Western Digital is bringing 3D NAND to their high-end consumer SSD family with the launch today of two new NVMe SSDs featuring SanDisk's 64-layer 3D TLC NAND flash memory. As with the SATA SSDs that first brought 3D NAND to their consumer portfolio, Western Digital is releasing the same drive under both their WD and SanDisk brands. Under the stickers, the hardware is identical.

The names are recycled and familiar: the WD Black and SanDisk Extreme PRO. The first WD Black SSD was Western Digital's first consumer NVMe product. It used a Marvell controller and 15nm planar TLC NAND, and ended up near the bottom of the performance rankings for NVMe SSDs, with no appreciable performance advantage over SATA SSDs for heavier workloads. The SanDisk Extreme PRO name hasn't been used on an internal SSD for quite a while, but it carries a strong legacy: the original SanDisk Extreme PRO was a top-tier SATA SSD with MLC NAND and was competitive with the Samsung 850 PRO. The SATA SanDisk Extreme PRO hit the market right before the 850 PRO and was the first consumer SSD to carry a 10-year warranty, forcing Samsung to follow suit with the 850 PRO.

Re-using product names like this without any clear generational indicator or model year will cause confusion. Western Digital has at least ensured that the new drives are using different capacities from their predecessors: the first-generation WD Black was 256GB and 512GB, the original Extreme PRO was 240GB, 480GB and 960GB, and the new WD Black and SanDisk Extreme PRO are 250GB, 500GB and 1000GB. Still, last year's WD Black will be coexisting in the marketplace for several months with this year's model, and the two are very different products.

The new WD Black and SanDisk Extreme PRO SSDs are based on the same platform as the SN720 business/OEM SSD Western Digital announced earlier this year. In addition to the major advance of switching from 15nm planar TLC NAND to 64-layer BiCS 3D NAND, the new SSDs also feature Western Digital's own new SSD controller instead of using a controller from Marvell. This is a major shift toward vertical integration for Western Digital/SanDisk, and is the best strategy for Western Digital to differentiate their products in a market crowded with dozens of brands sourcing their controllers or the entire drive design from the same small handful of vendors.

Western Digital WD Black and SanDisk Extreme PRO Specifications
Capacity 250 GB 500 GB 1 TB
WD Black Model WDS250G2X0C WDS500G2X0C WDS100T2X0C
SanDisk Extreme PRO Model - SDSSDXPM2-500G SDSSDXPM2-1T00
Form Factor M.2 2280 Single-Sided
Interface NVMe PCIe 3 x4
Controller Western Digital in-house
NAND SanDisk 64-layer 3D TLC
DRAM SK Hynix DDR4-2400
Sequential Read 3000 MB/s 3400 MB/s 3400 MB/s
Sequential Write 1600 MB/s 2500 MB/s 2800 MB/s
4KB Random Read 220k IOPS 410k IOPS 500k IOPS
4KB Random Write 170k IOPS 330k IOPS 400k IOPS
Power Peak (10µs) 9.24 W 9.24 W 9.24 W
PS3 Idle 70 mW 70 mW 100 mW
PS4 Idle 2.5 mW 2.5 mW 2.5 mW
Write Endurance 200 TBW
0.4 DWPD
300 TBW
0.3 DWPD
600 TBW
0.3 DWPD
Warranty 5 years
MSRP $119.99
(48¢/GB)
$229.99
(46¢/GB)
$449.99
(45¢/GB)
Amazon Price $119.99 (48¢/GB)
(48¢/GB)
$226.75 (45¢/GB)
(46¢/GB)
$449.99 (45¢/GB)
(45¢/GB)

The performance specifications of the new WD Black and SanDisk Extreme PRO promise a high-end drive, with sequential read speeds of 3+ GB/s even on the smallest 250GB model, and high random access specifications on the 500GB and larger models. Write endurance ratings are a reasonable 0.3-0.4 drive writes per day for five years. The MSRPs position the WD Black directly against the Samsung 960 EVO and above most other recent consumer NVMe SSDs—the fast-growing entry-level NVMe segment is what most brands are focusing on at the moment.

The WD Black can at least momentarily hit the power limits of the M.2 form factor, but it doesn't feature any heatspreader. Instead, Western Digital is using an uncommon layout that places the controller in the middle of the stick with NAND flash memory on both sides of the controller. This was deemed adequate to prevent overheating, and has the side effect of making it easier to route the 8 channels from the controller to the NAND.

The new drives will initially be available in capacities from 250GB to 1TB, though the SanDisk-branded versions won't include the smallest 250GB model. These drives should all be shipping by the end of the month. Western Digital has not mentioned any plans for a 2TB models, but since they have already announced a 2TB SN720 they obviously have the option to quickly deploy a 2TB WD Black or SanDisk Extreme PRO model if the demand is sufficient.

AnandTech 2017/2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.1
The Western Digital NVMe Architecture - NAND & Controller
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  • Chaitanya - Thursday, April 05, 2018 - link

    Nice to see some good competition to Samsung products in SSD space. Would like to see durability testing on these drives. Reply
  • HStewart - Thursday, April 05, 2018 - link

    Yes it nice to have competition in this area and important thing to notice here a long time disk drive manufacture is changes it technology to meet changes in storage technology. Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, April 05, 2018 - link

    Looks like WD's purchase of SanDisk is showing some payoff. If only Toshiba would have taken advantage of OCZ (who purchased Indilinx) in-house talent. The Barefoot controller showed a lot of promise and could have easily been updated to support low power states and TLC NAND. But they shelved it. I don't really know why Toshiba bought OCZ. Reply
  • haukionkannel - Friday, April 06, 2018 - link

    Indeed! Samsung did have too long time performance supremesy and that did make the company to upp the prices (natural development thought).
    Hopefully this better situation help uss customers in reasonable time frame. Too much bad news to consumers last years considering the prices.
    Reply
  • XabanakFanatik - Thursday, April 05, 2018 - link

    Whatever happened to performance consistency testing? Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, April 05, 2018 - link

    The steady state QD32 random write test doesn't say anything meaningful about how modern SSDs will behave on real client workloads. It used to be a half-decent test before everything was TLC with SLC caching and the potential for thermal throttling on M.2 NVMe drives. Now, it's impossible to run a sustained workload for an hour and claim that it tells you something about how your drive will handle a bursty real world workload. The only purpose that benchmark can serve today is to tell you how suitable a consumer drive is for (ab)use as an enterprise drive. Reply
  • iter - Thursday, April 05, 2018 - link

    Most of the tests don't say anything meaningful about "how modern SSDs will behave on real client workloads". You can spend 400% more money on storage that will only get you 4% of performance improvement in real world tasks.

    So why not omit synthetic tests altogether while you are at it?
    Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, April 05, 2018 - link

    You're alluding to the difference between storage performance and whole system/application performance. A storage benchmark doesn't necessarily give you a direct measurement of whole system or application performance, but done properly it will tell you about how the choice of an SSD will affect the portion of your workload that is storage-dependent. Much like Amdahl's law, speeding up storage doesn't affect the non-storage bottlenecks in your workload.

    That's not the problem with the steady-state random write test. The problem with the steady state random write test is that real world usage doesn't put the drive in steady state, and the steady state behavior is completely different from the behavior when writing in bursts to the SLC cache. So that benchmark isn't even applicable to the 5% or 1% of your desktop usage that is spent waiting on storage.

    On the other hand, I have tried to ensure that the synthetic benchmarks I include actually are representative of real-world client storage workloads, by focusing primarily on low queue depths and limiting the benchmark duration to realistic quantities of data transferred and giving the drive idle time instead of running everything back to back. Synthetic benchmarks don't have to be the misleading marketing tests designed to produce the biggest numbers possible.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, April 05, 2018 - link

    Good answer, Billy. It won't please everyone here, but that's impossible anyway. Reply
  • iter - Thursday, April 05, 2018 - link

    "but that's impossible anyway"

    It is as possible as simply including the test.

    It is highly likely that people willing to spend extra on NVME storage care about how consistent performance is.

    And the best part is it doesn't hurt anyone to include that information.
    Reply

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