Western Digital Blue SSD Review

UPDATE 10/11/2016 8:40 AM PST - WD provided us with an incorrect MSRP prior to the launch date. Products under NDA are not listed at retailers, therefore we could not verify the information given to us. We corrected the article and altered the conclusion.

WD's new Blue series represents its first consumer SSD using technology from the SanDisk acquisition. Western Digital started making flash technology purchases even before 2016, but most of its acquisitions were enterprise-focused. When WD acquired SanDisk last year, it almost instantly put the company in second place behind Samsung in the SSD market.

WD armed itself with vast flash resources in the form of SanDisk’s fabs and industry-leading patent war chest, and now it is working to bring high-volume mainstream SSDs to the consumer market. Easy street hasn't been cheap, but acquiring a turnkey consumer SSD manufacturer like SanDisk goes a long way to smoothing out the bumps in the road.

Western Digital made a half-hearted attempt to enter the SSD market in 2010 with the Silicon Edge Blue. The $999 (256GB) SE Blue suffered from JMicron disease, so the company didn't find much success. At the time, Western Digital didn't know a lot about solid-state technology. WD purchased SiliconSystems Inc. who, as it turned out, didn't know a whole lot about building consumer SSDs, either.

"1% products" like the Western Digital Raptor series are not big sellers. These products are great for enthusiasts, but not for the boardroom. Even though everyone we know used a Raptor product at some point, Western Digital didn't sell that many compared to the mainstream product SKUs. The regular SKUs outsold the Raptor hundreds to one. SSDs fell into that same 1% group for nearly a decade, so HDD vendors ignored the technology. Hard disk drive shipments are down 20% in the first quarter of 2016, and the HDD manufacturers can’t ignore flash-based technology any longer. Luckily, WD purchased several flash technology assets to get on the right track.

The new WD Blue series comes to the forefront today, but a new, lower-cost Green series also tags along. The Green SSD will not ship until later this year, so we will have to wait for a product review.

Specifications

The new Western Digital Blue series SSDs come to market in three capacities that range from 1TB to 250GB. The Blue's hardware is identical to the SanDisk X400 we recently tested, and it ships in both 2.5" and M.2 2280 (AHCI SATA) flavors. Western Digital tells us that it changed the firmware, but we don't have many details.

The client-focused X400 crossed over to the mainstream market due to the vacuum created when SSD manufacturers attacked the entry-level segment and ignored the mid-tier. The Blue SSDs sport slightly higher performance and endurance compared to the X400. The Blue peaks at 545 MB/s sequential read and 525 MB/s of sequential write speed, while random performance tips the scales at 100,000/80,000 read/write IOPS. The two high-capacity models offer the best performance, but the 250GB only trails by a small amount.

WD based the drive on the Marvell 88SS1074 "Dean" 4-channel controller that supports low-density parity check (LDPC) error correction code. LDPC keeps the SanDisk 15nm 3-bit per cell (TLC) NAND in line with a two-tier hard and soft decision approach to error correction. LDPC extracts more endurance from the underlying flash than BCH ECC, which leads to more longevity from cheap planar NAND.

Availability And Pricing

The Western Digital Blue series is available now. The drives should sell at MSRP at first and then decline over time. The 500GB model represents the best value at $139.99. Surprisingly, the 1TB option we are testing today costs more than twice as much at $299.99.

Warranty And Endurance

All three capacities ship with a 3-year warranty that WD limited with a terabytes written (TBW) endurance rating. The TBW rating serves as a basic guideline for the amount of data you can write to the SSD before the warranty expires. The Blue offers increased endurance compared to the X400; the 1TB Blue sports a 400TBW rating while the comparable X400 shipped with a 320TBW rating. The Blue 500GB offers 200TBW, and the 250GB provides 100TBW of endurance.

Accessories

Our Blue SSD didn't ship with any paperwork. Inside the package, we found the drive and a plastic container to keep it stationary during shipping. Users can download a Western Digital-themed version of SanDisk's SSD Dashboard software that works exclusively with the new SSDs.

Just like SanDisk's version, the software will not allow users to perform secure erase or sanitize operations inside Windows 8 or newer operating systems. You can use the software to create a bootable thumb drive that cleans the drive outside of Windows.

Packaging

Western Digital's new SSDs come with an attractive design, but the company didn't provide a lot of detail about the product. The SSD toes the company line with the blue color scheme it uses to identify WD's mainstream PC products. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the company known for manufacturing hard disk drives promotes a dual-drive SSD/HDD configuration on the package (with the HDD presumably used for long term data storage). Dual drive configurations are for more advanced users, so we don't think many mainstream users will investigate the "ideal" configuration. In either case, most web browsers and family photos don't require a lot of storage.

A Closer Look

The hardware is identical to the X400 other than a sticker change. The thin plastic housing is far from a premium design, but it works well for both desktop and consumer use. The Marvell 88SS1074 controller doesn't produce a lot of heat, so it will thrive in the insulated environment. Western Digital uses a full-size thermal pad to spread heat from the components to the thin plastic cover. 

Internals

Western Digital only sent us the Blue 1TB for testing. This drive utilizes eight SanDisk 15nm TLC NAND packages on one side of the printed circuit board. WD placed two LPDDR3 DRAM packages, which are used to cache the data map, adjacent to the Marvell 4-channel controller.

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46 comments
    Your comment
  • RealBeast
    Nice to see such a low price on a reasonable 1TB drive.
    3
  • cknobman
    Price/Performance/Capacity winner is what we have here!!!
    2
  • MetXallica
    The WD site says 1TB is $299....
    0
  • Vaxrat
    So much for your amazing price point. Newegg says $299 as well.
    1
  • lugi20
    WD Lists it for $299, Newegg selling it for $299, Amazon has it for $279 --- I think you can update your review. It performs nicely but there are much better values out there.
    -1
  • Fandogh
    Sadly the Article is wrong. the price for 1TB is $299 not $199 and well overpriced...
    1
  • jaber2
    I think all SSD's are over priced
    -2
  • RealBeast
    Agreed, overpriced at $299. I'd go with an EVO. Sounded almost too good to be true, and turns out that it was.
    2
  • WFang
    Yeah the talk about prices in the article is confusing all the while the Amazon link shows it priced way higher than (any of) the article prices sprinkled around in the text. What gives?
    1
  • CRamseyer
    The review will need several changes. We are working on it now. Below you can see the pricing information we received from Western Digital. We even had a conversation, that included talk about pricing, within the last 24 hours.


    • MSRP for all new Blue and Green capacity sizes
    o WD Blue 250 GB $79.99, 500 GB $139.99 and 1TB $199.99 USD MSRP - WD Green has not been determined yet as it won’t be shipping until later this quarter.
    1
  • josejones
    Oh sure, they're nice and cheap but the Interface is based on old, outdated and soon to be OBSOLETE super slow AHCI SATA 6Gbps. Why on earth would WD waste their time with such slow crap? When they change the interface to NVMe then, maybe they'll have something worth talking about until then, not. SATA is also soon to be obsolete.
    0
  • PaulAlcorn
    Well, SATA is the volume mover...for now.
    0
  • josejones
    Anonymous said:
    Well, SATA is the volume mover...for now.


    Remember, VGA got pretty cheap too and it took like 10 years to get rid of it. We certainly need SATA for now but, it should start being considered obsolete by 2020 and begin to disappear from motherboards to make more room for more NVMe SSD connections. I just hope SATA doesn't turn into the next VGA and linger for 10 years. No point clinging to old obsolete, outdated and super slow technology that is capped at super slow speeds with an ACHI interface that will never ever get beyond 600MB/s. SATA has been a huge bottleneck keeping HD's and storage super slow for years.
    -1
  • PaulAlcorn
    I agree, SATA is legacy tech and we should move forward. You make a really good point, it will likely be much like VGA - the interface that never dies.
    1
  • MRFS
    clerical correction: correct cable is the SFF-8639 e.g.:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIAA6W3YY8665&Tpk=9SIAA6W3YY8665
    (mini-SAS at host / SFF-8639 at device)

    (sorry for the typo)
    0
  • littleleo
    As it has been pointed out the price is about $299 and lets be honest. If you are looking for a cheap drive, WD isn't the name that comes to mind. WD has always charged a premium for their products. Whether it is deservedly or not is a topic all its own.

    On the bright side now with the SanDisk unit merged in it would be nice if they did an update on the Black2 drive. The earlier unit's SSD side was weak and slow by anyone's standards. The idea was good execution...
    0
  • Game256
    Chris, Any info about Samsung 960 EVO/PRO that you can disclose? Is it under NDA?
    0
  • MRFS
    For the time being, and mainly because it took so long for SSD vendors to optimize Flash memory firmware, we are buying ONLY Samsung and SanDisk SSDs with a 10-year factory warranty:

    just compute (retail price) / (warranty years) so as to "amortize" that capital investment.

    Then, when the RocketRAID 3840A (or comparable NVMe RAID controller) stabilizes, we will be able to build our next workstation with any compatible PCIe 3.0 motherboard.

    Our 13GB ramdisk is almost full, so we need a new workstation with at least 32GB of DRAM. But, we've been waiting because only a few PCIe 3.0 motherboards support 2 x U.2 ports (e.g. ASUS Hero Alpha), and we have a preference for RAID-0 arrays with 4 x member SSDs.

    Also, if you know where to look, the Z170 motherboards with 2 x M.2 or 3 x M.3 slots situate those slots DOWNSTREAM of the DMI 3.0 link, and that DMI 3.0 link has the exact same UPSTREAM bandwidth as a single M.2 NVMe SSD! All of the benchmarks we have read all report the same ceiling ~3,500 MB/s
    (i.e. 4,000 MAX HEADROOM minus aggregate controller overhead).

    (The exact calculation for MAX is 32 Gbps / 8.125 bits per byte = 3,938.46 because the PCIe 3.0 standard uses the 128b/130b jumbo frame: 130 bits / 16 bytes per frame = 8.125 bits per byte .)

    Lastly, something that readers here already appreciate, it took FOREVER for storage vendors to catch up with the bandwidth available to SLI and Crossfire setups i.e. HBAs with x16 edge connectors.

    There is an engineering "elegance" that comes with x16 PCIe 3.0 lanes
    and four x4 devices being fed with a full x16 edge connector:

    4 @ x4 = x16

    Highpoint appears to be one of the FIRST to satisfy most of the key requirements stated in this WANT AD:

    http://supremelaw.org/systems/nvme/want.ad.htm

    So, we wait: the wait will be worth it, imho.
    -1