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Evocative designs, catchy names, and attractive packaging all help to sell a product. Witness Seagate and WD’s practice of marketing basically the same storage devices at both mainstream users and gamers. Not to mention Apple, which has raked in trillions off of its renowned attention to product presentation and clever marketing terminology.
SK Hynix has followed suit to an extent with its excellent-performing Beetle X31 external SSD. The name and packaging are suggestive (The Mummy?), as is the design… somewhat. I actually wish they’d gone to town theme-wise with the drive’s actual appearance, but given the chart-topping performance, I’ll let that slide.
With a vivid enough imagination (and the suggestion of the picture on the packaging shown below), the X31 does have somewhat the appearance of a beetle. Without the appendages or division of the elytra and thorax, that is.
SK Hynix might have done better calling it “Scarab” and using colors more evocative than the pale gold it ships in. But that’s a matter for marketing professionals.
The Beetle X31 is about the size of a scarab beetle at around 1.8-inches wide, 2.9-inches long, and 0.57-inches thick. It weighs less than two ounces and the metal shell seems very rugged. There are non-skid pads on the bottom, and a Type-C port and activity light on one end.
As of this writing, the X31 Beetle is available on Amazon in 512GB for $71.06 and 1TB at $92.69. In the UK, it’s £65.99 and £85.99 respectively on Amazon UK.
The innards of the X31 must be NVMe from the 1GBps performance we saw. SATA tops out at around 550MBps, ruling that out. The internal design no doubt leverages one of SK Hynix’s own SSDs. TLC NAND is likely employed, judging from its performance when secondary cache runs out. More on that below.
The Beetle X31 proved slightly faster than the competition overall, though the margin would be largely unnoticeable to the naked eye. Still, faster is faster, and SK Hynix can hang its hat on the Beetle’s success.
The sequential single-queue, single-thread read is where the X31 made hay in CrystalDiskMark 8. Otherwise, it was just a hair slower than the SanDisk Pro-G40.
The SK Hynix Beetle X31 turned in a faster aggregate time than the 10Gbps competition in our 48GB transfer tests.
Though the Beetle X31 turned in a very good 450GB write time, it went about achieving it in odd fashion. It started out at around 450MBps for the first 50GB or so, jumped to around 850MBps for the majority of the write, then when it ran out of secondary cache near the end (treating the TLC as SLC, writing one bit/level instead of three bits/eight voltage levels), it dropped to around 250MBps.
It’s the first stint that’s unusual, not the middle or end. This was replicated over all the initial runs, as well as the extra runs we ran to make sure of what we were seeing.
Note that the time shown below occurred when the drive was squeaky new. It turned in significantly slower times (about 100 seconds longer) writing 450GB after our 48GB tests were run. In other words, expect somewhat slower large file writes from the 1TB drive during everyday use.
The Beetle X31 took the number-one spot among 10Gbps SSDs in synthetic benchmarks and our 48GB transfer tests. It might also have taken the top spot from the OWC Envoy Pro FX in the 450GB write if it were available as a 2TB model, though it might still have been close given the X31’s propensity for slow starts.
Should you buy the SK Hynix Beetle X31?
The X31 is currently our top 10Gbps performer, but being slightly faster doesn’t offset its steeper price tag. Regardless, it’s a comfortable design with an amusing and entertaining moniker. Performance across the competition being so close, shop this category on price.
How we test
External drive tests currently utilize Windows 11, 64-bit running on an X790 (PCIe 4.0/5.0) motherboard/i5-12400 CPU combo with two Kingston Fury 32GB DDR5 4800MHz modules (64GB of memory total). Both 20Gbps USB and Thunderbolt 4 are integrated to the back panel and Intel CPU/GPU graphics are used. The 48GB transfer tests utilize an ImDisk RAM disk taking up 58GB of the 64GB of total memory. The 450GB file is transferred from a Samsung 990 Pro 2TB which also runs the OS.
Each test is performed on a newly formatted and TRIM’d drive so the results are optimal. Note that in normal use, as a drive fills up, performance will decrease due to less NAND for secondary caching, as well as other factors.
Caveat: The performance numbers shown apply only to the drive we were shipped and to the capacity tested. SSD performance can and will vary by capacity due to more or fewer chips to shotgun reads/writes across and the amount of NAND available for secondary caching.Vendors also occasionally swap components. If you ever notice a large discrepancy between the performance you experience and that which we report, by all means, let us know.
Jon Jacobi is a musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time computer enthusiast. He writes reviews on TVs, SSDs, dash cams, remote access software, Bluetooth speakers, and sundry other consumer-tech hardware and software.