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WD Black SSD (2018) Review: An NVMe Black Panther

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The latest WD Black SSD turns the competition in the NVMe market up a notch.

Indeed, this new drive is a significant upgrade to WD’s last year’s NVMe SSD of the same name. It’s much faster and has significantly higher endurance. At the cost of fewer than 40 cents per gigabyte, it’s a formidable contender of the Samsung 970 Evo.

If you’re looking to upgrade your computer to the new NVMe performance, the new WD Black, unlike the previous version, is worth your consideration. Get it, and you won’t be disappointed.

The WD Black SSD is an NVMe M.2 solid-state drive.
The WD Black SSD is an NVMe M.2 solid-state drive.

2018 WD Black SSD vs. 2017 WD Black SSD vs. WD Black HDD

It’s important to know which WD Black to get since not all drives of that name are created equal.

Here’s why. For years, WD has used colors to name its internal hard drives (HDDs). For example, its NAS hard drive is WD RED, its low-power hard drive is WD Green, and WD Black is used for its performance HDD. In 2016, following the trend, the storage vendor named its first SATA SSD WD Blue.

Last year, the company released its first NVMe SSD—available in 256GB and 512GB capacities—and also called it WD Black. My guess is by recycling the name; the storage vendor wanted to emphasize the performance notion.

Ironically, however, equipped with a Marvell controller and SanDisk 15nm TLC NAND, the 2017 WB Black SSD ended up being one of the slowest NVMe SSDs on the market.

The WD Black and WD Blue SSDs.
The WD Black and WD Blue SSDs.

That brings us to this 2018 WD Black, which is a different product. It now features WD’s new home-grown controller and SanDisk 64-layer 3D TLC NAND to deliver almost twice the endurance and proved to be much faster in my testing. The new drive is also available in three capacities of 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB. In all, it’s so far away from the previous WD Black SSD that it deserves a different color! But WD Black, it remains!

To make the confusion even worse, the 2018 WD Black is also available under WD’s SanDisk branding. It’s the new SanDisk Extreme PRO, which, by the way, is not to be confused with the SATA drive of the same name that came out years ago. Under the stickers, the hardware of the two is the same.

High endurance, affordable pricing

Both the WD Black and the SanDisk Extreme PRO share the same endurance rating of .3 drive writes per day over five years. So, you can write up to 30 percent of the drive’s capacity per day and every day, and the drive will last for five years.

Take the 500GB capacity as an example; you can write up to 150GB per day and every day for five years straight without any problems. That’s a lot of writes, way more than the amount an average user needs. And if you get the 1TB version, you’ll get double the amount of writes.

It’s safe to say there’s no need to worry about the endurance at all. Chances are the drive will outlast the computer you use it with a few times over.

All capacities of the drive come with friendly pricing of just 40 cents per gigabyte, about the same as that of the Samsung 970 Evo, and are more affordable than the Samsung 970 Pro. In all, this new NVMe SSD costs just about as much as a standard SATA SSD.

Hardware specifications

250 GB500 GB1 TB
SanDisk Extreme PRO ModelNot availableSDSSDXPM2-500GSDSSDXPM2-1T00
WD Black ModelWDS250G2X0CWDS500G2X0CWDS100T2X0C
DesignM.2 2280 Single-SidedM.2 2280 Single-SidedM.2 2280 Single-Sided
InterfaceNVMe PCIe 3 x4NVMe PCIe 3 x4NVMe PCIe 3 x4
ControllerWD’s home-grownWD’s home-grownWD’s home-grown
NANDSanDisk 64-layer 3D TLCSanDisk 64-layer 3D TLCSanDisk 64-layer 3D TLC
DRAMSK Hynix DDR4-2400SK Hynix DDR4-2400SK Hynix DDR4-2400
Sequential Read3000 MB/s3400 MB/s3400 MB/s
Sequential Write1600 MB/s2500 MB/s2800 MB/s
4KB Random Read220k IOPS410k IOPS500k IOPS
4KB Random Write170k IOPS330k IOPS400k IOPS
Power
(Active / Idle)
9.24 W / 2.5 mW9.24 W / 2.5 mW9.24 W / 2.5 mW
Endurance 
(Terabytes Written)
200 TBW300 TBW600 TBW
Endurance 
(Drive Write Per Day)
0.4 DWPD0.3 DWPD0.3 DWPD
Price$99.99 $199.99 $399.99 
Warranty5 years5 years5 years
WD Black’s and SanDisk Extreme PROs hardware specifications

Easy to use

Setting up the WD Black is easy as long as your computer comes with an NVMe M.2 slot. If you use a desktop computer, you can add this slot via an adapter.

After that, once installed, Windows 10’s native driver recognizes the drive automatically. As a result, you can install Windows 10—version 2016 or later—from scratch just like you do on a standard SATA drive.

Since Windows 10’s built-in driver supports the WD Black, you can also easily migrate a computer from a SATA drive to it without having to re-install any software or pre-installing a proprietary driver.

On the flip side, the lack of a drive-specific driver might mean the drive doesn’t have any specific features of its own. Samsung SSDs use Samsung drivers and has a lot to offer via Samsung Magician software. The WD Black doesn’t include any software at all.

Mixed but excellent performance

If you have experienced the 2017 WD Black SSD, you’ll be blown away by the performance of the 2018 WD Black (which, again, is a totally different SSD). In my testing, it was the fastest drive in sequential (copy) performance, edging out both the Samsung 970 Evo and 970 Pro, by a small margin.

WD Black SSD Copy Score

In random access tests, the WD Black was of some extreme. On the one hand, it was the fastest I’ve seen in writing. On the other, in reading, it was among the slowest in NVMe performance.

WD Black SSD Random Access Score

In all, however, in real-world usage, the drive delivered the same experience as all other high-end x4 PCIe NVMe drives. For example, in my anecdotal tests, there was virtually no difference between it and even the Samsung 970 Pro. The test computer booted in about the same time (just a few seconds), and all applications loaded super fast.

In all, which one you should get boils down to the pricing and the endurance rating, of which the Samsung is much higher.

WD Black NVMe Solid-State Drive's Rating

8.7 out of 10
WD Black 2
Performance
8.5 out of 10
Features
8.5 out of 10
Value
9 out of 10

Pros

Fast performance

Affordable pricing

High endurance

Cons

No larger capacity than 1TB

Conclusion

Considering the 2017 WD Black, the new 2018 WD Black NVMe SSD is a pleasant surprise. The drive is not perfect—for example, its capacity tops at just 1TB—but still is an excellent new option in a market that has been dominated by Samsung.

The competition is fierce, and the consumers are the winners. It’s my guess that you can expect the NVMe SSD prices to get even lower in the coming months.

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