Western Digital bought SanDisk last year primarily to test their fortunes in the consumer SSD space. SandDisk already had a competitive lineup, so it only made sense to acquire the company rather than start from scratch. The naming scheme for their newly introduced SSDs is the same as WD’s HDD offerings. Today we’re reviewing a budget NVMe SSD from Western Digital, the WD Black 512 GB.
In the lower end SATA territory, WD introduced the Blue and Green SSDs and then for the budget NVMe market the TLC NAND based Black PCIe SSD. This drive uses SanDisk’s 15nm TLC NAND flash and a Marvel controller. In a market where, most major performers have moved to 3D TLC NAND and with the upcoming shift to Micron’s QLC NAND, it’ll be interesting to see how the WD Black SSD holds up against the competition and how future proof it really is.
The WD Black was initially introduced in two capacities, a 256 GB and a 512 GB model while a TLC 3D NAND based 1TB product was launched this year to keep up with the competition. At the moment, the 512 GB model is available on Amazon for $150 and the 256 GB for $80. As such, the Black competes directly with the Intel 600p in the more-affordable NVMe segment.
Test Bench and Key Terms
The following test bench was used to benchmark the drive:
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-B150M.
CPU: Intel i7 6700K.
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070.
RAM: 16 GB DDR4 G-Skill Ripjaws.
OS: Windows 10 (Latest built).
The following terms will be commonly used throughout the article to indicate the SSD performance, so it’s important you understand them:
IOPS: The term IOPS stands for input/output operations per second, and it’s a common measurement unit used to evaluate computer storage devices.
Queue Depth: Queue depth refers to the number of outstanding access operations. In the picture above, each solid line represents one disk operation, which can be either a read or write. Because three operations overlap in the same period, there’s a queue depth of three.
Read/Write Speed: In HDDs and SSDs using the SATA interface a duplex of sorts is formed, so at any instant only read or write operations are possible. However, in NVMe based PCIe drives, both operations are possible at any instant. In benchmarks however, they are carried out separately to determine the upper limits. Read/Write in MB/s= average transfer size * IOPS.
Random & Sequential Read/Write Performance: In a conventional hard drive, random accesses occur when the drive accesses non-adjacent sectors. In spinning media, it’s more difficult to fetch information distributed across different sectors than in a sequential order.
As with hard drives, sequential data on an SSD is stored adjacently but in pages rather than sectors. Random data is handled slightly differently by each SSD architecture. This is why firmware affects the SSD performance and drives with same specs from different manufacturers perform differently. In the end though, sequentially stored data is more easily accessed even in SSDs as compared to random bits.
WD Black Benchmarks: Light (1GB File Size)
It’s a pleasure to see that in the light CrystalMark test, the WD Black reaches it’s rated speeds of 2000 MB/s and 800 MB/s for read and write respectively. Just like many budget TLC NAND drives, in the 4K tests the speed drops significantly as the SLC cache thins. Compared to the 3K/2K+ Read/Write speeds of enthusiast class SSDs, this drive pales in comparison but given the low price tag and the competition it performs fairly well, especially when you consider the write speed. The Intel 600p 512 GB SSD managed approx only 500MB/s in the sequential read test.
Anvil Storage Utilities
In the Anvil test, the WD Black SSD cleanly beats the Intel 600p in the read test, but write speed is more or less similar on both drives. Initially, the Intel 600p is faster but the WD Black catches up halfway through the benchmark. As for the MyDigitalSSD, it outpaces both the Black and the Intel drive as the test progresses.
Once again, the WD Black beats the Intel 600p quite comfortably but fails to keep up with it’s slightly expensive competitor, the MyDigitalSSD. Note that towards the end, the write speed drops slightly as the TLC NAND starts to hit it’s limits.
In AS SSD, for some reason the WD Black fails to hit the rated read speeds, but the write speeds are upto the mark all the way. In the 4K test, the read speed falls to a paltry 40 MB/s, less than half of the write speed. We first though this was a one time error, but continued testing yielded the same results. In AS SSD, the read speeds seem to be dropping significantly in certain tests.
In the copy benchmark, the WD black shows a good showing. This is more indicative of real world performance, so it’s a welcome triumph. The compression benchmark also puts up a solid performance meeting the rated speeds in both the read and write tests.
With IOMeter, it’s the same story. The WD Black lags behind the MYDigitalSSD but leaves the Intel 600p in the dust. The WD Blue SATA SSD performs rather admirably for a SATA drive and manages to stay on the heels of the Intel NVMe drive.
WD Black Benchmarks: Heavy
The following benchmarks are the result of prolonged/heavy tests involving a file size of 32GB and a longer period of testing. This brings into picture thermal bottlenecks or performance during intensive tasks.
While the read speed isn’t as much affected, the write speed takes a heavy hit, and in ATTO and AS SSD it is roughly halved. The Intel 600p shines in the IOMETER test, and for the first time outperforms the WD Black in all except the sequential read. The Samsung EVO drives come face to face with their PRO counterparts. That’s just strange given that their prices are quite far apart.
WD Black SSD fits well in the budget segment of the NVMe market. Till now, this part of the market was dominated by Intel’s 600p SSD, but the WD Black is better than that drive in pretty much every way.
If you are in the market and want the premium performance of a PCIe drive at the cheapest possible price, the WD Black is your go-to option. We performed the tests on a desktop PC, so we left out the power charts, but from our testing we were able to conclude that the WD Black is one of the most efficient NVMe drives so that’s another plus point if you’re looking to put it in a laptop.