WD launches an ultra-fast SSD line that’s cheaper than Samsung’s 960 Pro

Western Digital is challenging Samsung at the high-end of the NVMe solid state drive spectrum with a new line of performance drives at comparatively attractive price points. We haven't tested these new SSDs yet, but if they live up to WD's speed ratings, they could prove popular alternatives to Samsung's blazing fast 960 Pro family.

The new drives ship in the M.2 2280 form factor, which as shown above are those gumstick-sized SSDs that plug directly into your motherboard without any SATA or power cables. And being NVMe drives, they shuttle data through the PCIe bus, allowing for much faster speeds compared to SATA.

There are three capacities being offered—1TB, 500GB, and 250GB. Here is how the sequential speed ratings break down:

  • WD Black 3D NVMe 1TB: 3,400MB/s read, 2,800MB/s write
  • WD Black 3D NVMe 512GB: 3,400MB/s read, 2,500MB/s write
  • WD Black 3D NVMe 250GB: 3,000MB/s read, 1,600MB/s write

And here's a breakdown of the 4K random read and write performance ratings:

  • WD Black 3D NVMe 1TB: 500,000 IOPS read, 400,000 IOPS write
  • WD Black 3D NVMe 512GB: 410,000 IOPS read, 330,000 IOPS write
  • WD Black 3D NVMe 250GB: 220,000 IOPS read, 170,000 IOPS write

While we haven't tested these ourselves, the rated numbers compare favorably to Samsung's 960 Pro line, which is rated to deliver sequential read and write performance of up to 3,500MB/s and 2,100MB/s, respectively. According to PCWorld's testing, they're pretty evenly matched in most instances, save for WD's drives falling short on a couple of tests.

WD is making a hard push at gamers with this new line, at least in its press release.

"Today’s gaming applications require increasing capability from their PCs, and this will only continue to advance. With our new architecture and controller, the Western Digital Black SSD integrates our 3D NAND technology with the NVMe interface to enable new levels of performance. Whether it’s a new gaming rig or a video-editing workstation, our innovative NVMe drives will power many existing and future environments that enable data to thrive," said Mark Grace, senior vice president, Devices Business Unit, Western Digital.

The thing about SSDs and gaming, though, is that you're not likely to see a difference in performance between a SATA-based SSD and a much faster NVMe SSD. This also applies to general system performance. Where these drives make a bigger difference is when moving a lot of files around, and doing so frequently.

Nevertheless, WD's pricing is pretty attractive for this level of performance, especially compared to the 960 Pro. On Amazon, the 250GB model is selling for $120, the 500GB model for $230, and the 1TB model for $450. For reference, Samsung's 960 Pro 512GB sells for $328 an the 1TB for $615 (there's also a 2TB model for $1,246). The bigger question will be whether they can take down Samsung's more affordable (but still plenty fast) 960 Evo line.

WD's drives are available to pre-order now, both from Amazon and direct from WD, and will ship around the middle of this month.