The WD Blue SN500 NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) — announced on March 14 — is not to be confused with the existing WD Blue. The new internal drive, among other things, is much faster. But it’s in no way the fastest on the market due to its modest NVMe specs.
Still, at a current cost of fewer than 20 cents per gigabyte — the drive is available in 250GB and 500GB for around $55 and $75, respectively — the new WD Blue is an excellent choice for the budget-minded who are looking for a real NVMe SSD.
Dong’s note: I originally posted this as a preview on Mar 14, 2019, and upgraded it to a full review on March 28, after more than a week of testing.
WD Blue SN500 NVMe: A new blue entirely
The new drive’s full name is WD Blue SN500 NVMe. Chances are you’ll call it WD Blue, anyway. Western Digital has been known to re-use one color to call its different storage devices, like the case of the WD Black. Before this, there have been two WD Blue SSDs, the standard SATA drive, and the M.2 SATA drive. If you get confused, you’re not alone.
This latest Blue drive comes in the mainstream M.2 2280 form factor. Most importantly, it’s an NVMe drive, which is the main point that differentiates itself from the other Blue drives. Having both the M- and B- keys, it will fit in a SATA M.2 slot, but it won’t work with one — you need an NVMe M.2 slot.
Like most NVMe SSDs, the SN500 is single-sided, meaning it has flash memory mounted only on its top. This design helps to keep a low profile and allow it to fit in more applications.
Entry-level NVMe specs
Unlike the majority of NVMe drives I’ve worked with, the SN500 uses only two lanes (x2) of Gen 3 PICe — as opposed to four lanes (x4) — to connect to a host computer. Consequently, it has just half the ceiling speeds compared with drives like Samsung 970 Evo Plus or even the WD Black. The only other 2-lane NVMe drive I’ve worked with is the entry-level Toshiba RC100.
High endurance, no encryption
On the inside, the new WD Blue uses Western Digital’s home-grown 3D NAND Flash memory and controller. It also shares similar scalable architecture that WD applies to the WD Black. The drive doesn’t support hardware encryption, so it’s not suitable for those needing to keep their information secure in case of loss or thief.
The drive uses the common SSD Dashboard software that allows for monitoring the drive’s status, updating its firmware as well as managing its other settings. This software is well-designed and easy to use.
The WD Blue SN500 has quite high endurance ratings. WD says you can write up to 150 terabytes of data to the 250GB capacity before it becomes unreliable. With the 500GB, you can write double the amount.
This level of endurance is similar to that of the Samsung 970 Evo Plus or the WD Black. Overall, it’s safe to say you won’t need to worry about the drive’s running out of writes at all.
WD Blue SN500 NVMe: Excellent performance
Despite the low specs, the new NVMe WD Blue outperformed SATA SSDs by a considerable margin. Compared to 4-lain NVMe drives, however, it was indeed clearly slower in my testing; but to the similarly-specced Toshiba RC100, the WD Blue did better in most tests.
Specifically, copy tests, the WD Blue has the sustained speeds of 1060 megabytes per second and 1462MB/s for writing and reading, respectively. When performing both writing and reading at the same time, it still averaged 616MB/s. Quite impressive.
In random access tests, the drive wasn’t as impressive but still was quite fast.
In real-world usage, it didn’t feel much difference between it and other higher-end drives in most cases. The test laptop booted up fast, and most applications launched instantly. The only time when it lagged slightly behind was when I use resource-taxing apps like a 3D game or using photoshop to edit a large photo. But it never got to the point where I wanted to slam the keyboard or something like that. Far from it.
The 2-lane WD Blue SN500 doesn’t have a lot to brag about in terms of performance in the NVMe world, but thanks to the low price-tag — and you can expect it to cost even less over time — this is an excellent upgrade drive. It’s a modest SSD made for the budget-mind with an NVMe-ready computer of mid-range specs.