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Western Digital Blue 1TB SSD Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
A mere six months ago Western Digital made the bold move of purchasing SanDisk, one of the most recognized companies in the solid state storage market. Much like Toshiba’s purchase of OCZ, this was done in an effort to reinvigorate their own solid state drive lineup.

At the time many an internet pundit prognosticated on exactly what this would mean for the future of both of these industry titans. Some predicted Western Digital would follow Seagate and offer Solid State Hybrid Drives, others thought that SanDisk would simply continue as they had in the past – just with Western Digital backing them. As is so often the case the internet was wrong as we are now seeing the results of this match.

Now just six months after their latest acquisition Western Digital are ready to release not one but <i>two</i> new SSD models under their own umbrella rather than using SanDisk’s auspices. While pure mass-market SSDs haven’t been a hallmark of WD’s lineup, they’re sticking to the same nomenclature as their already-familiar hard drives so these new drives use the Blue SSD and Green SSD names.

Both of these are SATA controller-based models that will be offered in a 7mm 2.5" form-factor in an M.2 2280 design and will also come with 3 year warranties. This however is about all they share in common.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/intro.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

As its name suggests the new Green SSD is aimed more towards budget conscious and entry level consumers who are interested in transitioning away from HDDs and are purchasing their first ever SSD. This is an interesting if understandable move since this segment may be hotly contested but it also drives volume sales. Western Digital is in for a tough ride here but they also have massive brand name recognition.

The Blue SSD series on the other hand is focused more on mainstream buyers who may already have some experience with using Solid State Drives, may want to increase their capacity but still care about pricing. This is why, unlike the Green series’ 128GB and 256GB options, Blue SSD will be offered in capacities ranging from 250GB to 1TB. As for the asking price the 250GB will have an MSRP of $79 (32 cents per GB), while the large 1TB option will set you back only $299 (or 30 cents per GB). From a value perspective that’s not too bad at all.

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/endurance.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Unlike the Green series, the Blue will come with a Total Bytes Written endurance ratings of 100TB, 200TB, and 400TB respectively. Put another way the 250GB model can write over 91GB a day, the 500GB is good for over 182GB, and 1TB is rated for a whopping 365GB – all of which are way, way more than what the approximate 5GB the average home consumer actually writes to a drive on a daily basis. As it is the much more interesting of the two models today we will be focusing in on the Blue – specifically the 1TB model.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/box_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


With asking prices that are very reasonable Western Digital is obviously taking aim at the entry and mainstream markets for their first foray into the SSD marketplace since their SanDisk acquisition. While Western Digital's product literature talks about models like the Samsung EVO, and Crucial BX200 series as targets for these two drives the reality is only the Green is in their price bracket.

The Blue series on the other hand will have to compete against the likes of Crucial and their MX300 series, AData’s SU800 series, as well as Toshiba’s OCZ VX500 series. That is certainly a tall order but with excellent performance the Blue 1TB may just be able to pull that off.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the Western Digital Blue SSD 1TB

A Closer Look at the Western Digital Blue SSD 1TB


<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/top_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


The new Blue SSD series makes use of a part metal, part plastic 7mm z-height 2.5" form-factor chassis. The all black color scheme combined with a colorful full-sized label is very attractive. In other words, it may certainly not be the flashiest, nor most conservative looking SSD on the market but the Blue is pretty much what we have come to expect from business friendly Western Digital.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/bot_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


The only other potentially minor issue –depending on what you are using this drive for- is the Blue series does <i>not</i> come with 2.5mm plastic adapter to make installation in 9.5mm chassis easier, nor it does not come with a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter plate. This is a missed opportunity for Western Digital. Plastic 2.5mm adapters are standard accessories on many drives in the Blue SSD’s price range.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/board1_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Moving on, when opening this drive up we were rather impressed with what we found. We were expecting to see a small half-length PCB similar to what say a SanDisk Ultra II used, but instead Western Digital has gone with a full size, single sided PCB. More importantly <i>every</i> component makes contact with the metal portion of the chassis via a full length heatpad so heat is quickly and efficiently distributed.

As for the components, the Western Digital Blue 1TB PCB houses eight 15nm SanDisk TLC NAND ICs, a Marvel 1074 controller, and a full Gigabyte of RAM cache (via two Micron 512MB DDR3 chips). The Marvel 1074 controller is well respected since its release and has powered everything from the Crucial MX300 to class-leading SSDs. In other words, few people will have as any problems with this choice of controller.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/board2_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Using TLC NAND in a more mainstream orientated series is not unheard of, just look at Crucial MX300 for example of this, but it is still noteworthy. With all things being equal TLC is slower and less robust than its MLC counterparts. To minimize these issues, the Marvel controller does things similarly to PHISION, Toshiba, Samsung, SMI, and most others: it uses a portion of the NAND for pseudo-SLC cache and sets aside a certain amount of NAND for over-provisioning. This is why the WD Blue comes in 250, 500, and 1000GB capacities instead of 256/512/1TB. Crucial’s MX300 avoided this by simply adding more NAND on their MX300 and thus boosting capacity even further.

For the most part this combination is more than up to the task of satisfying the average mainstream market’s needs. However, for heavy usage scenarios this drive may not be an optimal choice since once the 'SLC' and RAM cache is exhausted the performance will tend to plummet.

One eyebrow raising omission from the Western Digital Blue is the lack of onboard capacitors. Relying almost solely upon Marvel's vaunted NANDEdge error correction is all well and fine, but this will put the Blue SSD at a disadvantage compared to the competition's offerings which <i>do</i> make use of a capacitor backed data loss protection design – some of which also use Marvel controllers and have NANDedge ECC baked right in.

Again, for many users this won’t be a major issue since, much like OCZ and SMI, the Marvel 1074 combines real-time log updating with an additional Low-Density Parity-Check to ensure that any corruption is seamlessly corrected upon the next POST. Of course with 1GB’s worth of data potentially 'in flight' (i.e. in the RAM buffer) that is a lot of potential for errors to pop up and require on-the-fly correction.

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/dash1_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Western Digital is also including a free monitoring and diagnostic program with their new series. The aptly called WD SSD Dashboard allows owners of either the Blue or Green series to monitor and diagnose their drivers’ Health, checking and applying firmware updates and even performing a Secure Erase.

As a nice little bonus this program can work with WD SSDs even when they are connected via USB. The only minor issues is that it cannot implement a RAM caching feature such as what Samsung's Magician 'Rapid Mode'. Even without this advanced feature, overall it is a very nice little application that hopefully will continue to have its feature set expanded in the future.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Test System & Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology



Testing a drive is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto folder on the drive in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account. There is also the SATA controller on your motherboard and how well it works with SSDs & HDDs to think about as well. For best results you really need a dedicated hardware RAID controller w/ dedicated RAM for drives to shine. Unfortunately, most people do not have the time, inclination or monetary funds to do this. For this reason our test-bed will be a more standard motherboard with no mods or high end gear added to it. This is to help replicate what you the end user’s experience will be like.

Even when the hardware issues are taken care of the software itself will have a negative or positive impact on the results. As with the hardware end of things, to obtain the absolute best results you do need to tweak your OS setup; however, just like with the hardware solution most people are not going to do this. For this reason our standard OS setup is used. However, except for the Windows 7 load test times we have done our best to eliminate this issue by having the drive tested as a secondary drive. With the main drive being an Intel DC S3700 800GB Solid State Drive.

For synthetic tests we used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach, HD Tune, Crystal Disk Benchmark, IOMeter, AS-SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark 7.

For real world benchmarks we timed how long a single 10GB rar file took to copy to and then from the devices. We also used 10gb of small files (from 100kb to 200MB) with a total 12,000 files in 400 subfolders.

For all testing a Asus Sabretooth TUF X99 LGA 2011-v3 motherboard was used, running Windows 7 64bit Ultimate edition. All drives were tested using either AHCI mode using Intel RST 10 drivers, or NVMHCI using Intel NVMe drivers.

All tests were run 4 times and average results are represented.

In between each test suite runs (with the exception being IOMeter which was done after every run) the drives are cleaned with either HDDerase, SaniErase or a manufactures 'Toolbox' and then quick formatted to make sure that they were in optimum condition for the next test suite.

Processor: Core i7 5930K
Motherboard: Asus Sabretooth TUF X99
Memory: 32GB Crucial Ballistix Elite DDR4-2666
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Hard Drive: Intel DC S3700 800GB, Intel P3700 800GB
Power Supply: XFX 850

SSD FIRMWARE (unless otherwise noted):

OCZ Vertex 2 100GB: 1.33
Intel 730 240GB: L2010400
Crucial MX200: MU01
Intel 750: 8EV10135
Kingston HyperX Predator 480GB: 0C34L5TA
OCZ Trion 480GB: SAFM11.1
AData XPG SX930 240GB : 5.9E
AData SP550 240GB: O0730A
PNY CS2211: CS221016
ZOTAC Premium Edition: SAFM01.6
Apacer AS720: PLD1130
Crucial MX300 series: M0CR011
WD Blue: X41000WD

Toshiba TC58 controller:
OCZ Trion 480GB & 960GB - Custom firmware w/ 19nm Toggle Mode TLC NAND

Samsung MDX controller:
Samsung 840 Pro 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

SandForce SF1200 controller:
OCZ Vertex 2 - ONFi 2 NAND

Marvell 9183 controller:
Plextor M6e 256GB- Custom firmware w/ 21nm Toggle Mode NAND

Marvell 1074 controller:
Crucial MX300 - Custom firmware w/ IMFT 384Gbit TLC 3D NAND
WD Blue - Custom firmware w/ 15nm TLC SanDisk NAND

Marvell 9293 controller:
Kingston HyperX Predator - Custom firmware w/ 19nm Toggle Mode NAND

Intel X25 G3 controller:
Intel 730 - Custom firmware w/ ONFi 2 NAND

Intel NVMe G1 Controller:
Intel 750 - Customer firmware w/ MLC 20nm NAND

Phison PS3110 Controller:
Kingston HyperX Savage 240GB - 19nm Toggle Mode NAND
PNY CS2211: 15nm Toggle Mode NAND
ZOTAC Premium Edition: 19nm MLC


JMicron JMF670H Controller:
AData XPG SX930 240GB - 128Gbit MLC NAND
Apacer AS720 - 128Gbit MLC NAND

SMI SM2256 Controller:
AData SP550 240GB - TLC NAND

Special Thanks to Crucial for providing the memory for this testbed.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Read Bandwidth / Write Performance

Read Bandwidth


<i>For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed which you are likely to experience with these hard drives. The long test was run to give a slightly more accurate picture. We don’t put much stock in Burst speed readings and thus we no longer included it. The most important number is the Average Speed number. This number will tell you what to expect from a given drive in normal, day to day operations. The higher the average the faster your entire system will seem.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/read.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Write Performance


<i>For this benchmark HD Tune Pro was used. To run the write benchmark on a drive, you must first remove all partitions from that drive and then and only then will it allow you to run this test. Unlike some other benchmarking utilities the HD Tune Pro writes across the full area of the drive, thus it easily shows any weakness a drive may have.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/write.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Overall these results are right in line with what should be expected from <i>any</i> TLC NAND based drive – be it planar(2D) or 3D TLC NAND. Basically the Western Digital Blue 1TB has two separate and very distinct levels of write performance: the SLC-cache performance level and then the lower performance level that occurs once the cache buffer is exhausted. For most consumers the second tier will never be reached, but those who do transfer large amounts of data on a frequent basis may be disappointed.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
ATTO Disk Benchmark

ATTO Disk Benchmark


<i>The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/atto_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/atto_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Thanks to its very good firmware the SLC-cache buffer does an admirable job of boosting the performance curves of the WD Blue 1TB. To be candid this is how Western Digital is able to claim a 400TB Total Drive Write specification and actually have it be believable.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7

Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/cdm_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


PCMark 7


<i>While there are numerous suites of tests that make up PCMark 7, only one is pertinent: the HDD Suite. The HDD Suite consists of numerous tests that try and replicate real world drive usage. Everything from how long a simulated virus scan takes to complete, to MS Vista start up time to game load time is tested in these core tests; however, we do not consider this anything other than just another suite of synthetic tests. For this reason, while each test is scored individually we have opted to include only the overall score.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/pcm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

These results do require a bit of an explanation since on the surface the WD Blue SSD looks rather abysmal. Basically this drive has been tweaked for shallow queue depth performance and at deeper queue depths the throughput does tend to tank. However, if you take a close look at the 4K single queue depth results you can see that the differences between this and say a MX300 1TB is almost negligible.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities Pro

AS-SSD


<i>AS-SSD is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and small 4K read/write speeds as well as 4K file speed at a queue depth of 6. While its primary goal is to accurately test Solid State Drives, it does equally well on all storage mediums it just takes longer to run each test as each test reads or writes 1GB of data.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/asd_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/asd_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Anvil Storage Utilities Pro


<i>Much like AS-SSD, Anvil Pro was created to quickly and easily – yet accurately – test your drives. While it is still in the Beta stages it is a versatile and powerful little program. Currently it can test numerous read / write scenarios but two in particular stand out for us: 4K queue depth of 4 and 4K queue depth of 16. A queue depth of four along with 4K sectors can be equated to what most users will experience in an OS scenario while 16 depth will be encountered only by power users and the like. We have also included the 4k queue depth 1 results to help put these two other numbers in their proper perspective. All settings were left in their default states and the test size was set to 1GB.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/anvil_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/anvil_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Once again the only reason the WD Blue 1TB is not higher is the lackluster deep queue depth performance. At shallower depths the WB Blue does hold its own against the MX300 series and comes close to the VX500. That is pretty darn impressive.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
IOMeter

IOMETER


<i>IOMeter is heavily weighted towards the server end of things, and since we here at HWC are more End User centric we will be setting and judging the results of IOMeter a little bit differently than most. To test each drive we ran 5 test runs per HDD (1,4,16,64,128 queue depth) each test having 8 parts, each part lasting 10 min w/ an additional 20 second ramp up. The 8 subparts were set to run 100% random, 80% read 20% write; testing 512b, 1k, 2k,4k,8k,16k,32k,64k size chunks of data. When each test is finished IOMeter spits out a report, in that reports each of the 8 subtests are given a score in I/Os per second. We then take these 8 numbers add them together and divide by 8. This gives us an average score for that particular queue depth that is heavily weighted for single user environments. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/iom.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Considering this is a TLC and not MLC based model the WD Blue 1TB does a pretty decent job. Of course the slightly more expensive OCZ VX500 blows the doors off it so it would not be our first choice for workstation scenarios regardless of what Western Digital claims.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Windows 8 / Adobe CS5 Load Time

Windows 8.1 Start Up w/ Boot Time A/V Scan Performance


<i>When it comes to hard drive performance there is one area that even the most oblivious user notices: how long it takes to load the Operating System. We have chosen Windows 8.1 64bit Pro as our Operating System with all 'fast boot' options disabled in the BIOS. In previous load time tests we would use the Anti-Virus splash screen as our finish line; this however is no longer the case. We have not only added in a secondary Anti-Virus to load on startup, but also an anti-malware program. We have set Super Anti-Spyware to initiate a quick scan on Windows start-up and the completion of the quick scan will be our new finish line. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/boot.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Adobe CS5 LOAD TIME


<i>Photoshop is a notoriously slow loading program under the best of circumstances, and while the latest version is actually pretty decent, when you add in a bunch of extra brushes and the such you get a really great torture test which can bring even the best of the best to their knees. Let’s see how our review unit fared in the Adobe crucible! </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/adobe.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>

Now that we have turned our attention to more realistic, real world scenarios the abilities of the Western Digital Blue 1TB do come to the forefront. While it will never be able to compete against the slightly more expensive OCZ Toshiba VX500 it does an admirable job when compared to the likes of the MX300 series. That in our books is a win as Crucial and OCZ have been the gold standard upon which all others are judged for the past couple of generations.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
Firefox Performance / Real World Data Transfers

Firefox Portable Offline Performance


<i>Firefox is notorious for being slow on loading tabs in offline mode once the number of pages to be opened grows larger than a dozen or so. We can think of fewer worse case scenarios than having 100 tabs set to reload in offline mode upon Firefox startup, but this is exactly what we have done here.

By having 100 pages open in Firefox portable, setting Firefox to reload the last session upon next session start and then setting it to offline mode, we are able to easily recreate a worst case scenario. Since we are using Firefox portable all files are easily positioned in one location, making it simple to repeat the test as necessary. In order to ensure repetition, before touching the Firefox portable files, we have backed them up into a .rar file and only extracted a copy of it to the test device.</i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/ff.jpg" border="0" alt="" /></div>


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total).

Testing will include transfer to and transferring from the devices, using MS RichCopy and logging the performance of the drive. Here is what we found. </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Storage/WD_Blue1TB/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>

Once again the Western Digital Blue 1TB does a pretty darn decent job at real world scenarios when compared to similarly priced models.
 
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