocopy workloads reflect typical DAS usage.
  • Sequential written stress test

In the next section, we have a review of SK hynix Tube T31 performance in these benchmarks. Before providing closing remarks, we also have some observations on the stick SSD's power consumption numbers and thermal solution.

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