Conclusion

The WD Blue SN500 defies expectations. Its basic specifications say it's an entry-level NVMe drive: only two PCIe lanes (so it can't possibly exceed 2GB/s), a DRAMless controller that isn't using the NVMe Host Memory Buffer feature either, and a tiny SLC write cache. And our review sample is a 250GB model, which is the smallest drive capacity that can come close to offering decent performance when using just a handful of modern high-capacity NAND flash dies.

What we are accustomed to seeing from low-end NVMe drives is peak performance that's impressively high compared to SATA, but with caveats in the form of severely reduced performance in suboptimal conditions. What makes or breaks a low-end DRAMless SSD (even on NVMe) is usually not the question of how abysmal its worst case performance is, but whether that worst-case performance can be avoided during real-world usage.

The WD Blue SN500 doesn't buckle under the pressure of our most intense tests, and it performs surprisingly well on The Destroyer even when compared against some high-end NVMe models of similar capacity. The SN500's SLC cache is tiny, but the performance after the cache is full is pretty good for a 250GB drive, and it's not noticeably interrupted or degraded by garbage collection cycles. Compared to the other small entry-level NVMe SSDs we've tested, the SN500 is a clear winner. It doesn't come out ahead in every single test, but the overall performance profile is much more consistent. The SN500 at its worst is still a decent SSD.

The WD Blue SN500 is not a high-end NVMe drive and it is not at all hard to find cases where the typical high-end NVMe drive with a PCIe x4 connection is much faster than the SN500. But on the tests with more realistic IO patterns, the gap between the SN500 and the top tier of drives isn't huge.

Western Digital was late to the game with in-house NVMe SSD controllers, but they clearly took the time to get it right. Both the high-end WD Black and mainstream WD Blue SSD product lines (and their OEM counterparts) are now using controllers based on their own controller architecture, and both instantiations of that architecture seem to be very successful for a first-generation release. The two products offer very different performance, but most of the time they have very similar power efficiency that puts them at or near the top of the charts. For the slower WD Blue SN500, that excellent efficiency usually means it's drawing less than 2W under load, though it can occasionally be pushed all the way up to 2.5W. The OEM drive that the SN500 is derived from was intended to fit into the thinnest and lightest notebooks and tablets, and it looks like Western Digital achieved that goal without making any horrible sacrifices (except to maximum drive capacity).

We didn't have a 250GB sample of the older SATA-based WD Blue SSD on hand to compare against, but the 250GB SN500 had no trouble matching or exceeding the performance of the 1TB WD Blue SATA SSD. Since performance generally scales with capacity, this is an illustration both of how good the SN500 is and how ready the mainstream SSD market segment is to break free of the limitations of a SATA interface.

At current pricing, the WD Blue SN500 isn't quite ready to push SATA SSDs out of the market, but it does make it very easy to step up to NVMe without regrets or worries. However, as usual there are some even faster drives for sale in basically the same price range, including the HP EX920 (Silicon Motion SM2262) and the Team MP34 (Phison E12 controller) that we will be reviewing soon. If Western Digital can push the price of their entry-level NVMe drive all the way down to SATA prices, they'll have a very successful product on their hands.

Power Management
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  • PeachNCream - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    You can expend the write endurance of a modern SSD. It isn't a difficult prospect and workloads don't have to be heavy ones for that to happen. Reply
  • DyneCorp - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    Under consumer workloads (OS and gaming) no, you cannot. It has been tested. Also, SSDs regularly outlast their given TBW rating by multiple times. If you check the S.M.A.R.T. attributes and software of older planar SSDs you'll see that even heavily utilized SSDs are healthy. Reply
  • rkmcquillen - Sunday, April 21, 2019 - link

    This review is glowing about this hard drive. Contrast that with StorageReview.com, which basically says "stay away". I don't understand how these 2 reviews could be so different.

    https://www.storagereview.com/wd_blue_sn500_nvme_s...
    "the drive placed last in every performance test we put it through"
    Reply
  • DyneCorp - Sunday, April 21, 2019 - link

    Did you even read the full article from the review you posted?

    Conclusion:

    "In the end, for users looking to upgrade an older SATA SSD or HDD the WD Blue SN500 may be an ideal candidate where price is the leading decision factor and performance comes secondary. Considering a sub-$55 entry price, the overall package is impressive."

    Did you even read the review from Anandtech?
    Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    "and performance comes secondary"

    So, I guess you're admitting that it really is any two?
    Reply
  • DyneCorp - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    Performance is always secondary in the consumer workspace. Even high end consumer NVMe SSDs don't touch enterprise SSDs.

    I know, I know, consumers should just be given i9-9900Ks and 970 PROs for free and everyone holds hands and dances and gets along. But that's not the way it works, and even SATA SSDs are more than capable of handling consumer workloads. With as small as margins are in the SSD game, we're lucky we don't pay more for less.

    Why don't you go work for Micron or Toshiba/ SanDisk and then go work for Silicon Motion or Phison and develop "The People's" SSD? Hmm?
    Reply
  • LMonty - Friday, April 26, 2019 - link

    I read the review you linked and it actually recommended the SN500. Nowhere does the review state or even hint that consumers should stay away from it.

    "the drive placed last in every performance test we put it through, though the WD drives is of a smaller capacity than its comparables". Of course it would score lower. Apples to oranges.
    Reply
  • GruntboyX - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    How is the latency on these drives? A system drive hardly ever does large File Transfers but ususually does a lot of random file access. Perhaps for a system drive its a good way to save some money without a significant performance penalty.

    I know the Samsung EVO / PRO drives are the gold standard and for good reason. However if the diminishing returns are small enough perhaps its a good cost/performance tradeoff.

    ....or am I missing something?
    Reply
  • DyneCorp - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    Samsung hasn't been the "gold standard" for several years now. SSDs utilizing Micron/ Intel NAND and Silicon Motion controllers have been on par or even outperformed Samsung SSDs. Even Intel's 660p can keep up (and even outperform) the 970 EVO in certain metrics, but SSDs utilizing Micron 64-layer and SM2262 are really what shine against Samsung (EX920 and SX8200). Reply
  • evan.drake - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    Fueled by 3D NAND: https://www.wd.com/en-us/products/internal-ssd/wd-... #WDCemployee Reply

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