After acquiring SanDisk and introducing WD Green and WD Blue SSDs, it is no surprise to see Western Digital introduce a WD Black SSD that is a M.2 PCIe drive. In keeping with SanDisk's recent trends for mainstream consumer SSDs, the WD Black uses a Marvell controller (the 88SS1093, also seen in the Plextor M8Pe) and uses SanDisk's 15nm TLC NAND flash. And yes, the blue PCB is another SanDisk hallmark, even though it clashes with Western Digital's branding for the drive.

Western Digital and SanDisk are relatively late in bringing a consumer NVMe SSD to market. They're clearly intending for the WD Black SSD to be a fairly mainstream product by using TLC NAND and pricing it below high-end SATA SSDs. In the SATA space SanDisk has made very effective use of their planar TLC and the SanDisk X400 and WD Blue are the best in their class. Having taken their time developing the WD Black, we expect another solid performer. However, time is running out for planar TLC the WD Black may turn out to be a short-lived product before being replaced by a successor with 3D NAND. All four major NAND manufacturers plan to ship 64+ layer 3D NAND this year with TLC parts up to 512Gb, and if things go according to plan for at least two or three of them we should see the NAND shortage start to fade and prices and capacities improve.

WD Black PCIe SSD Series Specifications
Capacity 256GB 512GB
Form Factor M.2 2280
Interface PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe
Controller Marvell 88SS1093
NAND SanDisk 15nm TLC
Sequential Read 2050 MB/s
Sequential Write 700 MB/s 800 MB/s
Random Read (4 KB) IOPS 170k 170k
Random Write (4 KB) IOPS 130k 134k
Power Peak 8.25 W
Idle 5.5 mW
Endurance 80 TBW 160 TBW
Encryption none
Warranty 5 years
MSRP $109 $199.99

The WD Black comes in only the two capacities that should be most popular: 256GB and 512GB. A 128GB PCIe SSD risks squandering much of the advantage of the faster interface due to the low number of NAND dies being a bottleneck, and 1TB PCIe SSDs are still expensive enough to be substantially less popular. A 1TB version would also need to be a double-sided M.2 module, which would limit compatibility with some laptops. As expected for a TLC SSD, the rated read performance is much higher than the write performance, though Western Digital does still give the WD Black a very nice looking random write rating. The endurance ratings for the WD Black are a little lower than I'd like to see given that even a TLC-based PCIe SSD is something of a premium product, but the five year warranty is quite reasonable.

Western Digital is currently taking pre-orders for the WD Black at MSRP and projecting a ship date of March 14, while there are already some third-party Amazon sellers offering it above MSRP. The MSRPs are about 10% higher than the current prices for the Intel SSD 600p, the current cheapest and slowest PCIe SSD.

For this review we will be comparing the 512GB WD Black primarily against other PCIe SSDs of similar capacity, and against a handful of the better SATA SSDs currently on the market. Some specific competitors to keep an eye on:

  • The Plextor M8Pe uses the same Marvell controller and Toshiba's 15nm MLC counterpart to the 15nm TLC used by the WD Black.
  • The WD Blue uses the same NAND as the WD Black, but a Marvell SATA SSD controller instead of the PCIe NVMe controller.
  • The Intel SSD 600p based on Intel 3D TLC NAND and Silicon Motion's SM2260 controller is currently the cheapest and slowest NVMe SSD.
  • The Samsung 960 EVO is the TLC PCIe SSD that's positioned above the WD Black in the market, and is the more mainstream of Samsung's current NVMe offerings.
AnandTech 2015 SSD Test System
CPU Intel Core i7-4770K running at 3.5GHz
(Turbo & EIST enabled, C-states disabled)
Motherboard ASUS Z97 Pro (BIOS 2702)
Chipset Intel Z97
Memory Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866 2x8GB (9-10-9-27 2T)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4600
Desktop Resolution 1920 x 1200
OS Windows 8.1 x64
Performance Consistency
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  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, March 9, 2017 - link

    I hope they're not foolish enough to think that producing bottom feeder SSDs will slow the decline of their hard drive business. They're certainly aware of the fact that there are other companies that will land sales that shrink their hard drive business even if they never produce their own solid state storage solutions. It's genuinely perplexing why WD isn't pushing SanDisk to develop a more competitive product line. Maybe they are and this is just a stopgap measure, but I do wonder what's happening.
  • timbotim - Thursday, March 9, 2017 - link

    I simply don't get this SSD for desktops. If you're going to be in the slow SSD market don't you just need to be the cheapest? If you're not, what's the point? Do you hope there's sufficient clueless/confused users out there who will buy on availability?

    I'm pretty sure real user-facing usability is all about QD1 sequential R & W performance (and I'd guess R >> W), and then it's about price. So that's the 960 Pro on performance and the MX300 on price. Everything in between is the best QD1 sequential for the buck (probably why the best sellers are the 850EVOs and SSD PLUSs).

    For laptops, replace MX300 with 600p I guess.
  • Jedi2155 - Thursday, March 9, 2017 - link

    It would be nice if you could delineate the NVMe interfaced SSDs versus the SATA models. That way its easier to tell the performance between the two.
  • Qostaarg - Saturday, March 11, 2017 - link

    No samsung no party. performance like a potato.
  • Gonemad - Tuesday, March 14, 2017 - link

    For me it looks like a great alternative to my ageing rusty spinners for a boot drive on my 8 year old clunker.

    I won't even have to provision SATA or power cables for it, improving a little bit the cable clutter on my planned upgrade. Faster drives are on the too expensive side, cheaper drives are on the too slow side of the scale, so it becomes a good budget compromise by accident.

    This guy has a weird place on the market, and I have a weird upgrade case to do from mechanical clatters, er, platters, so it fits.

    Of course I will keep researching into options until the last minute.
  • jonathan1683 - Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - link

    I feel bad when companies make bad decisions like this. I often wonder who made these decisions or if they tried as hard as they could and just fell short. I really like WD as a company, but I see their future may be grim. Hopefully they get it together.

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