A 1TB drive for $100 is easy to like, and we were nearly all smiles with this notable improvement over the Blue SN500. Only the slightly skimpy amount of SLC cache wrinkled our brows. Note that the 250GB capacity maxes out at 950MBps writing, rather than the 1.75GBps at which we clocked the 1TB version.
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WD’s new Blue SN550 is a nice improvement on the older SN500, though it still isn’t going to worry the competition with its performance. However, other vendors sure won’t be happy that it’s 10 cents per gigabyte at the 1TB capacity.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best SSDs. Go there for information on competing drives and how we tested them.
Design and features
The WD Blue SN550 is a x4 PCIe 3.0, M.2 NVMe SSD in the 2280 form factor. That is, 22 millimeters wide, and 80 mm long. The NAND is 96-layer TLC (Triple Layer Cell/3-bit) with an unspecified percentage utilized as SLC (Single Level Cell/1-bit) cache. More on that later.
The SN550 carries a five-year warranty and is rated for 600 TBW for every 1TB of capacity. That means you can write 600 terabytes to the 1TB drive before you’ll start losing capacity, or things will otherwise go wonky. Note that TBW ratings are estimates, and likely conservative ones at that, formulated with legal and other concerns in mind.
While the 1TB Blue SN550 I tested didn’t excel at any one task, it handily outpaced the older SN500 and was competitive with its peers throughout. The synthetic CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD benchmarks rated it as average for its class, as did our 48GB/450GB copy tests.
I’ve seen TLC-NAND based NVMe SSDs plummet to SATA III speeds during long writes. While the SN550 dipped to 835MBps rather rapidly, that’s as low as it went and still what I’d consider decent performance. Better than SATA, at any rate, and considering you’ll see 1.75GBps during normal, shorter writes, perfectly livable.
I did not test the 500GB SN550. If WD is assigning secondary cache as a fixed percentage of total capacity, as it seems, the 500GB drive will drop to around 835MBps even sooner than the 15GB mark at which the 1TB capacity slowed.
The 250GB version of the Blue SN550 is rated for a little more than half the write speed (950MBps max), as it has fewer channels for transferring data. It likely has less cache as well, so you will not get nearly the same write performance. Reads, which are not cache-dependent, nor so reliant on multiple channels, will be every bit as fast as the 500GB and 1TB capacities.
The Kingston KC2000 led real-world performance in our 48GB tests, but the SN550 is a compelling improvement over its predecessor—and considering the price, plenty fast enough.
Good drive from a top vendor
The WD Blue SN550’s price, and its suitability for the average user, are undeniable. It’s definitely one of the top options in the bargain NVMe market and from a trusted brand name. Compare to the Kingston KC2000 and the Addlink S70.
Jon Jacobi is a musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time computer enthusiast. He writes reviews on TVs, SSDs, dash cams, remote access software, Bluetooth speakers, and sundry other consumer-tech hardware and software.