FutureFive New Zealand logo
Consumer technology news from the future
Story image

Hands-on Review: WD_Black SN850 NVMe SSD Game Drive

By Darren Price
Mon 19 Apr 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

I’ve always said that you can never have enough storage. Now that our systems are filled with terabytes of storage the emphasis has turned to drive speed. Whilst traditional hard disk prices have tumbled, their speeds have, for the most part, plateaued.  SATA solid-state drives offered some relief in speeding up the flow of data from our storage to our RAM but the quest for faster data storage continued.

NVMe SSDs, with the M.2 form factor are now a common storage solution for modern computers. Most motherboards have at least a couple of m.2 sockets for these lightning-fast components. 

Your average HDD will provide you with a read speed of 130MB/s and a write speed of 65 MB/s. This is fine for non-essential data and anything that you are happy to wait for. 

A regular SATA SSD will grant you a read speed of around 390 MB/s. A SATA m.2 SSD will boost that data read speed to 1850MB/s (and give you a write speed of around 1680 MB/s).

Your average NVMe M.2 SSD should see read/write speeds of up to 3500 MB/s. This is a massive increase from the 100 or so MB/s from a mechanical hard disk. The Intel 500-series chipset natively unlocks PCIe 4.0 x4 performance for M.2 slots on suitably equipped motherboards. PCs sporting the new Intel 11th Gen CPUs should, theoretically, be able to push drive speeds even further. 

The packaging for the WD-Black SN850 M.2 SSD we were sent for testing boasts up to 7000 MB/s read speeds. That’s near fifty-four times faster than my Seagate Barracuda HDD! I’ve

been doing this long enough to take the speeds on the packaging with a pinch of salt, paying particular attention to the “up to” prefix.
Western Digital sent me the 1 TB version of their SN850 NVME SSD, with a factory-fitted heatsink. It’s a nice-looking unit based around the most common M.2 2280 drive size. There’s even a little orange light on one side to let you know it’s working. The packaging stresses that these are for desktop PCs and not NAS or server environments. 

I tested the SN850 with an Intel Core i9 11900K CPU mounted on an ASUS ROG Maximus XIII Hero motherboard. Being an NVMe Gen 4 SSD it is designed to make the most out of the PCIe 4.0 M.2 slot in a motherboard sporting a 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen or an 11th Gen Intel Core CPU.

For my first test, as I had one lying around and wanted to see if it would work, I placed the SN850 in an Orico NVMe M.2 PCIe Expansion card and slotted it in the motherboard’s PCIe 3.0 slot. The motherboard accepted the new SSD and, using Crystal DiskMark 7.0, tested with a reasonable write speed of 3159. Not quite 7000 MB/s, but pretty much what you should expect from PCIe 3.0. I was pleased that the adapter worked, as well.

After placing the SN850 SSD in the PCIe 4.0 x4-equipped M.2 socket, I ran the Crystal DiskMark test again. To my absolute astonishment, the Gen 4 WD_Black drive hit a maximum read speed of 6966.76 MB/s and a write speed of 5368.31 MB/s. This is the fasted drive speed I’ve ever seen and close enough to the 7000MB/s on the drive’s packaging. You’d be hard-pushed to find a faster consumer SSD right now. Of course, all this performance isn’t cheap. Expect to pay NZ$335/AU$270 for the 1TB version.

If I had to complain about anything, it would be that the SN850’s heatsink cannot be removed. The ASUS motherboard has its own M.2 stylised heatsinks. With the SN850 installed, I was unable to fit the motherboard’s M.2 heatsinks over the SSD. The ASUS motherboard does have separate heatsink plates for each of the M.2 slots, so at least I was able to place the adjacent ones back on. The height of the WD_Black heatsink may be an issue if you want a tidier arrangement in your case. There is, however, a version of the SN850 without an integrated heatsink for those wanting to use their motherboard’s own M.2 cooling solution.

When and if Sony pulls their finger out and announces what SSDs are compatible with the M.2 socket in their PlayStation 5 consoles, there is a very good chance that the WD_Black SN850 will work. As yet though, Sony has not even activated the SSD expansion slot in the console’s firmware, so we’ll have to wait and see. 

I was impressed with the WD_Black SN850 SSD Game Drive. It was easy to install and painlessly gave me the performance promised on the box. It’s also a nice-looking bit of kit, which is handy, as I can’t cover it up with the Asus M.2 shroud/heatsink. 

The drive’s name and design are clearly aimed at the gaming market. The phenomenal speed of the device makes the drive suitable not only for superior gaming performance but also fast access to any critical data.

If you are after what must be the fastest desktop SDD available today (and money is no object), the WD_Black SN850 is the way to go.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Malware
Research shows attacks on the gaming industry are getting worse
Web application attacks in the gaming sector have grown by 167% from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022, according to new research from Akamai.
Story image
Phishing
Norton research finds NZ threat landscape diversifying on social media
Norton's quarterly report has highlighted the seriousness of the threat landscape in New Zealand.
Story image
Tablets & laptops
Hands-on review: Xencelabs Graphic Display Tablet
Xencelabs seemed to show up out of nowhere on the market. I had no idea who they were or what they were about, but I was very intrigued.
Story image
Tablets & laptops
Chromebook and tablet shipments see another rapid decline for the year
According to research from Canalys PC Analysis, Chromebook and tablet shipments have fallen for the fourth quarter in a row for Q2 of 2022.
Story image
Gaming
Chorus announces Hyperfibre sponsorship deal with NZ Esports
Chorus has put its support behind New Zealand's Esports community with a newly announced three-year Hyperfibre sponsorship deal with NZ Esports.
Story image
Wireless
Hands-on review: James Donkey RS4 Knight Wireless Gaming Keyboard
I have always liked mechanical keyboards, and this is no exception. I find the action much easier to use than the modern keyboards with limited travel.
Story image
Printers
Comedy legend Jimeoin fronts Epson advertising campaign in NZ and Australia
According to Epson the company’s EcoTank models now account for 74% of all printers sold in the category in New Zealand, alone.
Story image
Gaming
Logitech G’s new Aurora collection looks to help change gaming stereotypes
The company’s new Aurora collection is designed to be gender inclusive, not gender exclusive, addressing the needs and wants of women gamers while also still appealing to a wider general audience.
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on review - Xbox Cloud Gaming
I've had the opportunity not just to access the game pass but also its new shiny feature, Xbox Cloud Gaming. In this review, we'll be deep-diving into just what Xbox Cloud Gaming is, how it works and, well, if it works.
Story image
STM
Hands-on review: STM ChargeTreeGo portable wireless charger
We get our hands on the ultimate charging accesory for roadwarriors with a bunch of Apple devices.
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on impressions with PlayStation Plus Deluxe
Finally, the new PlayStation Plus subscription tiers are available now to both New Zealand and Australian PS5 and PS4 gamers.
Story image
Virtual Reality / VR
Virtual reality app reduces phobias through NZ trial
"With this VR app treatment, trialists had increased control in exposure to their fears, as well as control over when and where exposure occurs."
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on review: SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro gaming headset
SteelSeries, being no stranger to creating premium gaming peripherals, sent over its Arctis Nova Pro wired headset kit for us to take a look at.
Story image
Dark web
Deep web vs dark web: NortonLifeLock explains the difference
NortonLifeLock managing director for APAC Mark Gorrie explains what you need to know about the deep and dark web and the pros and cons of both.
Story image
Cloud
Microsoft and Auckland Transport announce new cloud agreement
Auckland Transport (AT) and Microsoft have announced a new cloud agreement aimed at promoting innovation, reducing costs and improving sustainability in transport services.
Story image
Gaming
Game review: Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series
If there's something missing in today's gaming industry, it's the wonderful discovery of finding new games for hire at your local video rental store. I remember my family hired out the first Klonoa game for the PSOne back in 1997, and it was a blast to play as a kid.
Story image
i-PRO
I-Pro officially marks launch of brand in Australia and New Zealand
I-Pro has officially launched in Australia and New Zealand, following a series of new releases as an entity that started in early April.
Story image
Malware
Minors using Discord servers to spread malware for cash
Avast has discovered an online community of minors constructing, exchanging and spreading malware, including ransomware and a mix of information stealers and cryptominers.
Story image
Review
Hands-on review: TCL 30 SE mobile phone
TCL continues to provide consumers with budget phones that still pack a punch with the TCL 30 SE mobile phone. 
Story image
Review
Hands-on review: Logitech Astro A10 Gen 2 wired headset
We get our hands on this incredibly good value for money headset for use in wired environments.
Story image
Gaming
Game review: Disgaea 6 Complete
Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny originally came out in 2021, and more than a year later, the game has now been re-released.
Story image
Networks
2degrees launches 13 new 5G coverage areas, network upgrades
2degrees has announced it has launched 13 new 5G areas in June, as the company continues its 5G rollout and investment.
Story image
Gaming
Hands-on review: SteelSeries Apex Pro Mini Keyboard
SteelSeries has taken the design of its range of Apex keyboards to create a smaller version, the Apex Pro Mini. Techday’s Darren Price checks it out.
Story image
Gaming
Game review: Wreckfest (Nintendo Switch)
Wreckfest is a fun racing game that came out for multiple different gaming platforms a few years ago. One of the best things about the game is that it's relatively cheap to buy if you own a PS4 or Xbox One console.
Story image
Projector
Hands-on review: BenQ GV30 portable projector
The BenQ GV30 is a portable projector that excels in many aspects but comes up short in a couple of others.
Story image
Gaming
Everything we know so far about NBA 2K23
As excitement for the next iteration of 2K Games’ NBA basketball series builds, some new information on the upcoming game, NBA 2K23, has been released.
Story image
Tablets & laptops
Hands-on review: HP Evo Spectre X360 Flip Ultrabook 13.5” laptop
The Spectre comes with a keyboard that makes working for long hours something to be looked forward to. It has to be one of the best keyboards I have seen on a 13.5” laptop.
Story image
ASB
New ASB campaign helps young people better understand money
ASB is helping 18 to 24-year-olds take advantage of financial possibilities and better understand the world of money.
Story image
Phone
Hands-on review: Obsbot Me AI-powered mobile phone mount
The Obsbot Me is an independently controlled portable mobile phone mount that can track its target without the need for software or a connection to a phone.
Story image
Wireless
Wave Audio spices up portfolio with first ever party speaker
Australian-based pioneers Wave Audio are enhancing their extensive range of groundbreaking new audio products by adding one of the most versatile speakers on the market to their growing portfolio.
Story image
Netsafe
Major media companies sign new online safety framework for Aotearoa
A new joint development between Netsafe and some of the world's leading social media companies is set to provide Kiwis with safer online experiences.
Story image
Fibre
Orcon brings faster fibre to Christchurch with Hyperfibre offering
Orcon has today launched the next generation of fibre speeds in Christchurch, bringing its Hyperfibre offering to the city.
Story image
Gaming
Game review: The Elder Scrolls Online: High Isle
This year's major expansion to The Elder Scrolls Online, Zenimax Online's acclaimed massively multiplayer online role-playing game, takes players to the land of the Bretons: High Isle.
Story image
Wireless
Hands-on review: Jabra Engage 55 wireless headset
We get our hands on a German design professional headset that many knowledge workers could benefit from.
Story image
Cryptocurrency
Crypto app downloads down as market crashes - report
It appears the mass FOMO around crypto investing may be wearing thin with new data revealing a noticeable drop in crypto app downloads this year.
Story image
VPN
Hands-on review: Norton Secure VPN
Norton is obviously serious about your privacy. They have a “No-log” policy, which simply means that they do not track or store any of your on-line activities.
Story image
Smartphone
Xreart Studio - Turning old masterpieces into new ones
Xreart now specialises in transforming pre-loved smartphones, smartwatches and handheld game consoles into artistic conversation starters for your office, studio or man cave.
Story image
Planning
Digital key for smart investment in public infrastructure for NZ cities
Major public infrastructure projects can better manage risks of cost overruns and delays if they deploy data and digital tools at the earliest planning stages.
Story image
Internet
InternetNZ appoints new chief executive. Will take over in October
InternetNZ has announced the appointment of its new chief executive, with Vivien Maidaborn taking over the role from interim chief Andrew Cushen in October.
Story image
Wireless
Wave Audio delivers ultimate immersion with new wireless earbuds
Wave Audio, one of Australia's best new audio brands, has recently released a set of landmark noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds, the Immersive Pro.
Story image
Cryptocurrency
Freelance tech jobs boom, NFTs and crypto plunge following crash
"Jobs for NFTs and crypto have dominated the past few quarters of our Fast 50 report, but as you can see they're now falling sharply."
Story image
Cybersecurity
Online bullying, harassment skyrockets since COVID outbreak
Harmful content reports have risen by over 25% since the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, according to Netsafe.