SK hynix SL308 SSD Review - LAMD Goes TLC

Software Performance And Conclusion

PCMark 8 Real-World Software Performance

For details on our real-world software performance testing, please click here.

We've found that strong mixed-workload performance correlates to strong real-world application performance.

Of course, if you only looked at our four-corner charts, you'd expect the SL308 to outperform everything else.

Total Application Storage Bandwidth

In the averaged results, SK hynix's SL308 outperforms Intel's SSD 540s, though in many of the individual tests, Intel is a little faster. In particular, the SSD 540s has trouble with both Adobe Photoshop workloads.

SK hynix made real progress with this drive, but it could use fine-tuning to become a truly stellar low-cost SSD.

PCMark 8 Advanced Workload Performance

To learn how we test advanced workload performance, please click here.

In this section, we'll focus on the recovery states of PCMark 8's Advanced workload test. The products in this price range were not made to deliver high steady-state performance. With that said, the SL308 again delivers lower throughput performance than Samsung's 850 EVO, but outmaneuvers the other products. 

Total Access Time

We've already mentioned the SL308's great flash management, but the PCMark 8 Advanced access time measurement drives our point home. Under the duress of taxing workloads, SK hynix's SL308 outperforms all of the other drives. This is a rarity from TLC-based storage.

When we allowed the drives to recover between tests, Samsung's 850 EVO joined the SL308 with very low latency. This is one of the most illustrative charts in our suite, as it relates directly to your experience with the SSD.

Disk Busy Time

Disk busy time refers to how long it takes a device to service read and write requests. Perhaps strangely, this is separate from both throughput and latency. Yes, storage is a complicated beast. The faster a drive can work through a task, the quicker it drops back into a low-power state. Usually, that means it also consumes less energy, too.

The SL308 performs well in this test, besting all of the other products on the chart. We'd even compare it some of our favorite mainstream and premium MLC-based SATA drives.

Notebook Battery Life

The notebook run time test results can be explained by looking at the low disk busy time numbers. SK hynix's SL308 delivers exceptional battery life, according to this benchmark. The gap between the best and the worst is just over 100 minutes, or more than an hour and a half of extra juice while working in real-world applications. The SL308's performance doesn't drop significantly in order to achieve the longer battery life, either.

Conclusion

SK hynix's presence in the consumer SSD market is continually growing; the company is the third-largest (by revenue) semiconductor manufacturer in the world. The company recently announced a significant investment in NAND fabs, which should improve SK hynix’s bit output into second place (behind Samsung).

The SL308 we tested today shows a lot of promise in the value-focused storage segment. With some additional firmware tuning, it could be an exceptional product. Though the SL308 doesn't quite dethrone Samsung's 500GB 850 EVO in the performance charts, it comes close. In these situations, we turn to pricing for our guidance. SK hynix needs to be cheaper than the 850 EVO if it wants to be more attractive. The SL308 does serve up the same flash endurance rating as the 850 EVO, but doesn't match its five-year warranty.

The SL308 500GB retails for $129.99 at Newegg, which is less than SK hynix's $149.99 MSRP. The Samsung 850 EVO 500GB currently sells for $179.99 at Newegg. The 850 EVO is a slightly better product, but it is not worth the $50 premium over the SK hynix SL308 500GB.

SK hynix's SL308 does include two valuable features we want to call out. First, it supports hardware-accelerated AES encryption for extended data security beyond software tools. Not all users will exploit this capability, but some of the folks working in industries that require strong data protection will find it useful. The SL308 also includes access to well-designed software tools that go far beyond reading SMART data.

We would like to see the SL308 get a firmware update that focuses on mixed-workload performance. This is the drive's missing link right now. It's so close to being exceptional; it just needs a little more tuning to make it one of the best entry-level SSDs available.

In particular, we're fans of the way SK hynix handles data and its background activity algorithms. The company figured out how to balance wear-leveling and disk busy time. The drive is a good candidate in notebooks, given the battery life measurements we recorded. Latency is also kept in check. In our testing, we found that this is the best low-cost SSD for more demanding workloads because it delivers the best access times.

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