- Latest and fastest usb standard
- High performance
- Big, angular and heavy
- Unnecessary for consoles
- High price
WD is here first with a new technology, and delivers impressive performance under exactly the right conditions. But that’s a lot of money to bet on today for something you might enjoy in a year or two.
Best external ssd: Smart drives for fast storage
External ssds on usb are no longer encapsulated 2.5 inch sata drives, but mostly compact small drives in m.2 format with internal pcie controller. Several are so small that they can be hung on a key ring and some are so thin that they can be put in a wallet. That’s not the case with the WD Black P50, it’s thick, angular and heavy with its industrial design, sturdy screws in the corners and massive metal chassis.
It is not because it is extremely durable. Nothing in its specifications indicates that it should be extra shock resistant, that it can withstand water or extra high and low temperatures. It should probably be seen as neither more nor less durable than other common external SSD drives. The extra mammoth chassis instead has one job – heat dissipation.
The memory circuits in lacquer Black P50 can get really hot. We can sometimes see how m.2 ssds that you mount in the computer come with a heatsink attached. That’s a sign that it’s one of the faster models – the ones with read speeds often over a gigabyte per second. This is also the case with this disk. Here, things can go a long way.
A new level of usb
This is the first storage device on the market with support for usb 3.2 gen 2×2. Those who decide the names of usb standards really like to mess with it, but what this means is that it has up to 20 gigabits per second in transfer speed, if your computer also has such a fast usb port.
According to the manufacturer, the flash storage and internal interface in the Black P50 should also be able to match it. Almost. 20 gigabit/s means 2,500 MB/s, but some of that is lost in transfer handling, and the device’s read speed is stated as “up to 2,000 MB/s”. That’s faster than almost all internal SSDs we’ve seen in modern and high-end computers.
So, does it manage to deliver that? Currently, the answer is mostly no, as there are extremely few computers that support the new standard. There are individual motherboards, for example the ROG Zenith II Extreme from Asus, with control for it implemented, but it will take a while before it is in other than extreme and expensive motherboards.
Hard to judge how fast it can go
We managed to get hold of a pci plug-in card with the clear name Gigabyte USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 which gives us a 20 gigabit usb-c port on the back of the computer. Unfortunately, however, we cannot see that card being sold in Sweden yet. But in time, it, or another manufacturer’s equivalent, can certainly be obtained.
With the ssd plugged in there we get a level of speed we haven’t come close to with previous units we’ve tested. We land at the best at almost exactly 1,850 MB/s. Not quite the two gigabytes promised, but close enough. There are several factors that can affect USB performance, such as the host computer’s memory management and occupied system resources.
The search or addressing times are also low, on par with an internal ssd. Writing to the device is not as fast, we land at about 1,450 MB/s when copying large movie files from a RAM disk on the computer to the USB device. But there are again too many uncertainty factors to be able to say for sure that it is the disk’s performance ceiling.
Lightning fast anyway, and usb 3.2 gen 2×2 can definitely compete with an external pci express drive via thunderbolt 3. Although maybe the time is not quite right to get external accessories based on it, if you don’t know that you will upgrade to a brutal pc in the fall or so.
Questionable advantage for consoles
WD Black P50 is not the full name of the device. It is actually called the WD Black A50 Game Drive, and the manufacturer makes a big deal of the fact that it is suitable for connecting as expanded storage to the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. There, however, it feels a bit unnecessary, as the USB ports on the consoles are of USB 3.0 gen 1 type and can handle a maximum of five gigabits per second.
A disk on such a USB port will hardly reach a higher speed than somewhere between 300 and 500 MB/s. We tested the Black P50 in such a port on a test computer and landed at just over 350 MB/s. However, short response times of 0.1 milliseconds remain, which can provide a lot for fast loading of games. But there are good 5 gigabit port ssds at a much better price for your console.
No, it is precisely in a truly modern computer that the WD Black P50 comes into its own. And then we talk about the spearhead mother. It will take quite a while before 20 gigabit USB becomes commonplace, and until then this is mostly just an unusually large, heavy and expensive device. Future-proof, but not worth the money for the vast majority of users today. We had also hoped for some small added value for an external ssd in this price range. Like bundled encryption tools or backup programs, but what we get is a completely clean disk and nothing else.
Product name: WD Black P50 Game Drive
Tested: April 2020
Manufacturer: Western Digital
Interface: Usb 3.2 gen 2×2 (20 mbps)
Storage type: Nvme ssd
Storage volume: 500 GB / 1 TB
System requirements: Windows 8.1, MacOS 10.11 or later, PS4/Pro, Xbox One/One X
Size: 11.5 x 5.9 x 1.1 cm
Weight: 114 grams
Rec. Award: No data
Award: SEK 2,290 at Proshop.
Read speed, sequential: 1850.1 MB/s
Writing, sequential: 1448.3 MB/s
Search: 0.1 ms
Measured over usb 3.2 gen 2×2.