Western Digital is launching a refresh for its WD Blue SSD product line, this time with a jump to NVMe. Where the current Blue SSD family is restricted to SATA interfaces, the new SN500 will support transfer rates roughly 3x faster.
Sequential transfer rates of 1,700MB read and up to 1,450MB/s write aren’t particularly fast compared with modern high-end NVMe drives, but WD’s positioning for the new SN500 suggest it’s a bit of a different product — a ‘budget’ NVMe drive, if you will, with more modest performance but a trimmed price tag to match.
The SN500 appears to be the consumer version of a product WD actually launched a year ago, for OEM customers. It uses the same SSD controller as the SN520 (a trimmed, two-lane interface without DRAM onboard). The lack of DRAM and limited PCIe interface are what keep performance from hitting the same levels as what you’d expect from a top-end drive or one of WD’s Black SSDs.
The SN500 does support PCIe Host Memory Buffer, which allows the controller to use system DRAM for caching. This should mitigate some of the performance impact of not having DRAM onboard the SSD. There are two flavors of Blue — a 250GB drive ($ 55) and a 500GB drive ($ 78). The latter price puts the 500GB SSD on par with competing products available, from what we can see. It also reflects just how far SSD prices have dropped in a relatively short period of time. Even NVMe drives are now available with very high performance relative to what SATA can provide, at fairly affordable per-GB rates.
Customers who prize capacity more than sheer speed should consider falling back to SATA. While these drives won’t hit the same absolute performance levels as NVMe, they’re considerably faster than HDDs. Recent price declines have pushed larger SATA devices downwards; 1TB drives are now available for ~$ 100. The emergence of these budget NVMe drives offers its own useful compromise for at least some users — you can buy into NVMe’s higher performance at smaller capacities or trade speed for space without having to step all the way back down to an HDD to do it.
We would, however, like to see higher capacities. Games aren’t small these days and they inevitably inflate with every console generation. 500GB drives aren’t all that roomy once you start needing 50-80GB of space per game.
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