The WD Black NVMe SSD family features a new controller, 64-layer BiCS3 3D TLC NAND flash memory, an intelligently laid-out PCB that optimizes thermal characteristics, and firmware tuned for enthusiast desktop applications. The drive’s main features and specifications are listed below if you’d like to take a look at the particulars and we’ve got a full suite of numbers to share on the pages ahead, after we take a quick tour of the SSD itself and explain what makes it tick…
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Before we dig into the WD Black NVMe, we should mention that Western Digital will be offering a couple of drives under different names that are virtually identical. The WD Black NVMe SSD featured here will target DIY-ers and enthusiasts, while a SanDisk Extreme Pro NVMe 3D SSD, which arrived alongside the WD Black NVMe, is destined for OEMs, though both drives will obviously be available to anyone that wants them, through multiple channels.
Externally, the WD Black NVMe SSD looks just like most other gumsticks that conform to the M.2 2280 form factor. The back side of the PCB is bare, and the top side features the controller, NAND, a bit of DRAM cache, and various other components. The component layout of the drive is somewhat unique, however, in that WD centers the controller on the PCB and places the DRAM next to it. Then, out at the edges are the NAND packages. WD claims this arrangement optimizes the drive’s thermal dissipation and minimizes the chances of throttling due to excess heat. It also eliminates the need for any heat-spreaders, etc.
The WD Black NVMe SSD is built around a new, scalable NVMe PCIe Gen 3 x4 controller, dubbed Spectrum, optimized for low power and low latency. The WD Spectrum controller is a tri-core design, manufactured using a 28nm process that will likely be the foundation of a few generations of SSDs moving forward.
Like some other NVMe solid state drives on the market that feature TLC NAND, the controller on the WD Black NVMe enables something the company calls nCache 3.0, which is essentially a finite SLC cache designed to boost burst and write speeds. Data is first written to the SLC blocks to maximize performance, but should the SLC cache be saturated, data can still be written direct to the TLC NAND. The new controller also enables low-density parity-checks and hardware ECC for full SRAM and DRAM bit correction as well.
All told, the 1TB WD Black NVMe SSD shown here offers up to 3.4GB/s reads, with 2.8GB/s writes. Random 4K reads and writes (at QD32T8) are rated at 500K / 400K IOPs, respectively, and endurance is rated at 600 TBW over its 5-year warranty. The smaller capacity 500GB and 250GB drives in the family will offer somewhat lower performance and endurance, however, which is typical.
There isn’t much included in the WD Black NVMe SSD’s retail packaging, but Acronis True Image WD Edition and the WD SSD Dashboard software are available for download via the company’s website, should you want to use them for cloning and/or maintenance purposes.