The WD Black SN850 gives you a second great choice when it comes to pick-of-thelitter NVMe SSDs—Samsung’s 980 Pro (go.pcworld.com/98pr) being the other. This assumes, of course, that your motherboard sports a cutting-edge PCIe 4.0 interface (go.pcworld.com/pc40). Currently that means late-generation AMD Ryzen (go. pcworld.com/lgen) with Intel’s next-gen piling on soon. If that’s not you, a PCIe 4 SSD is still a good way to future-proof your performance.
The 2280 (22mm wide, 80mm long) form factor SN850 uses 96-layer TLC (Triple-Level Cell/3-bit) NAND and a custom controller. It ships in three flavors: 500GB ($149.99 from WD; go.pcworld.com/wd14), 1TB ($249.29 at Amazon; go.pcworld.com/am22), and 2TB (the capacity we tested, $449.99 at Amazon; go.pcworld.com/am44). That’s pricier than the average entry-level drives, but in the same ballpark with the Samsung 980 Pro. DDR4 cache is used to the tune of about 500MB for 500GB, 1GB for the 1TB, and just over 2GB for the 2TB drive.
The SN850 is rated for 300TBW (TeraBytes that may be Written over the life of the drive) for every 500GB of capacity, and warrantied for five years. I’ve never heard of a vendor backing off the warranty unless you’re drastically over the TBW limit.
The SN850 is a PCIe 4 drive, which means you get a nice boost in performance in systems that support it (late-Gen Ryzen, upcoming Intel [go.pcworld.com/lryz]). Most of the SSDs showing up on our door right now are PCIe 4; however, we’ll continue to include legacy PCIe 3 testing, as most users are still using the older version of the high-speed bus.
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