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WD Blue SN500 M.2 NVMe SSD Review: Leaving SATA in the Dust (Updated)

WD's Blue SN500 brings SATA-like pricing to a speedy NVMe SSD.

WD Blue SN500 M.2

Comparison Products

For today’s testing, we put the new 250GB WD Blue SN500 against its older SATA brother, the 250GB WD Blue 3D. We also threw in a 250GB Samsung 860 EVO since it is about the same price, as well as the better-performing Samsung 970 EVO Plus that recently overtook the non-Plus model. The MyDigitalSSD’s BPX Pro with updated 12.1 firmware and the SBX are also on the chopping block, along with Crucial’s P1 and an Adata XPG SX8200.

Trace Testing – PCMark 8 Storage Test 2.0

PCMark 8 is a trace-based benchmark that uses Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, World of Warcraft, and Battlefield 3 to measure the performance of storage devices in real-world scenarios.

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Western Digital’s Blue SN500 scores a respectable 5065 points overall in PCMark 8. With an average bandwidth of 471 MB/s, it easily outperformed any SATA SSD we’ve tested. It also landed significantly ahead of the MyDigitalSSD SBX and destroyed the Crucial P1. Higher-end PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs like the Samsung 970 EVO Plus and MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro prove to be better options if you're looking for a bit more performance, though.

Game Scene Loading - Final Fantasy XIV

The Final Fantasy XIV StormBlood benchmark is a free real-world game benchmark that easily and accurately compares game load times without the inaccuracy of using a stopwatch.

WD’s new Blue SN500 easily outperformed the old SATA Blue 3D, but couldn’t quite keep up with Samsung’s new 970 EVO Plus. In Final Fantasy XIV StormBlood, the SN500 loaded the game scene three seconds faster than the Blue 3D and ranked fourth overall. It even outperformed the BPX Pro, and, once again, Crucial’s P1.

Transfer Rates – DiskBench

We use the DiskBench storage benchmarking tool to test file transfer performance with our own custom 50GB block of data. Our data set includes 31,227 files of various types, like pictures, PDFs, and videos. We copy the files to a new folder and then follow up with a read test of a newly-written 6GB file.

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WD’s Blue SN500 averaged 243 MB/s during our copy test. Surprisingly, this is slower than the Crucial P1, but it comes as a result of the Blue's much smaller SLC cache. Still, the Blue significantly outperformed both the Samsung 860 EVO and WD Blue 3D SATA SSDs, and did the same during our 6GB file read test. With an average read rate of 1,343 MB/s, it was over 2.5x faster at opening files.

SYSmark 2014 SE

Like PCMark, SYSmark uses real applications to measure system performance. SYSmark takes things much further, however. It utilizes fourteen different applications to run real workloads with real data sets to measure how overall system performance impacts the user experience. BAPCo's SYSmark 2014 SE installs a full suite of applications for its tests, which includes Microsoft Office, Google Chrome, Corel WinZip, several Adobe software applications, and GIMP. That also makes it a great test to measure the amount of time it takes to install widely-used programs after you install a fresh operating system.

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SYSmark installed in a comparatively snappy 14 minutes and 54 seconds, trailing the beastly Intel Optane SSD 905P by just three seconds. Not too shabby.

The 905P easily outscored the WD Blue SN500 during the full suite of tests. The Blue landed in fifth place and scored ahead of the Crucial P1, MyDigitalSSD SBX, and both of the SATA competitors.

ATTO

ATTO is a simple and free application that SSD vendors commonly use to assign sequential performance specifications to their products. It also gives us insight into how the device handles different file sizes.

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In ATTO, we recorded some lag in the smaller file sizes, similar to the other two entry-level NVMe competitors, the P1 and SBX. However, WD’s Blue SN500 still achieved its rated sequential performance speeds of 1.7/1.3 GB/s read/write and outperformed the other SATA-based competitors by far.

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark (CDM) is a simple and easy to use file size benchmarking tool.

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Like in ATTO, we see similar sequential performance figures of 1.75/1.3 GB/s read/write at a queue depth (QD) of 32, which is representative of fully loading the drive. Performance wasn't as good when we scaled back down to a more realistic QD1. Here, the Blue delivered 1.15/1.2 GB/s of sequential read/write throughput, or about half the performance of the Samsung 970 EVO Plus. On the flip side, that is more than twice as fast as any SATA SSD.

The WD Blue's random performance is fairly average. WD’s Blue SN500 delivered 12,500/40,000 random read/write IOPS write at QD1. And, when we loaded it with higher queue depths, it again delivered twice the performance of the SATA SSDs.

Sustained Sequential Write Performance

Official write specifications are only part of the performance picture. Most SSD makers implement an SLC cache buffer, which is a fast area of SLC-programmed flash that absorbs incoming data. Sustained write speeds can suffer tremendously once the workload spills outside of the SLC cache and into the "native" TLC or QLC flash. We hammer the SSDs with sequential writes for 15 minutes to measure both the size of the SLC buffer and performance after the buffer is saturated.

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As mentioned earlier, the WD Blue SN500 features an SLC cache. In our testing, we measured ~3.2 to 3.5GB of cache capacity, which is strikingly small compared to other SSDs. The 250GB model wrote at 450MB/s after the SLC cache filled, outperforming both the WD Blue 3D and Samsung 860 EVO, as well as the Crucial P1. But, after a minute of write activity, many other SSDs write doubled the amount of data due to larger SLC caches.

Power Consumption

We use the Quarch HD Programmable Power Module to gain a deeper understanding of power characteristics. Idle power consumption is a very important aspect to consider, especially if you're looking for a new drive for your laptop. Some SSDs can consume watts of power at idle while better-suited ones sip just milliwatts. Average workload power consumption and max consumption are two other aspects of power consumption, but performance-per-watt is more important. A drive might consume more power during any given workload, but accomplishing a task faster allows the drive to drop into an idle state faster, which ultimately saves power.

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As a PCIe 3.0 x2 device, the WD Blue SN500 consumed a bit less power under load than the PCIe 3.0 x4 drives. In fact, it consumed less than the Samsung 860 EVO and almost the same amount as the WD Blue 3D. This is a very welcome sight that boosts the Blue's efficiency score up to 144 MB/s-per-watt. What isn’t a welcome sight, however, is the relatively high amount of power it consumed at idle. With ASPM disabled it consumed 0.8W, and 0.4W with the feature enabled.

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  • thuckabay
    Since when did Tom's Hardware start passing off advertisements and propaganda as "positive reviews?" This drive, which Tom's Hardware is recommending, is grossly expensive for its capacity, and for just a few dollars more, any bargain hunter can find a higher capacity 1TB drive that is vastly more performant. I have seen this patter over the course of multiple reviews from Tom's Hardware, particularly on SSD drives, and it has dramatically reduced Tom's Hardware's credibility for independent reviews. I no longer trust opinions from Tom's Hardware as a consequence.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    Grossly expensive?

    This WD Blue NVMe, 500GB
    $65
    https://www.amazon.com/Blue-SN500-250GB-NVMe-Internal/dp/B07P7TFKRH
    Crucial MX500 SATA III, 500GB
    $60
    https://www.amazon.com/Crucial-MX500-NAND-2280SS-Internal/dp/B077SQ8J1V

    Now...if you go for bottom of the barrel off brand SATA drives...sure, you can find them a lot cheaper.
    Cheap, for a reason.
    Reply
  • thuckabay
    USAFRet said:
    Grossly expensive?

    This WD Blue NVMe, 500GB
    $65
    https://www.amazon.com/Blue-SN500-250GB-NVMe-Internal/dp/B07P7TFKRH
    Crucial MX500 SATA III, 500GB
    $60
    https://www.amazon.com/Crucial-MX500-NAND-2280SS-Internal/dp/B077SQ8J1V

    Now...if you go for bottom of the barrel off brand SATA drives...sure, you can find them a lot cheaper.
    Cheap, for a reason.


    Your comparison is INVALID. You are here attempting to equate a SATA SSD with an NVMe SSD, which is apples to oranges. There are vastly more performant 1TB NVMe SSDs than the WD Blue NVMe 500GB and for only a few dollars more; the WD Blue is a comparatively poor deal.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    thuckabay said:
    Your comparison is INVALID. You are here attempting to equate a SATA SSD with an NVMe SSD, which is apples to oranges. There are vastly more performant 1TB NVMe SSDs than the WD Blue NVMe 500GB and for only a few dollars more; the WD Blue is a comparatively poor deal.
    Specifically, which "1TB NVMe" drives are you referring to, that are "only a few dollars more" than this 500GB WD?

    Degree of Difficulty in your upcoming list - No bottom of the barrel junk drives.
    Reply
  • seanwebster
    thuckabay said:
    Since when did Tom's Hardware start passing off advertisements and propaganda as "positive reviews?" This drive, which Tom's Hardware is recommending, is grossly expensive for its capacity, and for just a few dollars more, any bargain hunter can find a higher capacity 1TB drive that is vastly more performant. I have seen this patter over the course of multiple reviews from Tom's Hardware, particularly on SSD drives, and it has dramatically reduced Tom's Hardware's credibility for independent reviews. I no longer trust opinions from Tom's Hardware as a consequence.
    Advertisements and propaganda? Where? Have you not seen the test data? Of course, I would recommend it. Have you not read other reviews of this drive? It isn't the best, but that doesn't mean it isn't any good. It delivers good performance (similar to competitors in most applications give or take), quality brand and support, and it is decently priced, even now months after the review...

    What 1TB drive do you speak of that is faster for just dollars more than the 500GB WD Blue SN500. The market pricing is changing drastically monthly and sales don't count as current average market pricing, which should go without saying, I consider always.

    thuckabay said:
    Your comparison is INVALID. You are here attempting to equate a SATA SSD with an NVMe SSD, which is apples to oranges. There are vastly more performant 1TB NVMe SSDs than the WD Blue NVMe 500GB and for only a few dollars more; the WD Blue is a comparatively poor deal.
    Its not apples to oranges. Not all applications need high seq performance. Besides that, good SATA SSDs are nearly just as responsive in most office applications. Just look at the numbers...

    Please link that drive... I'm really curious.
    Reply
  • Ncogneto
    seanwebster said:
    Advertisements and propaganda? Where? Have you not seen the test data? Of course, I would recommend it. Have you not read other reviews of this drive? It isn't the best, but that doesn't mean it isn't any good. It delivers good performance (similar to competitors in most applications give or take), quality brand and support, and it is decently priced, even now months after the review...

    What 1TB drive do you speak of that is faster for just dollars more than the 500GB WD Blue SN500. The market pricing is changing drastically monthly and sales don't count as current average market pricing, which should go without saying, I consider always.

    Its not apples to oranges. Not all applications need high seq performance. Besides that, good SATA SSDs are nearly just as responsive in most office applications. Just look at the numbers...

    Please link that drive... I'm really curious.


    I don't think you will ever get that link ;)

    I would be curious to see how 2 of these perform in RAID, compared to a pricier 1 TB NVMe
    Reply
  • dmitche31958
    thuckabay said:
    Since when did Tom's Hardware start passing off advertisements and propaganda as "positive reviews?" This drive, which Tom's Hardware is recommending, is grossly expensive for its capacity, and for just a few dollars more, any bargain hunter can find a higher capacity 1TB drive that is vastly more performant. I have seen this patter over the course of multiple reviews from Tom's Hardware, particularly on SSD drives, and it has dramatically reduced Tom's Hardware's credibility for independent reviews. I no longer trust opinions from Tom's Hardware as a consequence.

    I question the rosy picture of this drive when it comes to the 50GB read/write. Those numbers for the 6GB read put the drive in 6th place behind the SSDs. That doesn't sound like a drive that I want to pay a premium for nor does it sound like "The end of the SSD drive" to me.
    Reply