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Western Digital WD Blue SN5000 4TB Review (vs. SN580): A Solid PCIe 4.0 Entry-Level NVMe SSD

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When announcing the WD Blue SN5000 on Jun 18, 2024, Western Digital tried hard to make it special. The storage vendor claimed that the new drive was designed to be "strategically aligned to Stages 4 and 6 of the AI Data Cycle to equip users with advanced performance-driven storage solutions that maximize content creation workflows within AI environments."

That was a bit of a stretch. In reality, the new SSD is the latest in the company's entry-level NVMe lineup for the budget-minded, dating back to the SN500. The new drive is the successor of the WD Blue SN580 that came out a year ago.

Here's the bottom line: The SN5000 is another frill-free PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD that proved in my testing to have an excellent combo of cost and performance. Additionally, the new 4GB capacity, though not a novelty, is a welcome addition for those needing a ton of storage space. Get one today!

Dong's note: I first published this post as a preview on June 18, 2024, and updated it to an in-depth review on July 1, after weekslong hands-on testing.

WD Blue SN5000 4TB SSD
The WD Blue SN5000 is the latest PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD from Western Digital.

WD Blue SN5000: Simply another entry-level PCI Gen 4 NVMe SSD

During the introduction of the SN5000, Western Digital asserted that the new drive fits into the new "AI Data Cycle" concept it recently coined. The gist is that the company divides data processing into six stages and adds "AI"—that's artificial intelligence—to a couple of them, as shown in the infographic provided below.

WD Blue SN5000 and Western Digital AI Data Cycle
The six stages of the "AI Data Cycle" per Western Digital.

While the idea might be true with enterprise hardware, it seems awkward, if not dubious, when applied to a storage device made for general users. That's because "AI" or not, the "Data Cycle" remains the same: information is stored in a storage device waiting to be loaded into the system memory (RAM) and manipulated by applications into new data (or content), which is then written back to the same storage device or transferred to another for further storage. Repeat.

And in this case, the new WD Blue SN5000 is that storage device, just like any other storage device. You can use it to store data, including data used for AI-related applications. And in that sense, it's about as good for AI as any other SSDs of the same performance grade.

The point is the WD Blue SN5000 is simply another PCIe 4.0 drive, similar to the previous SN580. What might make it different is the performance, and on this front, WD claims that the new drive features Western Digital nCache 4.0 for fast sequential (copy) speeds. And that, if true, never hurts.

Speaking of performance, the SN5000 is, again, still a PCIe 4.0 SSD, meaning it's slated to be lower than those supporting the latest PCIe 5.0—it won't be the fastest NVMe SSD on the market, not even close. However, considering the heat issues and the hardware cost of PCIe 5.0, the sweet-spot PCIe 4.0 standard, while not cutting-edge, is not bad, nor is it dated.

Compared with previous WD Blue drives of the same PCIe 4.0 standard, the new SN5000 seems to have an edge. The table below shows its specs against the SN580.

WD Blue SN5000 frontWD Blue SN5000 back
The WD Blue SN5000 is a single-sided NVMe SSD.

WD Blue SN5000 vs. SN580: Hardware specifications

WD Blue SN5000WD Blue SN580
Capacity 500GB
1TB
2TB
4TB
250GB
500GB
1TB
2TB
Form FactorsM.2 2280 (80mm x 22mm x 2.38mm)
InterfacePCIe Gen 4x4, NVMe
ControllerIn-house
(WD proprietary)
NAND Flash500GB-2TB: BiCS5 TLC 3D NAND
4TB: BiCS6 QLC 3D NAND
BiCS5 TLC 3D NAND
Endurance 
(Terabytes Written)
500GB: 300 TBW
1TB: 600 TBW
2TB: 900 TBW
4TB: 1,200 TBW
250GB: 150 TBW
500GB: 300 TBW
1TB: 600 TBW
2TB: 1200 TBW
Seq. Read 
(up to)
500GB-2TB: 5,150 MB/s
4TB: 5,500 MB/s
250GB-500GB: 4,000 MB/s
1TB-2TB: 4,150 MB/s
Seq. Write 
(up to) 
500GB-2TB: 4,900 MB/s
4TB: 5,000 MB/s
250GB-500GB: 3,600 MB/s
1TB-2TB: 4,150 MB/s
Rand. Read 4KB
(up to)
500GB-2TB: 730K IOPS
4TB: 690K IOPS
250GB: 240K IOPS
500GB: 450K IOPS
1TB-2TB: 600K IOPS
Rand. Write 4KB
(up to)
500GB-2TB: 770K IOPS
4TB: 900K IOPS
250GB: 470K IOPS
500GB-2TB: 750K IOPS
ArchitectureDRAM-less
Special FeaturesnCache 4.0,
TCG Pyrite 2.01,
ATA Security Passthrough over NVMe
None
SoftwareWD Dashboard
Warranty5 Years
Release DateJune 18, 2024June 28, 2023
US Pricing
(at launch)
500GB: $79.99
1TB: $8.99
2TB: $149.99
4TB: $289.99
Buy now!
250GB: $27.99
500GB: $31.99
1TB: $49.99
2TB: $109.99
Buy now!
Hardware specifications: WD Blue SN5000 vs. SN580
WD Blue SN5000 DashboardWD Blue SN5000 Dashboard Tools
The WD Blue SN5000 comes with the familiar and valuable WD Dashboard software.

A typical WD Blue drive

As shown in the table above, the new SN5000 has a higher-rated performance overall than its older cousin. Other than that, it's essentially the same. Still a DRAM-less drive with no built-in hardware encryption. Additionally, its endurance is actually lower in the top 2TB and 4TB capacities.

And the similarities are also in the software. The new SSD is accompanied by the WD Dashboard toolbox software, which allows users to check its status and manage speed testing and firmware updates. There's also a bundled third-party drive imaging application.

As mentioned, Western Digital says the new drive features its nCache 4.0 to deliver improved copy speeds. However, this is not a feature that users have access to. And drive doesn't allow users to manage its overprovisioning, either.

Still, the new WD Blue SN5000 does well where it matters the most: performance.

The WD Blue SN5000 in action
Here's the WD Blue SN5000 in action.

WD Blue SN5000: Excellent overall performance

It tested the 4TB version of the SN500 for a couple of days and was happy with its performance. Clearly, considering the fact it's an entry-level SSD, I didn't expect it to be the fastest, but it was among the speediest of PCIe 4.0 SSDs in sequential (copy) performance.

When doing either writing or reading, it averaged over 4500MB/s, and when doing both at the same time, it averaged almost 2300MB/s. Both were quite impressive, as you can see on the chart below.

WD Blue SN5000 Copy Read or Write PerformanceWD Blue SN5000 Copy Read AND Write Performance
The WD Blue SN5000's sequential performance.

The new drive didn't do as well in random access tests. It was faster than the previous SN580 drive but was slower than most PCIe 4.0 drives and even many high-end PCIe 3.0 SSDs. However, in real-world usage, the new drive felt similar to most other PCIe 4.0 SSDs, including the high-end Samsung 980 PRO.

WD Blue SN5000 IOPS Performance
The WD Blue SN5000's random access performance.

It's worth noting that the WD Blue SN5000 performed consistently during extended operations. Specifically, its copy speeds remained even when moving a large amount of data at a sitting. The drive also remained relatively cool to the touch, something you won't find with a PCIe 5.0 counterpart. That, plus its thin profile, means it'll make an excellent SSD for a laptop.

WD Blue SN5000's Rating

8.2 out of 10
WD Blue SN5000 and retail box
Performance
8 out of 10
Features
7.7 out of 10
Value
9 out of 10

Pros

Excellent sequential performance

Up to 4TB of storage, affordable; helpful Dashboard software

5-year warranty; run cool

Cons

Random access performance and the 4TB version's endurance rating could be better

No hardware encryption or user-accessible features

Conclusion

Like previous models, the new WD Blue SN5000 NVMe SSD is an excellent NVMe SSD for the budget-minded. While it's not the fastest out there, it has more than enough performance to justify its retail cost—expect the street price to be even lower.

If you're in the market for a reliable NVMe SSD that won't break the bank, the new WD Blue SN5000 is an excellent drive to bring home today!

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