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WD Black 1TB NVMe SSD Review - A Stunning Return to Form

Hardware Reviews By Christopher Coke on May 09, 2018

WD Black 1TB NVMe SSD Review - A Stunning Return to Form

Western Digital just released their latest SSD, updating last year’s WD Black with a brand new controller and a new 64-layer NAND design. Promising read speeds more than a full GB/s higher than last year’s drive, we put it through its paces to see just how it held up. This is our review of the WD Black 1TB NVMe SSD.

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Specifications

  • MSRP: $119.99 (250GB), $229.99 (500GB), $449.99 (1TB)
  • Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB
  • Interface: PCIe Gen3 8 Gb/s, up to 4 lanes
  • Form Factor: M.2 2280
  • Sequential Read/Write:
    • 1TB: Up to 3,400 MB/s Read, Up to 2,800 MB/s Write
    • 500GB: Up to 3,400 MB/s Read, Up to 2,500 MB/s Write
    • 250GB: Up to 3,000 MB/s Read, Up to 1,600 MB/s Write
  • Random Read/Write
  • 1TB: Up to 500,000 IOPS Read, Up to 400,000 IOPS Write
  • 500GB: Up to 410,000 IOPS Read, Up to 330,000 IOPS Write
  • 250GB: Up to 220,000 IOPS Read, Up to 170,000 IOPS Write
  • Endurance: 200TBW (250GB), 300TBW (500GB), 600TBW (1TB)
  • Warranty: 5-year

When it comes to storage, Western Digital is a household name. We’ve looked at a number of two of their drives over the past year, one of which was the WD Black M.2 NVMe. At the time, we reflected that the original WD Black was a great value NVMe but that it also had some obvious compromises in write speeds. As an industry leader, it was only a matter of time until Western Digital revisited the WD Black NVMe line to make it a more well-rounded contender. Well, return they have and this year’s WD Black outdoes itself.

To say that this year’s drive is an improvement would be an understatement. 2017’s released claimed speeds of 2050MB/s in sequential reads and 800 MB/s in sequential writes. This year’s drives make the jump to 64-layer NAND and a brand new controller design, jumping those speeds to 3400 MB/s and 2800 MB/s.

Endurance ratings and capacities have also been improved. Last year’s model was available in 256GB and 512GB capacities, with endurances of 80- and 160-terabytes written (TBW). Our new 3D NAND WD Black now features a full 1TB capacity with endurances of 200, 300, and 600 TBW. Writing 100GB a day, it would take more than sixteen years to exhaust the 1TB model. At the smallest capacity, that same use rate would leave the drive functional for a minimum of five and a half years. That’s a dramatic improvement.

This is achieved through the use of more advanced NAND stacks than were possible at the consumer level even several years ago. By stacking memory cells vertically, Western Digital is able to achieve lower latency and better power efficiency, which means faster overall performance with less power draw, particularly when the drive is not in use.

For gamers and system builders, NVMe drives offer cutting edge performance but do require a PCI-e M.2 slot in order to function. Rather than rely on the SATA bus, drives like the Black rely on the same high-speed throughput as a high performance graphics card (though, usually derive their lanes from the motherboard chipset - so don’t worry about it handicapping your GPU).

But enough with the background. Let’s get into the tests.

Benchmark Testing

Test System: Intel Core i7-8700K at 4.7GHz, ASUS Z370 Maximum X Core motherboard, 64GB DDR4-3200 Ballistix Tactical Elite, WD Gold 10TB Mass Storage, NVidia GTX 1080 Ti (SLI), Corsair HX1050 - 1050 Watt PSU, Noctua DH-14 Dual-spire/Dual-fan CPU cooler, Fractal Define R6 Case. 

When testing SSDs, we first begin by looking at synthetic benchmarks to cross check the manufacturers claims on speed. We then move into real world file copy tests using a large, heavily modified Skyrim directory. Finally, we look at game loading times in a variety of popular MMORPGs. Since MMOs, particularly in capital cities where our tests are conducted, require large first-time, no-cache loads, this makes for a particularly good test of real world performance implications.

Beginning with synthetic tests, we kicked things off with ATTO. This program is near-ubiquitous in the industry, providing a solid “best case” scenario for drive performance. ATTO is based on sequential read and write speeds, which doesn’t necessarily translate to real world performance for most users, but is a good way to check manufacturer’s claims on read and write speed.

The 1TB WD Black we tested is rated for 3400 MB/s peak read speeds and 2800 MB/s write speeds. ATTO bears out these claims and in fact shows the drive over-performing slightly. It also outdoes the Samsung 960 EVO which previously held a strong performance lead in the market. A strong start to a day of testing.

Next up we have CrystalDiskMark. This program also tests sequential speeds but also provides us with random access performance in the 4K Q1T1 tests. These tests prevent the drive for preparing data before read/write processes, effectively giving us a worst case scenario. Again, we see the WD Black 2018 leading the pack in sequential reads and writes. Samsung does have a slight edge in random access, which is a better indicator of real world performance; however, it’s quite close between the two.

With synthetics out of the way, we turn to real world file transfer tests. Here we see this year’s WD Black go neck and neck with the Samsung 960 EVO in sustained throughput. This demonstrates effective caching. Note that the SATA drives are also fairly “bursty” due to caching but maintain far lower average speeds due to the limitations of the SATA bus.

Finally, we come to game load times. The NVMe drives in our tests are neck and neck, each vastly outpacing a traditional hard drive; however, between the NVMe drives we’ve tested, you aren’t likely to notice much of a difference between any of them. Brand loyalty and budget are safe metrics to guide your purchasing here after settling on your speed and endurance expectations.

Final Thoughts

While the 2017 edition of the WD Black NVMe SSD left something to be desired, this year’s release provides one of the best values available in the NVMe market. It’s an all-star when it comes to sequential performance and is offers some of the best real world performance we’ve seen.

Pricing initially positioned this drive as the hands-down best for the dollar, which has caused some ripples in pricing in the upcoming 970 EVO and PRO series from Samsung. As these two companies compete, we’re likely to see more adjustments to come. For the cost, WD provides an incredibly solid drive. Should competition work its magic, that value is only likely to get better.

Pros

  • Excellent sequential read/write speeds
  • Very good random access and real world performance
  • 600TBW endurance rating
  • 5-year warranty
  •  

Cons

  • Not quite king of the hill yet… but close

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.