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Hands-on review: Western Digital WD_Black P50 Game Drive

By Darren Price
Wed 8 Jul 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Western Digital gives gamers a glimpse of the future today with their WD_Black P50 NVMe solid-state drive. We were sent the 1TB version to test out.

Western Digital’s legendary Black range of drives will be familiar with discerning PC owners. The WD Hard drive colour coding has been around for years, with the Black designation reserved for the very fastest of consumer-level storage solutions.  

Reviewing hard drives is not usually the most exciting thing that a tech writer gets to do. Whilst these digital storage devices are an essential part of our data-driven lives, for the most part, they just do their thing in the background. Recent technological advances have made consumer data storage solutions that bit more interesting.

For years, hard drive technology was driven by the need to increase capacity. The, rather impressive, 3GB drive in my PC of twenty years ago wouldn’t even store the most rudimentary modern game release or even a few minutes of high-quality video. Whilst storage capacity is still important, data access speeds are also important. It’s no good having high-performance processing power in your PC or games console if it is kept waiting for data from your storage device.

Whilst regular solid-state drives have become commonplace, offering four times the read speed of traditional hard drives, it’s only with NVMe SSDs that we’ve started to see an astronomical increase in data transfer speeds.

NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) is an open source interface standard that uses NAND flash memory for data storage accessed via a PC’s PCIe bus. It’s commonly configured as an M.2 SDD for direct insertion into a PC motherboard. And it’s really fast. Desktop NVMe M.2 drives can easily hit around 3500MB/s read and 3000 MB/s write speeds in real-life settings.

The much-hyped hard drives solutions equipped in both the upcoming PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X utilise storage solutions based on NVMe technology. The WD_Black P50 gives PC gamers, at least (more on this below), the opportunity to experience this high-speed technology right now. Sort of, anyway.

Whilst the M.2 version of the WD_Black NVMe drive scores an impressive 3490.31 MB/s read and 2978.44 MB/s speeds, the WD_Black P50 Game Drive is accessed via USB Type-C or a regular Type-A USB 3.0 connector. 

The WD_Black P50 connected to a PC via the Type-C yielded a read speed of 1036.25 MB/s and a write speed of 1000.40 MB/s using Crystal DiskMark 7. That’s quite a bit shy of the 2000 MB/s touted on the box. 

The USB Type-A yielded a slightly more pedestrian 462.86 MB/s read speed and a 461.26 MB/s Write speed. This is a bit disappointing as this is what you are likely to get when plugged into a console, a far cry from the speed of an NVMe drive plugged straight into a PC’s PCIe bus. In saying that, console users shouldn’t be too disheartened, as this speed is still an order of magnitude over the Xbox One and PlayStation 5’s default drives which are likely reading at around the 80 MB/s speed if you are lucky.

The NVMe SDD form factor is also a bit smaller than the traditional size of a 2.5-inch hard drive. This makes it a little easier to stow or position out of sight.  The case itself has a cool-looking metal top half, with the underside made of plastic.

With a price tag of around AUD$500/NZ$600, the WD_Black P50 Game Drive isn’t something that I’d recommend to a console gamer. You are just not going to get the bang for your buck. Desktop PC gamers would be better off with an internal M.2 NVMe drive (or even buying a PCIe card for an M.2 NVMe drive, if they’ve no native M.2 slots.). 

I can only recommend this drive to gamers using a laptop, or laptop-based content creators. The drives speeds via the Type-C cable are more than enough for rendering video straight to the drive.

The WD_Black P50 Game Drive is likely the fastest external storage solution available today, with a price tag that suits. The potential NVMe speeds are held back by the limitations of the USB connection, but 1000 MB/s is an awfully fast read speed in anyone’s book. 

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