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WD Black SN850 Review

Verdict

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The WD Black SN850 remains one of the most popular NVMe SSDs of all time and it’s easy to see why. While not quite the absolute fastest Gen 4.0 drive of its time, this model (complete with a heatsink) offers excellent gaming performance and sequential rates for a competitive price point in 2022.

Pros

  • Great sequential performance
  • Frequently discounted in 2022
  • Well built

Cons

  • Usurped by the WD Black SN850X
  • It gets really hot

Availability

  • UKRRP: £118.99
  • USARRP: $129.99

Key Features

  • WD/SanDisk NVMe G2 Controller The custom controller holds its own against some third-party offerings from external companies such as Micron and Phison.
  • Western Digital/SanDisk 96L 3D TLC flash memory The memory in use here means that there’s a high write endurance, particularly in higher configurations.
  • 5-year warranty The WD Black SN850 is covered by half a decade’s manufacturer warranty, so it’s guaranteed to last a long time inside your machine.

Introduction

Despite its age, the WD Black SN850 continues to be a leading drive with its fast sequential performance. There’s a reason why it’s arguably the most well-known NVMe SSD of its kind.

Although this model has since been replaced by a faster SN850X variant, the original drive has something that its successor lacks, a far better price point. Taking MSRP into account, the WD Black SN850 would be buried by cheaper competition, but factoring in the name recognition and the savings across the board, it’s easy to see why the praises continue to be sung about this one. 

Continue reading to find out exactly why the WD Black SN850 ranks as a contender for the best SSDs on the market even in 2022. For those who aren’t making the jump to PCIe 5.0 just yet, there’s a lot to recommend about the frontrunner. 

Design

  • Available in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB configurations
  • Optional heatsink model available for console use
  • Single-sided, so non-heatsink model works with laptops

If you’ve ever laid eyes on any of Western Digital’s Black range before then the aesthetic design of the SN850 should be immediately familiar to you. My review unit comes with a fairly thick heatshield, complete with the signature corrugated black metal design that many products in the lineup share. 

The heatsink itself has some meat on its bones. It’s easily one of the thickest that I’ve seen to date. This is due to the fact that this variant of the drive can be used on both PS5 and PC. In my test rig, I found that the heatshield had enough clearance on my motherboard in quite the compact build, so you’re unlikely to run into any issues here. 

The WD Black SN850 with its heatsink on top
Image Credit: Trusted Reviews

Although it’s now commonplace to see Gen 4.0 drives pushing over the 170-layer Flash memory, like with the SK Hynix Platinum P41, the WD Black SN850 features 96L 3D TLC in-house memory. This means that the drive can push up to the 7,000 MB/s read mark, but suffers a little more where writes are concerned. 

The write endurance itself, though, is to be commended. My 1TB review unit is rated for 600TB, but 2TB models scale all the way up to 1200TB write endurance, which is on par with the bleeding edge of Gen 4.0 models. 

Performance

  • Sequential read and write up to 7,000 MB/s and 5,300 MB/s respectively
  • Strong gaming performance
  • Consistent file transfer times

The WD Black SN850 performed well in my industry-standard test, coming well within the realms of the quoted figures by the brand. More specifically, CrystalDiskMark gave me a score of 6302.70 MB/s read and 3153.74 MB/s write. All things considered, this is one of the stronger read scores given the NAND flash memory in use. 

AnvilPro was consistent with this performance, too, with a total figure of 17,884.39. While not blazing fast compared to some models which would come after, this is still more than respectable for the hardware. 

File transfers demonstrate these rates well. Mortal Kombat 11, with its 110GB file size, made the leap from another Gen 4 SSD to the WD Black SN850 with an average speed of 1.65GB/sec. This is backed up with smaller games, too, as Guilty Gear: Strive, clocking in at 22.5GB, was written onto the drive with a rate of 1.72GB/sec according to Steam’s internal directory manager. 

The underneath of the WD Black SN850
Image Credit: Trusted Reviews

Windows Explorer transfer times were even more impressive. I clocked an average rate of 2.1GB/sec when dragging and dropping different files onto the WD Black SN850. This included video files and software of varying sizes, such as the Adobe Creative Suite. While this model may not be blazing a trail like it once did at release, the figures show that it continues to hold up to modern standards on the PC platform. 

The major drawback to the WD Black SN850 heatsink model, in my opinion, is just how hot the drive itself got when stress testing. The thick black metal heatsink performed well initially, however, heated up incredibly quickly, to a point where it was uncomfortably warm when lifting it out of the test rig.

This is a little unusual given previous drive testing, although the average person isn’t going to be benching drives in this manner. Just something to be aware of, as prolonged exposure to high temperatures isn’t ideal for an SSD. 

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Should you buy it?

You want excellent value for money from an established brand

Given the average rates that the WD Black SN850 is selling for these days, you’re getting excellent bang for your buck and benefitting from one of the biggest names in the industry, too.

You want to upgrade to what Gen 5.0 can offer

There’s no getting around the fact that the SN850 is a little long in the tooth. Not only was it replaced by the SN850X earlier in the year, but it’s soon to be left in the dust by what Gen 5.0 NVMe drives can offer those running the latest motherboards and processors.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to recommend with the WD Black SN850, despite now being outperformed by other Gen 4.0 drives, including some from the company’s line itself. But considering the recent price drop across the board, Western Digital’s once flagship drive is a great value contender even in 2022. 

While this drive would be a bitter pill to swallow when factoring in the original $279.99 MSRP, the heatsink model now frequently sells for around well under half of this. According to Western Digital itself, you can score the heatsink model in 1TB configuration officially for $129.99 / £118.99 with some online retailers undercutting this recommended price point, too. 

Whether you want a competent drive for your gaming PC or looking to expand the total storage in your PS5 console, for the asking price, there are not many drives that can perform as well as the WD Black SN850 when all is said and done. 

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How we test

When testing an SSD, we use both synthetic benchmark tests, while also determining file transfers via both Steam and Windows explorer.

We also factor in the likes of price, design and temperature when reaching a final score.

I used the WD Black SN850 as my main storage drive for over two weeks.

I played different games as well as used the SSD for productivity and file transfers.

Used synthetic benchmark tests to determine performance.

FAQs

What is WD Black?

WD Black is Western Digital’s flagship range of storage drives, both internal and external. The company has many colored variants, such as Red and Blue in the budget range. The Black series is the fastest overall.

Full specs

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Storage Capacity
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
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Write Speed

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Known as Solid State Drive, this is a faster form of a memory than a standard hard drive. Results in faster loading times and more ambitious games.

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