Western Digital is bringing 3D NAND to their high-end consumer SSD family with the launch today of two new NVMe SSDs featuring SanDisk's 64-layer 3D TLC NAND flash memory. As with the SATA SSDs that first brought 3D NAND to their consumer portfolio, Western Digital is releasing the same drive under both their WD and SanDisk brands. Under the stickers, the hardware is identical.

The names are recycled and familiar: the WD Black and SanDisk Extreme PRO. The first WD Black SSD was Western Digital's first consumer NVMe product. It used a Marvell controller and 15nm planar TLC NAND, and ended up near the bottom of the performance rankings for NVMe SSDs, with no appreciable performance advantage over SATA SSDs for heavier workloads. The SanDisk Extreme PRO name hasn't been used on an internal SSD for quite a while, but it carries a strong legacy: the original SanDisk Extreme PRO was a top-tier SATA SSD with MLC NAND and was competitive with the Samsung 850 PRO. The SATA SanDisk Extreme PRO hit the market right before the 850 PRO and was the first consumer SSD to carry a 10-year warranty, forcing Samsung to follow suit with the 850 PRO.

Re-using product names like this without any clear generational indicator or model year will cause confusion. Western Digital has at least ensured that the new drives are using different capacities from their predecessors: the first-generation WD Black was 256GB and 512GB, the original Extreme PRO was 240GB, 480GB and 960GB, and the new WD Black and SanDisk Extreme PRO are 250GB, 500GB and 1000GB. Still, last year's WD Black will be coexisting in the marketplace for several months with this year's model, and the two are very different products.

The new WD Black and SanDisk Extreme PRO SSDs are based on the same platform as the SN720 business/OEM SSD Western Digital announced earlier this year. In addition to the major advance of switching from 15nm planar TLC NAND to 64-layer BiCS 3D NAND, the new SSDs also feature Western Digital's own new SSD controller instead of using a controller from Marvell. This is a major shift toward vertical integration for Western Digital/SanDisk, and is the best strategy for Western Digital to differentiate their products in a market crowded with dozens of brands sourcing their controllers or the entire drive design from the same small handful of vendors.

Western Digital WD Black and SanDisk Extreme PRO Specifications
Capacity 250 GB 500 GB 1 TB
WD Black Model WDS250G2X0C WDS500G2X0C WDS100T2X0C
SanDisk Extreme PRO Model - SDSSDXPM2-500G SDSSDXPM2-1T00
Form Factor M.2 2280 Single-Sided
Interface NVMe PCIe 3 x4
Controller Western Digital in-house
NAND SanDisk 64-layer 3D TLC
DRAM SK Hynix DDR4-2400
Sequential Read 3000 MB/s 3400 MB/s 3400 MB/s
Sequential Write 1600 MB/s 2500 MB/s 2800 MB/s
4KB Random Read 220k IOPS 410k IOPS 500k IOPS
4KB Random Write 170k IOPS 330k IOPS 400k IOPS
Power Peak (10µs) 9.24 W 9.24 W 9.24 W
PS3 Idle 70 mW 70 mW 100 mW
PS4 Idle 2.5 mW 2.5 mW 2.5 mW
Write Endurance 200 TBW
0.4 DWPD
300 TBW
0.3 DWPD
600 TBW
0.3 DWPD
Warranty 5 years
MSRP $119.99
Amazon Price $119.99 (48¢/GB) $226.75 (45¢/GB) $449.99 (45¢/GB)

The performance specifications of the new WD Black and SanDisk Extreme PRO promise a high-end drive, with sequential read speeds of 3+ GB/s even on the smallest 250GB model, and high random access specifications on the 500GB and larger models. Write endurance ratings are a reasonable 0.3-0.4 drive writes per day for five years. The MSRPs position the WD Black directly against the Samsung 960 EVO and above most other recent consumer NVMe SSDs—the fast-growing entry-level NVMe segment is what most brands are focusing on at the moment.

The WD Black can at least momentarily hit the power limits of the M.2 form factor, but it doesn't feature any heatspreader. Instead, Western Digital is using an uncommon layout that places the controller in the middle of the stick with NAND flash memory on both sides of the controller. This was deemed adequate to prevent overheating, and has the side effect of making it easier to route the 8 channels from the controller to the NAND.

The new drives will initially be available in capacities from 250GB to 1TB, though the SanDisk-branded versions won't include the smallest 250GB model. These drives should all be shipping by the end of the month. Western Digital has not mentioned any plans for a 2TB models, but since they have already announced a 2TB SN720 they obviously have the option to quickly deploy a 2TB WD Black or SanDisk Extreme PRO model if the demand is sufficient.

AnandTech 2017/2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.1
The Western Digital NVMe Architecture - NAND & Controller
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  • boeush - Thursday, April 5, 2018 - link

    See the respective Destroyer, Heavy, and Light ATSB results - and match up your version of "real world" to the respective test scenario...
  • The_Assimilator - Thursday, April 5, 2018 - link

    A new SSD controller that doesn't perform like shit is excellent news for a market that's seen Samsung ruling the roost for far too long. Hopefully this will be the beginning of price drops for NVMe drives that don't suck, and the beginning of the end of NVMe drives that are just SATA devices in an M.2 form factor.
  • darckhart - Thursday, April 5, 2018 - link

    any TCG OPAL encryption in WD or Sandisk?
  • tommo1982 - Thursday, April 5, 2018 - link

    It's interesting how Optane is not so much better in Destroyer/Heavy/Light tests. I expected it to lead in most of them, but found Samsung and WD's drives to match or beat it. With the recent hype around X-Point I was hoping for it to be a considerable improvement over NAND. It seems Intel doesn't deliver. Not for the average user at least.
  • zodiacfml - Friday, April 6, 2018 - link

    Controller and lack of parallelism. The memory chip is insane. Intel needs to improve their volumes so that they can produce higher capacity drives, giving more capacity and performance at the same costs today.
    This is probably the reason why Intel seems aggressive now with Optane, bundling and branding it with the new Coffee Lake chips.
  • CheapSushi - Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - link

    Plus still waiting on x4 PCIe laned M.2 Optanes.
  • CheapSushi - Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - link

    Isn't it because those other drives have a lot more RAM and RAM still beats phase change? Optane is still better is many other regards but choices of course depend on more variables.
  • tamalero - Thursday, April 5, 2018 - link

    I dont get it, how they claim its competition when WD's performance is absolutely abysmal compared to the EVOs.
  • tamalero - Thursday, April 5, 2018 - link

    Disregard my comment. Turns out I was checking the blue instead of the orange bars.

    What a monstrous difference in performance compared to the prior models!
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, April 5, 2018 - link

    We did warn Western Digital that they weren't doing enough to separate the branding of last year's model and this year's model. I expect a lot of confusion and disappointment over the next few months until the old models are no longer available for purchase.

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