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WD Black 1Tb NVMe M.2 SSD reviewed on the Z170 platform with a 6700K, GTX 1080ti and a fresh but populated version of windows.

So, you’ve got yourself a fancy new computer to build, or you’re trying to squeeze some extra time out of your now sluggish rig (Providing you have an M.2 option that is). Storage is a commonly overlooked piece of that puzzle. As much as slapping a cheap SSD in as a boot drive and pairing it with some monstrosity of a spinning drive for bulk storage is enough for a “Wow look how fast it turns on!” moment for most people, some of us are always seeking more. That’s where NVMe comes in to play.

WD Black M.2

What the Hell is NVMe and Why Should I Care?

NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express. It’s a new protocol for use with accessing high speed storage media. Well it’s not that new now but it’s just over a decade younger than its brother, SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment). Basically it’s a new protocol, with larger bandwidth limitations and a new connector.

But Robbie, I already have an SSD and a HDD, why do I need some fancy new version? Well young PC enthusiast, do you ever just go to a shoe store and look at that pair with a display stand all by themselves, fall in love with their aesthetics and just know they’ll be the comfiest pair you’ve ever worn, but find out they’re some unachievable price? Well, that’s kind of like NVMe SSD’s. Except now this particular shoe is on the sale rack and in the reach of the average consumer.

How Much Better is it?

Standard SATA SSD’s have been around now for years and years. It’s the most common upgrade to give any machine a boost in speed and a minimum “must have” for any new build. You may have seen on the box or in performance specs that you’re likely to achieve up to 550mb/s, multitudes faster than a standard 7200rpm spinny boy (Typically between 50 – 100mb/s).

That number, 550mb/s is not a limitation of that beautiful NAND flash within the drive. That’s the limitation of SATA III.

NVMe on the other hand leverages PCIe lanes and lets those flash chips run at full speed. That’s why now you can find SSD’s using the M.2 connector or as a PCIe card that can run up to 3500MB/s as of writing this. I’m not going to delve too much into some of the PCIe add in card style SSD’s as that involves explaining the new Optane flash from Intel and even that’s still witchcraft to me right now.

Basically let’s leave it at: NVMe > SATA

Mechanical vs SATA SSD vs NVMe
Wait Isn’t This a Review?

Well yeah… But you’ve gotta know the difference between SATA and NVMe before this makes any sense.

Enter: Western Digital’s WD Black high performance NVMe SSD

WD Black M.2 NVMe
WD Black M.2 NVMe

Finally a competitor capable of knocking Samsung down a peg and bringing competition to the high end storage market. It’s hard to talk about the aesthetics of an M.2 drive really. I mean at the end of the day it’s a PCB with a sticker on it. This one has a white and black sticker with barcodes on it… What more do you want to know?

SKU’s and Performance

This refresh of drives presents us with a few options:

250GB 3,000 MB/s Read, 1600 MB/s Write, 200 TBW

500GB 3,400 MB/s Read, 2500 MB/s Write, 300 TBW

1TB3,400 MB/s Read, 2800 MB/s Write, 600 TBW

TBW is the measure of how many TB written that the drive is warranted for. With standard use (Non-Data center or crazy workloads) you will never even come close to any of these limits and if you do, you’re probably already rebuilding an out dated system.

As Western Digital has graced us with the highest end drive in the list above that’s what we’re going to focus our attention on.

Workloads

As much as I’d love to say that a super speedy SSD will increase your game performance and net you those extra kills… It won’t. At all. Games aren’t limited by your storage past that of a regular SSD. You won’t see massive improvements between loading screens, nor will your frame rate soar.
What you will see however is an improvement on boot times, in my case it was negligible as I already had an NVMe drive installed.

Samsung 960 Evo – 13.56 seconds to desktop

WD Black 1TB – 11.32 seconds to desktop

As much as it was faster, it’s not like you’re gonna go out and replace a drive to shave off two seconds.

On the video processing side of things I noticed a remarkable difference. Being a full 1tb in size I was able to store a bunch of footage on there as I edited. Normally that’s something I have to offload to a slower storage medium just with size restraints.

Scrubbing through 4K footage was a dream! Something I’d only seen on those big boy famous YouTube tutorials. I mean… I still need more RAM, but it has significantly sped up my workflow.

WD Black Fresh Install
WD Black Fresh Windows Install
Verdict

I think, if you’re looking to build a new machine, or if you’re updating something for a professional workload it will be hard to go past the Western Digital WD Black M.2 SSD. The performance is pretty great, it looks cool and it’s going to add some competitive element in the NVMe space.
Sitting at $595NZD MSRP (Converted from USD), it’s a very compelling choice considering Samsung’s offerings.

Availability in NZ is still unknown at this point but we will keep this review updated as soon as we find out.

Check out our video review below:

8.5

Pros

  • Great boot times
  • Awesome for scrubbing through hi res footage
  • Awesome for scrubbing through hi res footage
  • Compelling Pricing

Cons

  • Could make the sticker cooler
  • Still wish NVMe storage was cheaper

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