WD Blue SSD full review
Western Digital (WD) is well-known in the storage industry for its reliable range of hard disk drives (HDD). On 11 October 2016, SanDisk (now a WD company) released the WD Blue and Green line of SSDs to the market. In this review we look at the WD Blue 1TB (WDS100T1B0A-00H9H0), an internal SSD aimed at enthusiasts and gamers. Also see the best SSDs to buy in 2016.
Also see: Best Black Friday Deals
WD Blue SSD 1TB review: Price, competition and price per GB
The WD Blue comes in two form factors: The traditional 2.5in internal SSD and the M.2 2280 form factor. It should be noted that the M.2 variant shares the same theoretical speeds as the SATA III 6GB/s 2.5in variant, as it does not use NVMe (where you can achieve 1500+ MB/s speeds).
The drive can be found in 250-, 500GB and 1TB sizes. Prices start from £85 for the 250GB, £145 for 500GB and £295 for the 1TB variant. The drives can currently be found on the WD store - further retailers are set to feature the new WD SSDs. It should be noted that the M.2 variant is £10 more expensive in each of the storage variants.
We received the WD Blue 1TB (that comes with 931GB of real-world capacity), which according to WD is able to last 400TB of written data (TBW). The 250GB offers 100TBW and 500GB is rated at 200TBW.
The drive comes with a limited three year warranty. Read next: How to build a PC.
There is a lot of competition from other drives, and despite not having recently reviewed large 1TB SSDs, its price per GB speaks volumes - pun intended.
The WD is by far one of the most expensive drives out there, even in comparison to other 1TB SSDs in the market, such as the SanDisk Ultra II SSD 960GB at £199.99 and Crucial MX300 1TB at £227, it's safe to say the WD have ignored its competitors in terms of price per GB.
In the US the discrepancy is less, but nevertheless the WD 1TB SSD comes in at $299, where the 250GB variant provides more value for money at $79 in the US. Read next: Best portable hard drives 2016.
WD Blue SSD 1TB review: TLC NAND flash with SLC cache technology
At the WD launch event, the company was pushing the WD Blue as a reliable and efficient drive, which sets it apart from the rest of its competitors. Unfortunately, we cannot benchmark or compare WDs claims to other competitors in the market; however WD does list an impressive level of endurance for its new WD Blue drives.
If you're looking to write 20GB/day to the drive, the WD Blue 1TB is rated to last 56 years - an incredible number, given that most refresh their PCs in less than five. The 250GB at 14 years and the 500GB at 28 years.
If you're a heavy user (40GB/day) the WD Blue is rated at 7, 14 and 28 years for the 250-, 500GB and 1TB models respectively. WD also shared its rated workout for extreme (80GB/day) users - at 3.5, 7 and 14 years respectively.
Alongside the drive, you can download WD SSD Dashboard, the new software that is aimed to provide detailed and easy-to-understand information about your WD SSD. This includes the read/write life left on your drive to the temperature. The software has a nice user interface and is useful for those who want to update firmware version.
The WD Blue SSD is built on a TLC (triple-layer-cell) technology, meaning it writes three bits of data to one cell. TLC technology is the cheapest form of NAND flash and is often seen as a slower NAND flash technology that is also more prone to drive failures. Nevertheless, a lot of companies, WD included, use TLC flash in SSDs.
Despite being based on TLC flash, the WD Blue features SLC (single-layer-cell) cache technology, which is aimed to boost its performance in 'high sustained sequential write speeds'. This mix of TLC and SLC is quoted to maximise performance and provide a more reliable drive that offers better longevity. This is why WD has certified it with the WD F.I.T. (Functional Integrity Testing) stamp.
In order to counter read/write errors, WD includes an 'on-the-fly error handling mechanism’, whereby it combines LDPC (an industry standard for error-checking) to provide a reliable drive.
The drive is marketed as a low power drive, which consumes very little energy - laptop users might rejoice to know that when the WD Blue is combined with both Slumber and DEVSLP modes, the drive will only require as little as 4.9mW. However, its average active power is rated at 70mW (0.07W), which makes it a good SSD for battery conscious users.
The drive supports thermal throttling, which ramps down performance in case the drive overheats - a useful safety feature to protect your data.
The drive supports S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) and TRIM, which are handy for those who are interested in achieving faster speeds and reliability. Read next: Best NAS drives 2016.
WD Blue SSD 1TB review: Benchmark performance
For the section below we used CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD benchmark to analyse performance. Interestingly enough, when we plugged in our SSD into our rig, the Windows 10 machine (device manager) and AS SSD both picked up the drive as a Samsung SSD 750 X41000WD. We found this particularly interesting, as we've never seen Windows or benchmarking tools to pick up an incorrect drive - this might suggest that the drive's NAND flash is made by Samsung and optimised by WD. Nevertheless, it could all be a simple firmware/software error - but worth noting.
Through our CrystalDiskMark (CDM) Random benchmarks, we found the WD Blue SSD 1TB to sit in the middle - performance was consistent, with a sequential read of 498.1MB/s and write of 472.1MB/s, the drive can be used to store large files. Its random read 4Kb results were distinctly average with its read speeds providing something a little more exciting to look at.
In its 0 fill CDM benchmarks, the drive was yet again a consistent performer, but lost out versus the Kingston SSDNow KC400512GB and Toshiba Q300 480GB in its Random Read 4Kb benchmarks. The drive is still a good performer and offers great speeds for PC enthusiasts who will be moving small and large files.
Naturally, the drive outperformed our Seagate ST500DM002 7200rpm hard drive in every department. So it can be seen as a natural and healthy upgrade for those who want to speed up their PCs.
Through our AS SSD benchmarks we found the SSD to provide blistering fast speeds, but unfortunately tailed off in its performance, with the 4K-64 Write benchmark - making it a less favourable drive for those who want to consistently transfer small files across to the drive.
The compression benchmark in AS SSD, allows us to see how well it can perform while compressing data at a very high speed. We found the WD Blue SSD to provide a reasonably good performance, but unfortunately wasn't as smooth as some of its competitors, such as the Toshiba Q300 480GB (2016) or Samsung 850 Evo 500GB, that both provide a smoother compression.
In AS SSD's copy benchmark, we found the WD Blue SSD to particularly shine in its Game Speed, making it ideal for gamers - we suspect this is the combination of the TLC NAND flash working well with its SLC cache.
WD Blue SSD 1TB review: Should I buy the WD Blue SSD?
It's clear to see that WD have done a good job in bringing out their product to the market - however, given that it's a very crowded market, with chip manufacturers often using the same memory controllers and NAND flash technology, we feel that WD have missed a trick here.
Other than offering another option to PC builders and those who want to ramp up their PCs performance, the WD Blue SSD isn't anything to shout about, especially at its higher price per GB. We feel those who will be in the market for a 1TB SSD will be doing their research, and saving themsevles a considerable sum of money by buying one of its competitor's drives.
This is not to say that the WD drive isn't a good performer, far from it - but WD are heavily relying on their brand image, which is a huge factor in purchasing decisions. However, given its competitors are well-known and heavily praised, we feel that the WD Blue SSD will struggle in the market, unless it receives a significant price drop.
WD Blue SSD: Specs
- Capacities: 250-, 500GB & 1TB
- Capacity tested: 1TB
- Price per GB: £0.32
- Tested 4KB performance: 32.4/87.1 MB/s
- Tested sequential performance: 498.1/472.1 MB/s
- Memory Cache: SLC Cache
- Controller: Unknown
- Encryption: None
- Flash technology: TLC NAND
- Connection: SATA III 6GB/s
- Claimed power consumption: 0.07W active / 0.045W idle
- Warranty: 3 years
- Dimensions: 69.85x100.2x7mm