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WD BLACK SN850X SSD Review (vs SN850): A Spacious (and Pricier) Alternative

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The WD Black SN850X, first announced in May 2022, is supposed to be the upgrade to the SN850, the flagship NVMe SSD in Western Digital’s game-oriented WD BLACK family.

In reality, it’s just a more expensive alternative — the “X” doesn’t hold much, whether or not it’s supposed to mean “extreme,” “extra”, or “the X factor,” as Western Digital puts it.

To be fair, the new drive is still an excellent SSD. It’s just not outright better than the predecessor. The notion that it is seems forced and just simply untrue. That’s partly because, in the world of NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSDs, the difference between all drives is somewhat negligible, to begin with.

(This post was originally and exclusively published at Dong Knows Tech.)

In real-world usage, you’ll likely experience zero difference in the SN850X vs SN850 matchup, other than the new 4TB capacity of the former. And in synthesized random access or copy testing, the two are also neck and neck for the most part.

Between these two, get whichever fits your budget. And no matter which you get, you’ll be happy with the experience.

WD BLACK SN850X 1 4
As a standard NVMe SSD, the WD BLACK SN850X is super compact, about the size of a stick of gum.

WD BLACK SN850X: That mysterious “X factor”

Physically, putting the X at the end of the WD BLACK SN850, and you get the WD BLACK SN850X.

The two share the same single-sided 2280 design of an NVMe SSD. It looks almost the same and comes in the same retail package.

On the inside, the SN850X is supposed to have faster hardware, but it’s hard to know because WD generally doesn’t disclose its SSDs’ internal components. The company is also quite vague on what the drive has over its predecessor.

For example, the drive is supposed to have Game Mode 2.0 (as opposed to Game Mode on the older drives), and on this front, the storage maker says:

“The latest version of Game Mode serves up even more PC performance-boosting features like load prediction to ready game assets for fast in-game loading.”

But just like the case of the SN850, Game Mode 2.0 proved to be a gimmick veneer. It didn’t do anything tangible — more below.

WD BLACK SN850X 1 5WD Black SN850 PCIe Gen NVMe SSD
WD BLACK SN850X vs SN850: The two SSDs look very similar.

Like the case of the Black SN770, the SN850 is part of the WD Black family: it’s a storage device designed to deliver fast speed and not much else for gamers.

Hardware specifications: WD BLACK SN850X VS SN850 vs SN770

Of these three, the SN770 is the lower tier with noticeable slower performance (for a lower cost.) The other two are very similar.

Both are available in the naked and heatsink versions. The SN850X with heatsinks is available only in 2TB and 1TB capacities. The new drive moves a capacity scale up a notch, starting with 1TB. It has lower MSRPs at launch but currently costs more on the street.

NameWD Black SN850X WD Black SN850 WD Black SN770
Capacity / Part Number4TB /
WDS400T2X0E
2TB /
WDS200T2X0E
1TB /
WDS100T2X0E
2TB / WDS200T1X0E-00AFY0
1TB / WDS100T1X0E-00AFY0
500GB / DS500G1X0E-00AFY0
2TB / WDS200T3X0E
1TB / WDS100T3X0E
500GB / WDS500G3X0E
250GB / WDS250G3X0E
Form Factors M.2 2280 
(80mm x 22mm x 2.38mm)
M.2 2280 
(80mm x 22mm x 2.38mm)
M.2 2280 
(80mm x 22mm x 2.38mm)
Weight
(non-heatsink)
.27 oz (7.5g) .27 oz (7.5g).2 oz (5.5g)
InterfacePCIe Gen 4 16GT/s, up to 4 Lanes
PCIe Gen 3 and Gen 2 compatible
PCIe Gen 4 16GT/s, up to 4 Lanes
PCIe Gen 3 and Gen 2 compatible
PCIe Gen 4 16GT/s, up to 4 Lanes
PCIe Gen 3 and Gen 2 compatible
Endurance 
(Terabytes Written)
4TB: 2400 TBW
2TB: 1200 TBW
1TB: 600 TBW
2TB: 1,200 TBW
1TB: 600 TBW
500GB: 300 TBW
2TB: 1,200 TBW
1TB: 600 TBW
500GB: 300 TBW
250GB: 200 TBW
Sequential Read
(up to)
4TB: 7,300MB/s
2TB: 7,300MB/s
1TB: 7,300MB/s
2TB: 7,000MB/s
1TB: 7,000MB/s
500GB: 7,000MB/s
2TB: 5,150MB/s
1TB: 5,150MB/s
500GB: 5,000MB/s
250GB: 4,000MB/s
Sequential Write
(up to)
4TB: 6,600MB/s
2TB: 6,600MB/s
1TB: 6,300MB/s
2TB: 5,100MB/s
1TB: 5,300MB/s
500GB: 4,100MB/s
2TB: 4,850MB/s
1TB: 4,900MB/s
500GB: 4,000MB/s
250GB: 2,000MB/s
Random Read:
(up to)
4TB: 1,200K IOPS
2TB: 1,200K IOPS
1TB: 800K IOPS
2TB: 1,000K IOPS
1TB: 1,000K IOPS
500GB: 810K IOPS
2TB: 650K IOPS
1TB: 740K IOPS
500GB: 460K IOPS
250GB: 240K IOPS
Random Write
(up to)
4TB: 1,100K IOPS
2TB: 1,100K IOPS
1TB: 1,100K IOPS
2TB: 710K IOPS
1TB: 720K IOPS
500GB: 680K IOPS
2TB: 800K IOPS
1TB: 800K IOPS
500GB: 800K IOPS
250GB: 470K IOPS
Warranty5 Years5 Years5 Years
Release DateAugust 2022February 2021February 2022
US MSRP
(at launch)
1GB: $159.99
2GB: $289.99
4GB: $699.99
(Amazon street price)
500GB: $169.99
1TB: $249.99
2TB: $449.99
(Amazon street price)
250GB: $49.99
500GB: $59.99
1TB: $109.99
2TB: $269.99
(Amazon street price)
WD Black SN850X vs SN850 vs SN770: Hardware specifications

WD Black SN850X: Frill-free feature set, standard endurance

The SN850X has the same endurance level as its predecessor, 600TBW, for each terabyte. Considering it comes with a 5-year warranty, that translates into about .3DWPD (drive write per day).

Specifically, if you write a third of the 1TB version (some 333GB) to the drive daily and every day, that’d take five years to render it unusable.

And also, like the case of previous WD BLACK NVMes, the SN850X has no meaningful user-accessible feature, which is quite normal for a gaming SSD. No console has a way for users to manage the storage device’s features; they all use the drive with its default manufacturer settings.

But the drive does come with a helpful Dashboard application for Windows users. The software allows for checking on its status, upgrading its firmware, and managing its so-called Game Mode 2.0, which is also only available to Windows users.

Some of the software’s functions seemed buggy in my testing. For example, I needed to try the firmware update several times before it went through successfully.

You can only use the Dashboard to update the firmware when you use the SN850X as a secondary drive on a computer, which was my case. When using it as the boot drive, the software only helps you create a bootable USB thumb drive for the job.

On top of that, it didn’t work well with the new Game Mode 2.0, either.

WD BLAC SN850X DashboardWD BLAC SN850X Firmware
I used both the WD BLACK SN850X and SN850 for the testing. The Dashboard software can be buggy. Here’s an error during the firmware update. Note how Game Mode is unavailable in the screenshot — when available, it’s a little box under the drive’s name at the top-right corner.

“Gaming Mode 2.0” is also gimmicky

Game Mode is supposedly a feature that boosts the SSD’s performance when it works as the boot drive of a computer.

In my trial, the Game Mode was sometimes available on the Dashboard software’s interface. Sometimes, it wasn’t. It was just not there.

Most importantly, in my testing, the drive performance is practically the same with this feature turned on, off, or left in Auto mode. And that was the case with the SN850, too.

Nobody knows exactly what Game Mode does, but supposedly it puts the drive in full-power mode — the drive no longer goes to sleep when idle. If that’s the case, you can only notice any improvement when you return to the computer after a break.

WD BLAC SN850X Game Mode On
Here’s the Dashboard of the WD BLAC SN850X when the Game Mode 2.0 box appears, which it does inconsistently.

WD says with Game Mode 2.0, the Dashboard automatically detects gaming activities and “enables enhanced gaming features.” That sounds like a bit of a stretch since there’s not much an SSD can do to gaming activities when the game is already loaded.

Generally, if you want to conserve power, it’s better to leave Game Mode off (default.)

WD Black SN850X: Detail photos

WD BLACK SN850X 1 1
The WD BLACK SN850X’s retail box

WD BLACK SN850X 1 3
Out of the box, the drive comes with a little manual booklet.

WD BLACK SN850X 1 7
The WD BLACK SN850X is a standard NVMe SSD. It’s super-compact.

WD BLACK SN850X 1 8
The drive is single-sided. It’s thin and will fit anywhere.

WD BLACK SN850X 1 10
Here’s the WD BLACK SN850X working inside a desktop computer.

WD Black SN850X: Excellent but not the best performance

The WD Black SN850X did well in my testing, proving one of the fastest NVMe SSDs. Compared with the SN850, though, it was a tossup.

On the one hand, it was faster in copy speeds. On the other, it was consistently slower in random access synthetic tests.

In real-world usage, I purposely used both drives on the same computer, with the same system image (for OS and software). I switch back and forth between the two running the same tasks and playing the same game and experience no difference.

WD BLAC SN850X Copy PerformanceWD BLAC SN850X Random Access Performance
The WD BLACK SN850X performed better in sequential (copy) tests than in synthetic random access tests.

And by the way, just like its predecessor, the SN850X delivered the same performance (within normal fluctuations) with Game Mode 2.0 turned on or off.

The WD BLACK SN850X ran slightly hot in my testing, though somewhat less hot than its predecessor. However, heat has been a common issue with PCIe 4.0 SSDs, which is why many are available with heatsink.

WD Black SN850X's Rating

8.3 out of 10
WD BLACK SN850X 1 2
Performance
9 out of 10
Features
8 out of 10
Value
8 out of 10

Pros

Excellent NVMe performance, available in up to 4TB capacity

Helpful Dashboard software

Available in heatsink version

5-year warranty

Cros

Game Mode 2.0 is a gimmick; Dashboard is a bit buggy and available only in Windows

Random Access performance could be better, runs a bit hot

Conclusion

The WD Black SN850X is an excellent NVMe SSD, though not as awesome as Western Digital would like you to believe.

Mostly, it’s a higher-capacity alternative to the previous SN850. In fact, the best thing about the SN850X is that it helps lower the street price of its predecessor.

Either drive will do you a solid in daily tasks and gaming alike. Pick whichever fits your budget. But if you want the 4TB capacity, the WD BLAC SN850X is one of the current view available options.

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