Tired of using slow portable drives or even worse, USB keys, to store your games and work data? Portable SSDs such as those in our list of the best external SSDs enable responsive performance over their archaic HDD counterparts, but a standard SATA-based portable SSD just isn’t going to cut it for those looking for the best performance now that NVMe is all the rage. And while USB USB 3.2 Gen2 (10 Gbps) based devices are fast, if you have a fancy new USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20 Gbps) port like on ASRock’s Z490 Taichi or Asus’s Z490 ROG Maximus XII Extreme motherboards, then you definitely want to make use of that high-bandwidth port.
That’s where WD’s Black P50 Game Drive portable SSD comes into play. Utilizing ASMedia’s ASM2364 USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 to NVMe bridge controller and a WD Black SN750 PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 NVMe SSD, the Black P50 Game Drive is a beast. The company markets this portable SSD as “purpose built for gamers,” but we think that’s just overzealous marketing talking.
In fact, since the faster USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 port is so rarely implemented on motherboards, there is very little reason for PC gamers to buy this SSD solely for the task of loading up their favorite games. While the WD Black P50 is compatible with next-gen consoles, it won’t take advantage of that faster interface speed because their USB Type-A ports are limited to just 10 Gbps. With 20 Gbps on tap, the P50 Game Drive is a much better match for avid content creators, who are more likely to have that faster port in the first place. And at a starting price of $121, the WD drive can deliver twice the bandwidth as that of its more restricted competition for not much more in cost.
WD Black P50 Game Drive Specifications
|Product||Black P50 (500GB)||Black P50 (1TB)||Black P50 (2TB)|
|Capacity (User / Raw)||500GB / 512GB||1000GB / 1024GB||2000GB / 2048GB|
|Interface / Protocol||USB-C / USB 3.2 Gen 2x2||USB-C / USB 3.2 Gen 2x2||USB-C / USB 3.2 Gen 2x2|
|Included Cables||USB Type-C & USB Type-C to USB Type-A||USB Type-C & USB Type-C to USB Type-A||USB Type-C & USB Type-C to USB Type-A|
|Sequential Read||2,000 MB/s||2,000 MB/s||2,000 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||2,000 MB/s||2,000 MB/s||2,000 MB/s|
|Interface Controller||ASMedia ASM2364||ASMedia ASM2364||ASMedia ASM2364|
|NAND Controller||WD Architecture||WD Architecture||WD Architecture|
|Storage Media||WD 64L TLC||WD 64L TLC||WD 64L TLC|
|Default File System||exFAT||exFAT||exFAT|
|Dimensions (L x W x H)||118 x 62 x 14 mm||118 x 62 x 14 mm||118 x 62 x 14 mm|
|Weight||115 g||115 g||115 g|
WD’s Black P50 Game Drive is available in capacities of 500GB 1TB, 2TB, with the 1TB model we are reviewing today priced at $200, roughly $0.20 per GB. The 500GB entry-level capacity currently goes for $121 while the 2TB model is $350. Like most portable SSDs, WD’s Black P50 Game Drive lacks an endurance rating, but the company backs the SSD with a suiting five-year warranty.
WD rates the Black P50 to deliver upwards of 2 GBps read/write over its USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 interface. This performance is based on the speed of the SLC cache, however, and will degrade under large transfers. The WD Black P50 doesn’t feature a dynamic SLC cache like most SSDs these days. Instead, it leverages a small static SLC cache and a fast cache recovery policy for responsive and consistent performance.
The portable SSD comes pre-formatted as exFAT for cross-platform compatibility. Whether you use it on a Mac, PC, PlayStation, or Xbox, compatibility is plug n’ play. If you want Trim support, though, the P50 Game Drive will need to be formatted, as NTFS as we did before testing.
WD’s Black P50 Game Drive lacks software support but comes with two foot-long USB cables; one USB-Type-C and the other USB Type-C to Type-A.
A Closer Look at WD Black P50 Game Drive
The design of the WD P50 Black Game drive is military-tough inspired, with rigid support structures as a key element across the company’s product line. Weighing in at 115 grams and measuring 118 x 62 x 14 mm, it’s a bit on the larger side and while it doesn’t have any impact-absorbing silicone coating it like the SanDisk Extreme Pro v2, the metal casing definitely feels like it can take some abuse. Plus, it comes with a white activity indicator/power light next to the USB Type-C port on both sides of the device.
WD’s Black P50 is powered by an ASMedia ASM2364 USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 to NVMe bridge controller along with an M.2 2280 form factor NVMe SSD on the inside, the WD Black SN750. While the SSD’s controller is capable of leveraging active state power management, as a WD Black product, the company optimized it for speed and disabled the feature. The P50 Game Drive operates in active state 0, always ready for your requests. While this helps the device’s responsiveness, it causes excess power draw and heat output at idle. That said, the device features more than adequate cooling for its performance profile.
Capable of delivering roughly 3.5 GBps, the WD Black P50 easily exceeds the USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 limits, but WD’s Black SN750, the drive that powers it, isn’t the most responsive of SSDs. The flash operates at Toggle DDR 2.0 speeds of up to 533 MTps, which is less than half the speed of the latest 1,200 MTps flash. But while it lacks the fastest read performance, it has a very consistent write dominant performance profile. The SSDs feature a 1GB DRAM buffer for the FTL mapping table on our 1TB sample, and a tri-core architecture. There are just two NAND packages with sixteen 256Gb WD 64-layer TLC NAND dies in each for optimal interleaving.
With a cost-focused design, the BiCS3 flash features just two-planes (half the planes of Micron’s flash) and charge trap technology to scale rather than a more enduring floating gate cell technology. WD pulled off some magic with the firmware though, as the write speed on the SN750 after the cache fills is immense and similar to Samsung’s 970 EVO Plus. With hardware DSP, soft decode, XOR, and a multi-gear hardware LDPC engine, WD’s Black P50 Game Drive ensures reliable reading even when challenged with high bit-error pages, too.
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