by Adam Armstrong

WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD Review

Back at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany Western Digital Corp. (WDC) announced a new portfolio of external storage solutions for PC and console gamers, its new WD_Black products, including the new WD_Black P50 SSD. As the name states, the WD_Black P50 is a portable NVMe SSD that gamers can use to store part of their game library on for potentially faster loading times than the internal hard drive in their console or PC. The WD_Black P50 adds extra games to users Xbox One consoles, PlayStation 4s, or PC Gaming computing. 

The SSD leverages USB 3.2 connectivity, and has maximum performance claims of up to 2GB/s. However, in order to hit these numbers users will need a Gen2x2 supporting motherboard that was only released last month. The drive comes in capacities ranging from 500B to 2TB, which makes it a nice little bump considering game consumption is slowly trending towards download based over users buying the disks. 

The WD_Black P50 SSD comes with a 5-year warranty and can be picked up for as little as $150 for the 500GB. For this review we will be looking at the 1TB version.

WD_Black P50 SSD Specifications

Capacity 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
Interface USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
Connector USB-C
Compatibility Windows 8.1, 10
macOS 10.11+
PlayStation 4 Pro or PS4 with system software version 4.50 or higher
​Xbox One
Dimensions (LXWXH) 4.65" x 2.44" x 0.55"
In The Box WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD
USB Type-C to Type-C cable
USB Type-C to Type-A cable
​Quick Install Guide
Warranty 5-year limited

Design and Build

For design, WD uses a flair of creativity. Instead of making it a standard portable drive with smooth edges it looks more like a crate one would see in Halo or Gears Of War. This design is not only visually pleasing, it also adds to the durability of the drive for those that take in on the go. The top of the drive has the WD_BLACK branding as well as the name of the drive. 

The bottom of the drive has venting for heat dissipation and well as four small rubber feet. Also on the bottom is information about the drive and a QR code that gives the model number. The USB port is on one side of the drive.

Performance

To test the performance of the WD_Black P50 we will be looking at BlackMagic on a current generation MacBook Air and IOMeter on an HP ZBook 15 G6 workstation.We will be comparing this NVMe drive to two recent Portable drives we tested the Adata SE800 and Plugable T3. The comparables are a bit different as the SE800 is not an NVMe drive (thought it too leverages USB-C connection) and the Plugable T3 is an NVMe that only works through Thunderbolt 3 for the fastest possible performance.

For BlackMagic, the WD_Black P50 was able to hit 884.5MB/s read and 913.3MB/s write. About half of its claimed maximum, but keep in mind that the current generation MacBook does not support Gen2x2 USB. The Adata hit 806.2MB/s read and 475.7MB/s write while the Plugable hit 2,303MB/s read and 1,688MB/s write.

For IOMeter, when looking at its 2MB sequential speeds the P50 saw 788.5MB/s read and 800MB/s write. Compared to the Adata’s 665MB/s and 582.21MB/s and the Plugable was able to hit 1,339MB/s read and 714MB/s write. For 2MB random speeds we saw the P50 hit 763MB/s read and 815.3MB/s write. This compared to the Adata’s 496.09MB/s read and 457.65MB/s write and the Plugable’s 1,280MB/s read and 682MB/s write compared to the X5’s 1.225GB/s read and 1.055GB/s write. 

For Random 4K the WD_Black P50 hit 3,914 IOPS read and 8,584 IOPS write. The 3,121.48 IOPS read 8,406.66 IOPS write. While the Plugable was able to hit 9,582 IOPS read and 1,405 IOPS write.

To be fair, WD did include a screen cap of them hitting 2,000MB/s read and write on a new, cutting edge board. We simply don't have any systems in the lab that have the latest USB connectivity to bear this out, but there's no reason to doubt the upside.

Just to be sure, we also connected the WD_Black to an XBOX using the included USB cable. After a format, the drive showed up as expected, ready to take on game installs, or whatever else the user wants to throw at it.

Conclusion

Created with gamers in mind, the WD_Black is a neat looking portable SSD that will expand the capacity of consoles and PCs for a larger game library. The drives come in capacities ranging from 500GB to 2TB and claims of up to 2GB/s. However, there is caveat here. In order to hit the top speed one needs a motherboard that supports USB Gen2x2. The drive comes with a 5-year limited warranty and a fairly good starting price.

As stated, there needs to be a particular motherboard with an appropriate USB chipset to hit the top speeds, and while we have several newer computers in our lab, we do not have one that supports Gen2x2 therefore we could not hit top speeds. That being said, the WD_Black was able to hit decent numbers for a portable drive: 884.5MB/s read and 913.3MB/s write in BlackMagic, 2MB sequential speeds of 788.5MB/s read and 800MB/s write, random speeds of 763MB/s read and 815.3MB/s write, and throughput of 3,914 IOPS read and 8,584 IOPS write. The speeds were better than a typical USB portable SSD (twice as good in some cases) but fell far behind something that leveraged the proper connectivity to bring the full NVMe potential to light. 

The WD_Black P50 is a stylistic drive that will allow users to expand their game library with potentially faster loading times. The biggest issue with the drive is that user need specific motherboard support to hit the full advertised speeds, with the same being said for the current consoles on the market. This feels like a cart before the horse issue where the potential is there, but few ways to access it. To be fair, the pricing is pretty good out of the gate and buyers will be in good position to take advantage of the connectivity the drive offers as more systems come to market.

WD_Black P50

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