Model: Western Digital WD Black NVMe 1TB Solid State Drive
Manufacturer: Western Digital
Provided By: Western Digital
As one of the biggest names in the storage industry, Western Digital doesn't need much of an introduction. Founded in 1970, the company got its start by manufacturing calculator chips. As time went on, Western Digital expanded into the PC market, adding floppy and hard disc controllers to its product lineup. It wasn't until 1988 that it introduced its "Centaur" series of hard drives. Since then, the company has grown to become the world's second largest manufacturer of hard drives. Western Digital currently offers a wide range of internal and external hard drives as well as a growing number of multimedia devices, SSDs and network storage solutions.
This spring, Western Digital launched its latest PCIe NVMe SSD, the WD Black NVMe. Built to boost the performance of gaming systems, this M.2 form factor drive is powered by Western Digital's own Spectrum controller and is available with up to 1TB of the company's 64-layer BiCS 3D TLC NAND flash. To compensate for the slow write speeds typically associated with TLC NAND, the WD Black NVMe uses nCache 3.0 technology, which leverages tiered caching to improve both burst and sustained write performance. The WD Black NVMe is also equipped with a PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe 1.3 interface to provide low latency and data transfer speeds that are up to six times faster than your average SATA 6Gb/s SSD.
The WD Black NVMe is available in 250GB, 500GB and 1TB capacities. For this review, Western Digital sent us the 1TB version of the drive, which is capable of delivering up to 3,400 MB/s sequential read and 2,800 MB/s sequential write speeds as well as up to 500,000 random read and 400,000 random write IOPS.
Needless to say, this is only a taste of what the WD Black NVMe has to offer. To give you an idea of what to expect, we'll take a closer look at Western Digital's new NVMe SSD and then see how well it performs. Does the WD Black NVMe have what it takes? More importantly, is it the best bang for your buck? Keep reading as we find out.
The WD Black NVMe comes in a small, white and black box. Along with a picture of the drive, the front advertises many of its key features including its maximum read speed, 1TB capacity, 3D NAND flash and 5 year warranty. The back of the box doesn't have a lot of information on it. However, there is a small window that lets you see the drive and view the model name and serial number. Inside, you'll find the SSD as well as a small guide containing technical support and warranty information.
The WD Black NVMe uses the 2280 form factor for M.2 (NGFF) SSDs. It measures 22 x 80 x 2.38 mm and tips the scales at a mere 7.5g. The drive also has an "M key" edge connector which provides PCIe SSDs with up to 4x lanes of bandwidth.
The WD Black NVMe is one of the first drives to use Western Digital's new Spectrum controller. According to the company, the controller is built on the 28nm process and features a tri-core design. The Spectrum is also equipped with a number of hardware accelerators, or sequencers, that handle things like NVMe command processing, data transfers and both power and thermal management. By offloading these tasks, the controller is able to deliver greater performance, while reducing power usage and latency. To top it all off, the Spectrum supports the latest version of SanDisk's nCache technology which improves sustained write performance by allowing data to be written directly to TLC NAND if the SLC cache is full.
For the 1TB version of the WD Black NVMe, Western Digital has opted to use its own SanDisk manufactured 64-layer BiCS 3D TLC NAND flash. Looking at the picture above, you can see that there are two 512GB NAND flash packages on the top of the PCB. The drive also has a single 1GB SK Hynix DDR4 SDRAM memory chip that is used for caching.
The test system used in this review is equipped with an Intel Core i7-6700K CPU, GIGABYTE GA-Z170X-UD3 motherboard, 32GB (16GB x 2) of Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 memory, Samsung 960 PRO 512GB SSD and a GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1060 WINDFORCE OC 6G graphics card. For the operating system, I installed a fresh copy of Windows 10 Enterprise.
To test the performance of Western Digital's WD Black NVMe SSD, I ran a series of benchmarks using CrystalDiskMark, HD Tach RW, ATTO Disk Benchmark, AS SSD, HD Tune Pro, Anvil's Storage Utilities, Iometer and PCMark 8. For comparison, I've also included test results from the Samsung 970 EVO, Samsung 970 PRO, Plextor M9Pe, Plextor M8Se, Patriot Hellfire, ADATA XPG SX8000, Samsung 960 PRO, Toshiba OCZ RD400, Samsung 950 PRO, Crucial MX500, Plextor M8V, Crucial BX300, ADATA Ultimate SU900, Plextor S3C, Toshiba OCZ VX500, ADATA Ultimate SU800, Plextor S2C, Crucial MX300, Plextor M7V, PNY CS1311, OCZ Trion 150, PNY CS2211, Plextor M6V, Crucial BX200, OCZ Trion 100, Kingston HyperX Savage, Crucial MX200, OCZ Vector 180 and Samsung SSD 850 EVO.
As I mentioned earlier, the WD Black NVMe uses Western Digital's new Spectrum controller chip. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that it performs equally well with both incompressible (0%) and compressible (100%) data.
First, I ran a few quick tests using CrystalDiskMark. This benchmark tool measures the performance of a storage device by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its random read and write speeds using blocks 512K and 4K in size.
According to Western Digital, the 1TB WD Black NVMe is capable of reading at 3,400 MB/s and writing at 2,800 MB/s. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that the drive had no problems reaching these speeds in CrystalDiskMark's sequential read and write tests.
The WD Black NVMe performed equally well when using highly compressible 0x00 (0 Fill) data. This time around, the drive was able to read at 3,469 MB/s and write at 2,865 MB/s.
HD Tach RW 220.127.116.11:
Next, I used HD Tach to test the WD Black NVMe's read, write and burst speeds as well as its seek times and CPU usage.
The WD Black NVMe's performance was hit and miss when tested with HD Tach. While the drive was able to write at 1,523.5 MB/s, its read speed averaged out at only 1604.1 MB/s.
ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46:
I also used ATTO Disk Benchmark to test the WD Black NVMe's sequential read and write speeds. The tests are run using blocks ranging in size from 0.5KB to 8192KB and the total length set to 256MB.
When tested with ATTO, the WD Black NVMe's read speeds topped out at about 3,388 MB/s and its write speeds at 2,869 MB/s.
AS SSD is a relatively new benchmark designed specifically for solid state drives. The application contains five synthetic tests used to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of a drive.
AS SSD also includes a copy benchmark. This test copies an ISO (two large files), program (many small files) and game (small and large files), returning the speed and duration of each.
HD Tune Pro 5.00:
Next, I ran a series of tests using HD Tune Pro. This hard disk utility measures a drive's performance by testing its sequential read and write speeds as well as its access time, burst rate and CPU usage. For this review, I'm also going to use it to benchmark the WD Black NVMe's random read and write speeds, random access times and the number of operations per second.
The WD Black NVMe performed relatively well when benchmarked with HD Tune. The drive had average read and write speeds of 2332.9 MB/s and 1426.6 MB/s, respectively, and a burst rate of 278.0 MB/s when reading.
The WD Black NVMe didn't disappoint when doing random reads and writes. When reading 4KB blocks, the drive reached 41,490 IOPS and had an average speed of 162.072 MB/s. It was even faster when writing, reaching 43,185 IOPS with an average speed of 168.693 MB/s.
Anvil's Storage Utilities:
Anvil's Storage Utilities is another benchmark designed with SSDs in mind. The standard storage benchmark measures a drive's performance by testing its transfer speeds, access times and IOPS.
Lastly, I ran a series of tests using Iometer. This tool can be configured to benchmark a number of things. In this case, I used it to measure the WD Black NVMe's read and write speeds and the number of operations per second. The tests were run using random bytes and a queue depth of 3.
The WD Black NVMe's performance was very similar to what we saw in our other tests. The drive was able to read at 3067.18 MB/s and write at 2237.88 MB/s.
The WD Black NVMe also performed very well when doing random reads and writes. In our tests, the drive was able to read at 233.38 MB/s and write at an impressive 885.75 MB/s.
According to Western Digital, the 1TB WD Black NVMe is capable of 500,000 IOPS when reading and 400,000 IOPS when writing 4K blocks. In our tests, the drive reached 59,746 random read IOPS and 226,752 random write IOPS. As with most drives, the WD Black NVMe performed better at higher queue depths. With four threads and the queue depth set to 32, it reached 441,568 random read IOPS and 352,534 random write IOPS.
PCMark 8 - Storage Test:
PCMark 8 is a complete benchmark for Windows. It includes five benchmark tests, each designed around a specific scenario. The storage benchmark measures drive performance using real-world traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and a selection of popular games.
PCMark 8 also includes a consistency test which measures the performance consistency and degradation tendency of a storage system. The test reports the performance level at the start, the degraded steady-state and the recovered state as well as the number of iterations required to reach the degraded state and the recovered state. For this test, we are focusing on the Adobe Photoshop (Heavy) trace and will look at both the bandwidth and latency of the drive
The WD Black NVMe did surprisingly well throughout PCMark's consistency test. While not as fast as the drives from Samsung, it performed better than the Plextor M9Pe and Patriot Hellfire during the degradation and steady state phases. The WD Black NVMe's performance also increased during the recovery phase, topping out at about 1,385 MB/s.
While SSDs offer many benefits, there are some downsides to using flash memory. One of the biggest issues people run into is performance degradation. Over time, an SSD will run out of fresh blocks and will have to write over data the file system has marked as deleted. This procedure is very complicated and can slow an SSD's write speeds considerably.
To fix this problem, most manufacturers have added TRIM support to their SSDs. The TRIM command allows an operating system, such as Windows 10, to tell an SSD which data blocks are no longer in use. Using this information, the drive pro-actively erases these blocks and adds them to the free block pool.
To test the WD Black NVMe's TRIM and garbage collection functions, I first put the drive in a "dirty" state. I used Iometer to fill the entire drive and then ran a random write test for 30 minutes. Looking at the screenshot below, you can see that the WD Black NVMe's average read and write speeds dropped to 139.2 MB/s and 320.5 MB/s, respectively.
WD Black NVMe - Dirty
To see how well the WD Black NVMe could recover, I let the computer sit for about 30 minutes and then reran the test. The drive wasn't able to reach the factory fresh performance shown in our earlier tests. However, its average read speed climbed up to 311.4 MB/s.
WD Black NVMe - After TRIM
Unfortunately, the WD Black NVMe does not support the secure erase function so I was not able to wipe the drive with Parted Magic or even Western Digital's own SSD Dashboard software. Instead, I did a quick wipe and format from within Windows. After this, the WD Black NVMe was able to read at 1413.0 MB/s and write at 932.0 MB/s.
WD Black NVMe - Secure Erased
Western Digital has clearly put a lot of time and effort into their new WD Black NVMe SSD. Instead of using an off the shelf solution from Marvell or Silicon Motion, the company engineered their new SSD platform from the ground up. Everything from the WD Black NVMe's Spectrum controller, with its nCache 3.0 tiered caching infrastructure, to the 64-layer BiCS 3D TLC NAND flash has been developed in house. Combine all this with a PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe 1.3 interface and you have a reasonably priced drive that is capable of delivering the performance that PC gamers are looking for. The 1TB version of the WD Black NVMe flew through our sequential transfer rate tests, reading at speeds as high as 3,469 MB/s and writing at more than 2,861 MB/s. The drive also did very well in our random write tests, producing more than 226,000 IOPS at low queue depths.
- Available in 256GB, 512GB and 1TB capacities
- PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe 1.3 interface
- Equipped with 64-layer BiCS3 3D TLC NAND
- Excellent sequential and random read and write speeds
- Features nCache 3.0 technology
- Small M.2 2280 form factor
- Large DRAM cache
- Reasonably priced
- 5 year warranty
- Does not support hardware based encryption
- Not available in a 2TB capacity