Silent changes to Western Digital’s budget SSD may lower speeds by up to 50%

Enlarge / Newer variations of Western Digital’s WD Blue SN550 could carry out worse than older ones.

Western Digital’s WD Blue SN550 finances SSD is a well-reviewed, fashionable NVMe gadget that has repeatedly proven up on numerous websites’ “greatest SSD” lists because it was launched on the tail-end of 2019. The drive makes use of a four-lane PCI Categorical 3.0 interface and was novel for with the ability to carry out higher than SATA SSDs for about the identical sum of money.

However which may be altering, because of quiet behind-the-scenes element modifications: Chinese language website Expreview (by way of Tom’s Hardware and ExtremeTech) says {that a} newer model of the drive manufactured in July 2021 was writing knowledge at speeds of about 390MB per second after the drive’s cache had crammed up. In line with Expreview, that is about half the pace of older variations of the SN550; Tom’s {Hardware} measured speeds of about 610MB per second throughout a sustained write check on the unique SN550, so the precise quantity of efficiency degradation could fluctuate. As a result of each the outdated and new variations of the SN550 use the identical SSD controller, it appears probably that the slowdown is being attributable to inferior NAND flash.

Fashionable SSDs sometimes pair a considerable amount of slower NAND flash (for capability) and a smaller cache of quicker flash reminiscence (for the height speeds marketed on the field). Relying on the SSD, this cache reminiscence is designed to maintain wherever between a couple of gigabytes’ and some dozen gigabytes’ price of writes earlier than it has to fall again on the slower flash. More often than not, you may by no means discover the drive slowing down, since you’re not going to fill the cache up all the way in which through the use of your pc for primary searching, workplace work, and even photograph enhancing.

The individuals who will discover are skilled video editors, who’re repeatedly exporting, copying, and shifting big 4K video information round all day. It is regular to not get an SSD’s marketed peak efficiency 100% of the time, however for a drive to carry out considerably worse than it carried out in thorough, skilled evaluations is deceptive at greatest.

Sourcing parts from a number of suppliers is widespread apply when manufacturing computer systems, telephones, tablets, and the elements that go in them; if you will get a factor from a number of locations, then slowdowns or interruptions in manufacturing at anybody provider is much less more likely to disrupt the movement of completed merchandise, and the competitors between suppliers can hold your prices down. However simply as vital is ensuring that the parts you are sourcing all carry out roughly the identical, lest you create a “lottery” system the place some consumers (and all reviewers) get the “good” model of your product whereas others get caught with poorer-than-expected efficiency.

SSD makers altering parts with out updating their mannequin numbers or spec sheets is sadly widespread—Tom’s {Hardware} has a long rundown of examples. Generally, finish customers do profit from element modifications, like when SSD producers change out older flash reminiscence for improved flash with higher specs. However in different circumstances, as with the SN550 and Adata’s XPG SG8200 Pro, modifications made to chop prices or simplify manufacturing find yourself hurting efficiency as a substitute.

This is not the primary time in current historical past that Western Digital has been caught enjoying fast-and-loose with specs. Its laborious drive division has each fudged the rotational speed of a few of its drives and has tried to sell slower-performing Shingled Magnetic Recording (or SMR) drives in its WD Purple NAS drive lineup, solely to backtrack later and rebrand them.

We have reached out to Western Digital to comply with up on the unique reporting; we’ll replace this story if we obtain any new particulars.

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