The Game waits for no one... WD_BLACK leaving the competition behind

Written by Peter Bower on . Posted in Announcements

WD BLACKWestern Digital have continued to redefine the next-gen gaming experience with the expanded WD_BLACK range of products, announcing three exciting new products to help gamers. Unveiling the WD_BLACK SN850 m.2 NVMe SSD with unprecedented speeds, the WD_BLACK AN1500 NVMe SSD Add-in Card promisng to be one of the fastest PCIe Gen3 add-in SSD cards, and the WD_BLACK D50 Game Dock NVMe SSD dock which will provide an optimal solution for gamers to streamline their setup while also providing additional storage capacity, WD_BLACK have cemented their position among the must-have devices for gamers of all types.

 

Peter's Thoughts

Gaming has been a part of my life since I can remember. One of my earliest memories was playing the Atari 2600 as the 1989 Newcastle earthquake hit. I mean, when you finish the level and the house shakes and your power goes out, it sticks in your mind! In the late 90s, I was lugging computers to friends' places to play Age of Empires and Total Annihilation. There was stints as a semi-serious eSportsman with offers of sponsorship. And there is now the general love of it and the socialisation aspect that has kept me sane(ish) during COVID times (and probably well before).

But storage is always an issue. 

Playing with numerous different groups of gamers, it's hard to juggle which game to have installed. 

With my XBox One, storage is never enough. But thankfully with the WD_BLACK P10 Game Drive which I reviewed recently helps with that a lot. And the P50 SSD Game Drive I have sitting on my review bench will help even more.

Yes, WD_BLACK will Drive Your Game! And let me say, with what we saw today, they are living up to that promise!

 

Kevin's Thoughts

Western Digital seems to be an unstoppable force in the market at the moment, DRN has a few of their gear on the test bench and the write up is in the pipeline and they are looking most impressive. So what is WD's vision? "Become the gaming storage category leader to authentically enhance the gaming experience by providing industry-leading storage products."

I remember the first family computer, I was about 4 at the time. Dad and his friends had a little home built one with a dinky 4k of memory. It had a custom case of clear smoked acrylic and all it's guts were visible. The first game was Pong naturally and I kind of sucked at it at the time. As time went on, I loved Swashbuckler and Aztec on the Apple II and it's monochome monitor. I didn't forget Donkey Kong on it's dedicated orange coloured console either. Ah those were the days.

WD heralds the next generation of games with today's introduction of three new and upcoming products for its WD_BLACK portfolio of storage solutions. These include its first NVMe SSD with next-gen PCIe Gen4 technology, a fully bootable Gen3 x8 add-in card and a Thunderbolt 3 powered NVMe SSD gaming dock. All of these offer eye-catching RGB lighting options.

 

D5

The WD_BLACK D50 Game Dock SSD

It comes complete with the stylish and cool industrial look that I loved on the P10 drive. The premise is simple. Plug your laptop in via a single Thunderbold 3 cord, and the D50 can handle the rest. It charges your laptop (up to 87W), has your ethernet connected, and can run up to two 4k monitors for extended display, USB ports for your gaming keyboard and mice, with further ports (Type-A and Type-C) for storage or other devices. All this with some sexy RGB lighting.

The WD_BLACK D50 Game Dock comes in three versions --- a non-storage version (AU$549), and a 1TB (AU$849) and 2TB (AU$1099) variant --- so with this device you can add significant storage to your laptop while also keeping the cords in check. (Please note, though, that the user cannot change storage post-purchase.) To be honest, why you would go the non-storage version (beyond budget), I am unsure. That extra storage space (and the speeds it provides) makes it a no-brainer to find that little extra cash. 

One thing I will note, though, is that the USB Type-C port for the storage is a USB 3.2 Gen 2 drive, delivering 10Gb/s transfer capacity. It is a bit of a shame this didn't go all out with a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 and go to 20Gb/s, but it's still a damn nice piece of kit. Especially with an impressive performance of up to 3,000Mb/s sequential read performance when the included storage is used. Something I will be recommending to a few friends with gaming laptops. Available from December 2020 at JB Hi-Fi, Officerworks, Harvey Norman and Amazon.

 

WD BLACK AN1500

The WD_BLACK AN1500 NVMe SSD Add-in Card

 Now, if I wasn't in the process of building a new gaming PC, this is something I would be looking at hard. Let's ignore that sexy RGB strip along the side, and the cool and sleek design which would look great through any tempered glass PC case, this drive features easy installation via plug and play in a PCIe slot. With the integrated heatsink to keep the drive running cool and reduce throttling, it features PCIe Gen4-like performance on a PCIe Gen3 system. You read that correctly. Plugging in via a PCIe Gen 3 slot, it can provide insane read/write speeds of up to 6500/4100MB/s. Coming in a 1TB (AU$399), 2TB (AU$789) and 4TB (AU$1499), this drive has potential to give your ageing gaming PC a MASSIVE boost both in terms of speed and in terms of storage. Available from 22 October 2020 from all good computer stores.

 

WDBlack SN850

The WD_BLACK SN850 M.2 NVMe SSD

Finally, the highlight of the session for me. I admit, I'm a simple man, and I am loving NVMe drives right now. I've been doing a lot of reading and planning with my upcoming build. And with the announcement of the WD_BLACK SN850, I wish they were on the shelves RIGHT NOW. 

This is a top-tier PCIe Gen4 m.2 drive that will provide exactly what you need. Coming in two variiants --- one with the WD_BLACK signature industrial style heatsink for desktop computers, which also features a nice subtle RGB component, and a stripped back non-heatsink version for laptops --- this drive delivers irrationally fast read/write speeds of up to 7000/5300MB/s and up to 1,000,000 input/output operations per second (based on the 1Tb and 2Tb models). Yes, you read that correct.

7000/5300MB/s read/write speeds.

This leaves the competition in its dust. 

NVMe M.2 drives are going to be a significant part of gaming computers in the future. The WD_BLACK range had already cemented itself as a regular inclusion in gaming rigs with the SN750 range. The WD_BLACK SN850 is a must-have in my view. And at reasonable prices, I don't think it's something you can not include in a new build or consider adding to your existing build!

The non-heatsink versions --- 500gb (AU$225), 1TB (AU$419) and 2TB (AU$839) are available from 5 November 2020 from all good gaming stores.

The heatsink versions will be available quarter 1 in 2021. Pricing is yet to be confirmed, but going from the SN750 range, the heatsink models will likely only be $20-40 more as their equivilent sized non-heatsink model. 

My only question is, and I again assume it is to provide a model within budget for some people, but in a world where data is key, the availability of a 500GB model leaves me scratching my head somewhat!

 

Market Insights

The following are some nice insights provided by the team at Western Digital. I find these fascinating, so I'm including them!

Digital Australia 2020 conducted a study into digital gaming, and the trend is unmistakable. In 2005, just under 8 in 10 household had at least one device on which video games were played. By 2011 this has crossed the 9 out of 10 threshold and has remained around 91-93% to date. In 2019 for gaming across all households, 82% had a PC, 70% gamed on mobile, 65% on console, 51% on tablet and 13% on other handheld gaming devices. Virtual Reality game is also increasing, with up to 21% of households now embracing VR.

The average age of gamers is now 34 years of age, with a demographic spread from 5 to 80 year olds.

So, just why do we game? Stress relief, passing the time, socialising, education (yes this can be contentious but have you ever taught a kid to love coding via video game? Kevin has!), improving mental health or ability (with brain exercises and the like, such as Sudoku, word games, puzzles). All these reasons rank alongside hardcore gamers, streamers and eSports career professionals who live and breathe gaming. In the end, two out of three Australian play video games on electronic devices.

In 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been significant uptake in gaming. Whether it is to escape the reality of a lockdown, such as the long running saga in Melbourne (212 days and counting), or the teenagers staying in contact with friends because they can't physically hang out together, games serves a bigger audience for more reasons than entertainment.

According to research, 53% of gamers play on two or more different platforms. In Kevin's household, the newly minted teenager, Master J, interchanges between the PS4 and PC. Meanwhile, Peter goes between XBox One and PC.

Finally, Peter's favourite statistic? There are 1.7B active PC gamers and 729M active console gamers. Yes, gamers are becoming the new norm! 

 

But, why the fuss about storage?

  • The average game is between 40 - 80Gb a piece, with AAA titles now going well over 200GB (Peter is looking right at you, Call of Duty!).
  • The average laptop and console storage is 500GB - 1TB. Desktop gaming computers has the ability to add more drives, but often they are slow. 
  • The average gamer has about 20 games in their library, with a total average size of 1.7TB. Peter notes that this number is increasing with things like Game Pass subscriptions becoming more common... and also notes he has over 350 games in various libraries on his PC and Xbox One.

And, now with 4K (and soon 8K?!), with the finer graphic details in games, game sizes are exploding.

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is about 230GB, 90% of a 250GB PC storage
  • Destiny 2 is around 165GB, 33% of a 500GB PS4
  • Final Fantasy XV is around 150GB
  • Red Dead Redemption II is about 100GB, 20% of a 500GB XBox
  • Rainbox Six Siege, a game released in 2015, installed with 4K textures sits at over 140gb.

For gamers, whether it is PC or Console, there are many pain points, but the most common one is storage space. With increasing game sizes, it means the constant juggle of which games to have installed. Speaking from experience, Peter will tell you that the not enough storage space and uninstalling and reinstalling games depending on the multiplayer-game flavour of the month can be frustrating!

 

But what else is bugging gamers?

With gaming laptops, in addition to storage space limitations, there are often just not enough ports for extra gaming accessories resulting in a limited system with compromises.

With desktops, PCIe Gen 4 performance is often the envy, with slightly older motherboards and chipsets only running PCIe Gen 3.

Finally, with console gamers, upgrading of the storage with large capacity SSD is a very expensive exercise.

 

This is where the Expanded WD_BLACK Family comes in to play!

The WD_BLACK family is the Western Digital's Performance Gaming Brand. The devices all have a coherent design language that is a stand out amongst the marketplace.

“As game developers move towards creating immersive titles that require higher performance, consumers need to equip themselves with the best tools to stay up-to-speed,” said Jim Welsh, senior vice president, Consumer Solutions, Western Digital. “Innovative, high-performance storage solutions are essential to keep up with this ever- changing landscape. Our latest WD_BLACK products have been purpose-built to allow gamers to meet the increasingly high standards of future games and gaming platforms. We’ve optimised these products to not only provide more storage for gamers but to elevate the gaming experience as a whole.”

 

The Finer Details: The WD_Black SN850 NVMe SSD

WD Blue to WD Black

WD_BLACK SN850 NVMe SSD, or as DRN refers to it internally - the beast. The SN850 is a next generation PCIe Gen4 X4 technology that delivers supremely fast performance for high-intensive gaming. With the WD_BLACK G2 controller custom built for the WD_BLACK SN850 to work seamlessly with in-house firmware and NAND to deliver speed and agility beyond just synthetic benchmarks.

The WD_BLACK SN850 NVMe SSD is optimised for top-tier and high-intensive gaming and aims to help gamers achieve supreme PC performance. It reduces game load times and transfers files faster than its predecessor while using brand new cache technology. It also delivers improved low queue-depth performance over its predecessor, allowing both gaming and everyday users to experience smoother loading of applications. And, for the ultimate in aesthetics and customisation, there will be an optional RGB-enabled heatsink model that cuts down on thermal throttling.

Features include:

Next-gen PCIe Gen4 technology optimised for top-tier gaming

Irrationally fast read/write speeds up to 7000/53000 MB/s and up to 1,000,000 IOPS (1TB and 2 TB models)

Customisable RGB lighting programmable with the WD_BLACK Dashboard (heatsink model only)

Up to 2TB capacity

Sleek heatsink model minimises thermal throttling to push the boundaries of performance

 

The Finer Details: The WD_BLACK AN1500 NVMe SSD Add-in Card

WD BLACK AN1500WD_BLACK AN1500 NVMe SSD Add-in Card for gamers looking to achieve next-gem performance in a current-gen configuration. The AN1500 is a fully bootable plug and play add-in card, and is one of the fastest PCIe Gen3 x8 solutions on the market. Powered by two internal SSDs in RAID 0 and PCIe Gen3 x8 technology, gamers can experience read speeds up to 6500 MB/s and write speeds up to 4100MB/s. Customisable RGB lighting (Windows only) complements your current rig while an integrated heatsink combats thermal throttling to help maintain peak performance.

Features include:

PCIe Gen3 technology to provide access to insane read/write speeds up to 6500/4100 MB/s

Up to 4T capacity to store games

Bootable and easy-to-install RAID0 solution using PCIe slot

Downloadable WD_BLACK Dashboard software to customise and control your gaming experience

Customisable RGB lighting with 13 LED pattern effects programming with the WD_BLACK Dashboard, or seamlessly integrate with most motherboards from major brands (Windows only)

Engineered to minimise thermal throttling with integrated heatsink technology

 

The Finer Details: The WD_BLACK D50 Game Dock and Game Dock NVMe SSD

WD BLACK D50

WD_BLACK D50 Game Dock and Game Dock NVMe SSD is a compact, high-performance gaming dock SSD with heatsink design. It transforms a Thunderbolt 3-compatible laptop into an integrated and immersive gaming station. An optimal solution for gamers looking to streamline their setup, the dock offers superfast speeds with NVMe technology, more capacity for games, and multiple ports for accessories – all powered by a single Thunderbolt 3 cord. The WD_BLACK D50 Game Dock NVMe SSD is complete with customisable RGB lighting controlled through the WD_BLACK Dashboard (Windows only).

 

Features include:

Capacity: 0TB, 1TB, 2TB variants (non user upgradeable)

Up to ~3000MB/s read + ~2500MB/s writer

Connectivity:

Front: 1 x Type-A 10Gb/s "dedicated charging", 1 x Type-C 10Gb/s, 1 x Audio in/out

Back: 2 x Thunderbolt 3 (1 x Thunderbolt 3 for notebook charging up to 87W, 1 x Thunderbolt 3 for additional accessory or display), 1 x Type-C 10Gb/s, 2 x Type-A 10Gb/s, Gigabyte Ethernet, Display Port 1.4 LED indicator light and customisable RGB lighting via WD_BLACK Dashboard

*Works with Thunderbolt PC/Notebook only

 

Availability

D50 Game Dock SSD will be available starting December 2020 at JB Hi-Fi, Officeworks, Harvey Norman and Amazon. Australian prices are $549 (non storage), $849 (1TB) and $1099 (2TB).

AN1500 AIC will be available starting 22 October 2020 at all good computer stores. Australian prices are $399 (1TB), $789 (2TB) and $1499 (4TB).

SN850, the non-heatsink variant, will be available starting 5 November 2020 at all good computer stores. Australian prices are $225 (500GB), $419 (1TB), $839 (2TB).

SN850, the heatsink variant, will be available starting in January 2021 at all good computer stores. Prices to be confirmed.

 

 

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