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WD Black AN1500 NVMe AIC SSD Review: For RGB Addicts Who Need Speed

WD’s Black AN1500 fuses two Gen3 SSDs into one sleek RGB add-in-card for Gen4-like performance.

WD Black AN1500
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

WD’s Black AN1500 delivers high bandwidth and speed that rival’s Gen4 competitors, thanks to an enterprise-grade RAID controller, and comes with a price tag to match.

For

  • Aesthetic appeal
  • Competitive performance
  • 5-year warranty
  • Software suite

Against

  • Not quite as fast as native Gen4 SSDs
  • Takes up 8 PCIe lanes for full performance
  • Power hog
  • Runs hot, but not too hot
  • Expensive

WD's Black AN1500 is a high-end SSD built for gamers who want  PCIe Gen4 performance but lack the support for the standard on current-gen platforms -- we’re looking at you Intel. Containing two WD Black SSDs in RAID 0, plus customizable RGB lighting, it offers high-performance with looks and a price to match.

Got an ‘old’ PCIe Gen3 rig, but want Gen4 performance? Are you also a big RGB fan? WD’s Black AN1500 is probably the SSDs you’ve been dreaming of. This blazing-fast add-in card (AIC) eliminates the headaches of traditional NVMe RAID by providing a simple plug-and-play experience that is fully bootable. Built with an enterprise-grade NVMe RAID controller and two of the company’s high-speed WD SN730 NVMe SSDs inside, WD’s Black AN1500 seamlessly integrates into your system while providing all the gigabytes per second you could ask for on Gen3 hardware.

Specifications

ProductBlack AN1500 1TBBlack AN1500 2TBBlack AN1500 4TB
Pricing $299.99 $549.99 $999.99
Capacity (User / Raw)1000GB / 1024GB2000GB / 2048GB4000GB / 4096GB
Form FactorHHHL AICHHHL AICHHHL AIC
Interface / ProtocolPCIe 3.0 x8 / NVMe 1.3PCIe 3.0 x8 / NVMe 1.3PCIe 3.0 x8 / NVMe 1.3
ControllerWD ArchitectureWD ArchitectureWD Architecture
DRAMDDR4DDR4DDR4
MemoryWD 96L TLCWD 96L TLCWD 96L TLC
Sequential Read6,500 MBps6,500 MBps6,500 MBps
Sequential Write4,100 MBps4,100 MBps4,100 MBps
Random ReadN/AN/AN/A
Random WriteN/AN/AN/A
SecurityN/AN/AN/A
Endurance (TBW)N/AN/AN/A
Part NumberWDS100T1X0L-00AUJ0WDS200T1X0L-00AUJ0WDS400T1X0L-00AUJ0
Warranty5-Years5-Years5-Years

WD’s Black SN1500 is available in capacities of 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB and at roughly $0.23-$0.27 per GB, the AN1500 fetches a premium price, although acceptable given its high capacity and performance. WD rates the Black AN1500 to deliver up to 6.5/4.1 GBps read/write speeds under sequential requests over its PCIe 3.0 x8 interface.

These performance numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. Like most TLC-based SSDs, WD Black AN1500’s ratings are based on an SLC cache and will degrade under large file transfers that exceed the cache, but due to its robust architecture, it’s performance will still remain strong when writing directly to the TLC. When the transfer ends, the architecture’s more aggressive evacuation policy will help to quickly maintain the high availability of SLC blocks to keep most writes directed to the SLC for higher endurance, too. 

While most SSDs come with finite endurance ratings within their warranty, we were unable to get ahold of any official endurance ratings on the Black AN1500 from the company. We do know, however, that it comes backed by a five-year warranty. This is potentially great news to reassure avid videographers as WD will warranty the device regardless of the number of writes performed.

Secure erase is unsupported, since the device is preconfigured as a RAID 0 with no way to change it by the end-user. Or at least, we were unable to secure erase the device and are still waiting to hear back from the company on whether or not it’s officially supported. AES 256-bit hardware encryption is also unsupported. But, the AN1500 does support Trim and S.M.A.R.T. data reporting.

Software and Accessories

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WD Black AN1500 NVMe

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WD Black AN1500 NVMe

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WD Black AN1500 NVMe

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WD Black AN1500 NVMe

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WD Black AN1500 NVMe

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WD Black AN1500 NVMe

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WD supports the Black AN1500 with an SSD Dashboard and Acronis True Image 2020. True Image simply lets you clone your data over to the SSD, the SSD dashboard offers a lot more functionality.

Capacity, temperature, life remaining and even the interface link speeds are shown on the status page, while a live performance analysis chart and other tools are located in the other panels. The SSD Dashboard also has an RGB control panel, with 13 LED pattern effects. It's also compatible with most motherboards' RGB control software, like Asus' Aura Sync, Gigabyte's RGB Fusion, and MSI's Mystic Light Sync.

A Closer Look

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WD Black AN1500

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WD Black AN1500

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WD Black AN1500

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WD’s Black AN1500 comes in a half-height add-in-card form factor and interfaces with the host over an up to PCIe 3.0 x8 link using a Marvell 88NR2241 NVMe RAID controller. Measuring over 13mm thick, made of metal, and weighing in at roughly half a pound, the device is quite robust and well-engineered to keep cool, even under the most strenuous loads. The edge lighting is elegantly diffused and utilizes 16 LEDs.

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WD Black AN1500

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WD Black AN1500

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WD Black AN1500

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WD Black AN1500

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WD’s Black AN1500 is an NVMe SSD that leverages two WD SN730s in RAID 0. Each SN730 has a robust triple Arm CPU-based controller architecture that utilizes a DRAM cache to help ensure responsive performance. For the AIC, the company added an 8Gb Micron DDR4 chip onto each of the 1TB SN730s. WD disabled all power management options on the SSD, so the device always operates in a fully active 0 power state, gobbling up power and producing excessive heat at idle especially. But then again, a product like this isn’t about efficiency, it’s all about speed.

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WD Black AN1500

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WD Black AN1500

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WD Black AN1500

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WD’s NVMe 1.3 SSD controller ensures data integrity and reliability with a multi-gear hardware Low-Density Parity-Check (LDPC) ECC engine. The main gear at which it will operate is optimized for high throughput and lower power than older BCH, while the successive gears offer stronger error correction capability and are typically used only for older, high bit-error pages. Additionally, the company overprovisioned the SSDs by roughly 9%, so that some of the space can be used as RAID-like protection for full multi-page recovery after years of abuse.

Of course, the SSD wouldn’t be so fast if it weren’t for some of WD’s latest BiCS4 TLC NAND flash. With a design that is based on scaling a charge trap cell, the BiCS4 flash on this SSD scales up to 96 word-line-layers. In fact, there are more select and dummy layers that bring the total layer count up to 109, and it utilizes string stacking.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The 1TB and 2TB models of the AN1500 will feature the 256Gb dies. And the 4TB 512Gb dies both feature a two-plane design for independent access and interface, with the controller over eight NAND flash channels at Toggle DDR 3.0 speeds of up to 800 MTps, while consuming 1.2V. This flash comes with roughly half the planes count of the current top-contending flash from Micron, SK hynix, and Samsung. BiCS5 will come with a four-plane layout, though, as well as Circuit Under Array (CUA) design elements to achieve high-bit density and performance.

To improve BiCS4’s program performance over BiCS3, the company had to implement a few new ideas, including a string-based start-bias control (SSBC) scheme as well as smart Vth tracking read (SVTR) to improve the retry read performance, along with a shielded-bitline current-sense (SBL) scheme, too.

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  • nofanneeded
    We already have barebone NVME cards that can raid 4 NVME SSD , and used 16 lanes as well . I dont see This product can compete against that .. I am puzzled at WD choices ...
    Reply
  • Grindayzier
    nofanneeded said:
    We already have barebone NVME cards that can raid 4 NVME SSD , and used 16 lanes as well . I dont see This product can compete against that .. I am puzzled at WD choices ...
    This will work good in my 6 core LGA 2011 rig :)
    Reply
  • gg83
    I just want the empty shell. Ive wanted an rgb add in card for a while. i just want the lights. I could give a crap about 300 for 1tb! what a joke!
    Reply
  • jesselafantaisie
    Wouldn't this force gpu to 3.0 8x therefore how could this be designed for gamers?
    Reply