Western Digital lagged behind other hard drive manufacturers in recent years when it came to the SSD market, but with the acquisition of Sandisk earlier this year it’s obvious the company is pushing full steam ahead to catch up. Sandisk was the second largest supplier of SSDs behind Samsung, so bringing it under the WD banner should give the company a serious leg-up when it comes to flash-based drives. The WD Blue series is the latest product to be released by WD since the purchase, and is available in both M.2 and 2.5-inch SATA 6Gbit/s formats. The sample we received was of the latter; does it have what it takes to topple Samsung’s seemingly unending dominance of the SSD market?
In case you hadn’t noticed, the latest batch of 2.5-inch SSDs are all claiming roughly the same top sequential read and write speeds. This is a limitation of the SATA 6GB/sec interface they’re tied to, and most drives claim around 550MB/sec sequential read, and 520MB/sec sequential write speeds. The WD Blue doesn’t buck this trend, with the official specs claiming a sequential read speed of 550MB/sec and sequential write speed of 525MB/sec – very similar to the Toshiba OCZ VX500 also reviewed this issue. The WD Blue aims for higher IOPS performance though, with the specs claiming 100,000 IOPS for random reads, and 80,000 IOPS for random writes.
According to the reviewer’s guide we received, WD is aiming to deliver performance on par with Samsung’s 850 Evo. To do so, it has used Marvel’s 88SS1074-4 4-channel controller. Despite the official specs of this controller claiming that is has 256-bit AES encryption, WD’s specs for the drive make no mention of such a feature. Sandisk was one of the world’s largest manufacturers of flash memory, so it’s no surprise to see that this SSD features Sandisk 15nm TLC NAND flash memory. Compared to the current crop of MLC drives that seem to be so popular amongst mainstream SSD manufacturers, it’s an interesting choice to use TLC. This is the cheapest type of NAND flash memory to manufacture compared to MLC and SLC, as it traditionally has the lowest amount of read/write cycles per cell. Yet the lifespan of this drive says otherwise. The 1TB version of the drive is rated to deliver 400TB of writes, which is backed up by a decent if not Earth-shattering 3-year warranty. WD claims that it uses, “on-the-fly error handling mechanism technology which can recover errors that other traditional error correction mechanisms cannot” though doesn’t go into detail about how it does so, yet the lengthy write lifespan seems to back up these claims. There’s nothing included in the box apart from the drive itself, though users can download WD’s SSD Dashboard for free, which offers the usual monitoring, updating and erasing features.
We used the same benchmarks as the VX500 to test the performance of this drive, starting with Crystaldiskmark 5. With a sequential read speed of 541MB/sec and sequential write speed of 510MB/sec, it does indeed come very close to the specifications claimed by WD, and is basically identical to the VX500 in this regard. 4K QD32 read speed was also very similar, at 379MB/sec compared to 383MB/sec for the VX500, though the WD Blue definitely had the edge in write speeds. The VX500 posted a 4K QD32 write speed of 262MB/sec versus the WD Blue’s 307MB/sec.
AS SSD showed very similar results, with a sequential read speed of 518MB/sec and write of 424MB/sec, showing that the VX500 is the faster drive when writing uncompressed data. Finally, our Anvil’s Storage Utilities showed the WD Blue hitting a peak 4K QD16 read IOPS of 89,585, while write IOPS maxed out at 76,284, significantly faster than the VX500, yet still not quite reaching the heights of Samsung’s 850 Evo, which is priced almost identically.
When it comes to 2.5-inch SATA 6Gbit/s drives, we’re left with little difference in sequential read and write speeds. However, the excellent IOPS performance of the WD Blue SSD is on par with other drives in this price range, although once again we see Samsung’s offerings being slightly faster. Still, this is a big step forwards for WD, and we’re excited to see what next emerges from its Sandisk acquisition.