Model: Western Digital WD Black SN750 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.
At this year's PAX South show, Western Digital unveiled its second-generation NVMe SSD, the WD Black SN750. Designed to give hardcore gamers the competitive edge they desire, this single-sided M.2 form factor drive is powered by Western Digital's own Spectrum controller and is available with up to 2TB of the company's 64-layer BiCS 3D TLC NAND flash. The WD Black SN750 is also available with or without an EKWB-designed heatsink and is equipped with an ultra-fast PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe 1.3 interface to deliver speeds that are more than six times faster than your average SATA 6Gb/s SSD. To top it all off, users can optimize the performance of the drive by enabling the gaming mode feature within Western Digital's SSD Dashboard software.
The WD Black SN750 is available in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities. For this review, Western Digital sent us the 1TB version of the drive, which is capable of delivering up to 3,470 MB/s sequential read and 3,000 MB/s sequential write speeds as well as up to 515,000 random read and 560,000 random write IOPS.
Needless to say, this is only a taste of what the WD Black SN750 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 SN750 have what it takes? Can it deliver the performance and features that we've come to expect from Western Digital? Keep reading as we find out.
The WD Black SN750 comes in a small, black box. Along with a picture of the drive, the front advertises a few of its key features including its 1TB capacity and maximum read speed. The back of the box doesn't provide much more in regards to information. 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 SN750 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.
Like the WD Black NVMe, the new WD Black SN750 uses Western Digital's Spectrum (20-82-007011) 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 SN750, 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.
Like Western Digital's other SSDs, the WD Black SN750 works with their SSD Dashboard software. This easy to use, Windows-based utility gives users the ability to manage and monitor their drives. From the main screen, you can check the status of your SSD and view information like the firmware version, capacity, temperature, interface speed and the life remaining.
With the SN750, you can also enable what Western Digital calls "Gaming Mode." This feature disables the low power mode function on the SSD which keeps it running at peak levels. This "Gaming Mode" had little to no impact on our benchmarks. However, our test system has already been optimized for maximum performance.
The SSD Dashboard also gives users the ability to monitor the performance of their drives. The chart provides two different real time performance metrics: transfer speed MB/s (megabytes per second) and transfer IOPS (I/O operation count per second).
The Tools section offers a number of options, including the ability to do a firmware update and perform a secure erase. The SSD Dashboard also has the ability to run S.M.A.R.T. diagnostic tests and provide details about your drives and system.
From within the Settings tab, you can update SSD Dashboard and configure the software so that it starts up with Windows. You can also turn off write-cache buffer flushing and select from one of 17 languages.
Last, but not least, you have the Help section which contains links to Western Digital's support page, end user forums and a manual for the SSD Dashboard software.
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 SN750 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 Plus, ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, Crucial P1, ADATA XPG SX8200, Western Digital WD Black NVMe, Samsung 970 EVO, Samsung 970 PRO, Plextor M9Pe, Plextor M8Se, Patriot Hellfire, ADATA XPG SX8000, Samsung 960 PRO, Toshiba OCZ RD400, Samsung 950 PRO, Samsung 860 QVO, Samsung 860 PRO, Crucial MX500, Plextor M8V, Samsung T5, Crucial BX300, ADATA Ultimate SU900, Plextor S3C, Toshiba OCZ VX500, ADATA Ultimate SU800, Plextor S2C and Crucial MX300.
As I mentioned earlier, the WD Black SN750 uses Western Digital's 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 SM750 is capable of reading at 3,470 MB/s and writing at 3,000 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 SM750 performed equally well when using highly compressible 0x00 (0 Fill) data. This time around, the drive was able to read at 3,497 MB/s and write at 3,021 MB/s.
HD Tach RW 126.96.36.199:
Next, I used HD Tach to test the WD Black SN750's read, write and burst speeds as well as its seek times and CPU usage.
The WD Black SN750's performance was hit and miss when tested with HD Tach. While the drive was able to write at 1,588.0 MB/s, its read speed averaged out at only 1654.6 MB/s.
ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.46:
I also used ATTO Disk Benchmark to test the WD Black SN750'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 SN750's read speeds topped out at about 3,446 MB/s and its write speeds at 3,022 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 SN750's random read and write speeds, random access times and the number of operations per second.
The WD Black SN750 performed relatively well when benchmarked with HD Tune. The drive had average read and write speeds of 2449.1 MB/s and 1545.6 MB/s, respectively, and a burst rate of 278.0 MB/s when reading.
When reading 4KB blocks, the WD Black SN750 reached 41,150 IOPS and had an average speed of 160.744 MB/s. The drive was even faster when writing, reaching 48,742 IOPS with an average speed of 190.400 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 SN750'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 SN750's performance was very similar to what we saw in our other tests. The drive was able to read at 3136.08 MB/s and write at 2330.47 MB/s.
The WD Black SN750 also performed very well when doing random reads and writes. In our tests, the drive was able to read at 235.79 MB/s and write at an impressive 861.72 MB/s.
According to Western Digital, the 1TB WD Black SN750 is capable of 560,000 IOPS when reading and 515,000 IOPS when writing 4K blocks. In our tests, the drive reached 60,361 random read IOPS and 220,601 random write IOPS. As with most drives, the WD Black SN750 performed better at higher queue depths. With four threads and the queue depth set to 32, it reached 441,088 random read IOPS and 382,141 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 SN750 did fairly well throughout PCMark's consistency test. While not as fast as the 970 PRO and 970 EVO, it performed better than the drives from ADATA, Crucial and Plextor during the degradation and steady state phases. The WD Black SN750's performance also increased during the recovery phase, topping out at about 1,100 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 SN750'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 SN750's average read and write speeds dropped to 124.2 MB/s and 441.1 MB/s, respectively.
WD Black SN750 - Dirty
To see how well the WD Black SN750 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 323.6 MB/s.
WD Black SN750 - After TRIM
Unfortunately, the WD Black SN750 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 SN750 was able to read at 1505.4 MB/s and write at 932.4 MB/s.
WD Black SN750 - Secure Erased
Western Digital has knocked another one out of the park with its new WD Black SN750 SSD. Building off the success of the award-winning WD Black NVMe, this single-sided, M.2 form factor SSD is powered by Western Digital's own Spectrum controller and is available with up to 2TB of the company's 64-layer BiCS 3D TLC NAND flash. Combine this with an ultra-fast PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe 1.3 interface and you have a drive that is capable of delivering the top-tier performance that gamers and enthusiasts are looking for. The 1TB version of the WD Black SN750 flew through our sequential transfer rate tests, reading at speeds as high as 3,498 MB/s and writing at more than 3,022 MB/s. The drive also did very well in our random write tests, producing more than 220,000 IOPS at low queue depths.
The WD Black SN750 is available now without the heatsink in 250GB, 500GB and 1TB capacities. Prices on Amazon.com currently range from $80 up to $230 for the 1TB version reviewed here. The 2TB version is expected to ship in the spring for about $500. The heatsink equipped models should also hit retailers at this time. However, there is no word yet on pricing.
- Available in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities
- PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe 1.3 interface
- Equipped with 64-layer BiCS3 3D TLC NAND
- Excellent sequential and random read and write speeds
- Small M.2 2280 form factor
- Large DRAM cache
- Available with or without EKWB-designed heatsink
- WD Black SSD Dashboard with "gaming mode"
- Reasonably priced
- 5 year warranty
- Does not support hardware based encryption