December 4, 2022

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WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Portable SSD Review: Balanced Storage

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Western Digital’s May 2022 What’s Next event saw the launch of new products in the WD_BLACK range. On the portable SSD (PSSD) side, the WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive SSD expanded the company’s strong lineup of offerings in the gaming market. Complementing the popular WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD, the new PSSD retains the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20 Gbps) connection while adding RGB lighting to the case.

The P40 was launched at a much lower price compared to the P50. To achieve a lower price point and make the P40 a mid-range offering, the company has cut some corners, still marketing the device as a 2GBps-class device. The review below presents a detailed evaluation of the WD_BLCK P40 Game Drive SSD and compares it to numerous other PSSDs in the same capacity class. Our analysis reveals use cases where the P40 really makes sense to use without spending much more on the premium P50.

Introduction

Over the past decade, external bus-powered storage devices have grown in both storage capacity and speeds. Thanks to rapid advances in flash technology (including the advent of 3D NAND and NVMe) as well as faster host interfaces (such as Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.x), we now have palm-sized flash-based storage devices. capable of delivering 3GBps+ speeds. While these speeds can be achieved with Thunderbolt, mass market devices must rely on USB. Within the USB ecosystem, USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) is quickly becoming the entry level for flash drives and portable SSDs. Premium devices carrying the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20 Gbps) interface have hit the market in the past few years as host support in desktops and other computing platforms has begun to develop. Broadly speaking, there are five different levels of performance in this market:

  • 2GBps+ devices with Thunderbolt 3 or USB4 using NVMe SSD
  • 2GBps USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 drives using NVMe SSDs or USB Direct Flash Drive (UFD) controllers
  • 1GBps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 2 using NVMe SSD or direct UFD controllers
  • 500MBps USB 3.2 Gen 1 (or Gen 2, in some cases) drives using SATA SSDs
  • Drives below 400MBps with USB 3.2 Gen 1 using UFD controllers

The PSSD we’re looking at today – the WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive – belongs to the second category in the list above. Western Digital’s WD_BLACK range of products is aimed at the gaming market, with an emphasis on performance metrics as well as industrial design / RGB lighting. The company also used the range to introduce new technology to the market – such as the WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD in 2019. It was one of the first 20 Gbps PSSD drives to hit the market when it was launched. This allowed the company to charge a premium for the high-performance product that continues to this day. In an effort to expand the lineup with a mid-range offering, WD released the P40 Game Drive SSD with very similar specs (up to 2000 MBps) earlier this year at a much lower price.

The WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive SSD retains the industrial design and appearance of its premium sibling, while being slightly more compact. One of the key updates appreciated by the target market is the addition of RGB lighting (controllable via WD’s dashboard software) to the case. Instead of shipping two separate cables, WD provides a single Type-C to Type-C cable with an attached Type-C to Type-A adapter.


WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive SSD – Package Contents

The solid aluminum metal body gives the device a sturdy look and eliminates any potential thermal issues during operation.

CrystalDiskInfo provides a quick overview of the PSSD as seen by the host system. The P40 supports SMART passthrough and TRIM as shown in the screenshot below. Compared to the DRAM-equipped SN750E used in the P50, WD uses a DRAM-less SN560E in the P40. The cost savings is reflected in the lower price of the P40 compared to the P50.






SMART Passthrough – CrystalDiskInfo

The table below presents a comparative view of the specifications of the various storage bridges presented in this review.

























Comparative configuration of direct attached storage devices
Aspect
Downstream port 1x PCIe 3.0 x4 (M.2 NVMe) 1x PCIe 3.0 x4 (M.2 NVMe)
Upstream port USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C
Bridge chip ASMedia ASM2364 ASMedia ASM2364
Power Powered by a bus Powered by a bus
Use case A mid-range 2GBps, compact and robust portable SSD in a gumstick form factor aimed at the gaming market A premium 2GBps class, compact and robust portable SSD in a gumstick form factor aimed at the gaming market
Physical dimensions 107mm x 51mm x 13mm 118mm x 62mm x 14mm
Weight 79 grams (without cable) 115 grams (without cable)
Cable 30 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C to Type-C
Attached Type-C Female to Type-A Male Adapter (Resulting Type-C to Type-A Cable Length: 33cm)
30 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C to Type-C
30 cm USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C to Type-A
SMART Passthrough Yes Yes
UASP support Yes Yes
TRIM Passthrough Yes Yes
Hardware encryption Is not available Is not available
Rated storage Western Digital SN560E PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 2280 NVMe SSD
SanDisk / Toshiba BiCS 5 112L 3D TLC
Western Digital SN750E PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 2280 NVMe SSD
SanDisk / Toshiba BiCS 4 96L 3D TLC
Price 130 USD 210 USD
Review link WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive SSD 1TB Review WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD 1TB Review #1 (2020)
WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD 1TB Review #2 (2021)

Before looking at the benchmark numbers, power consumption and efficiency of the thermal solution, a description of the test bench setup and evaluation methodology is provided.

Test bench setup and evaluation methodology

Direct-attached storage devices are evaluated using a Quartz Canyon NUC (essentially the Xeon / ECC version of the Ghost Canyon NUC) configured with 2x 16GB DDR4-2667 ECC SODIMMs and a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD – IM2P33E8 1TB from ADATA.

The most attractive aspect of the Quartz Canyon NUC is the presence of two PCIe slots (electrical, x16 and x4) for add-on cards. In the absence of a separate GPU – for which there is no need for the DAS test bench – both slots are available. In fact, we also added a spare SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe SSD to the M.2 22110 slot with a direct CPU attachment in the motherboard to avoid DMI bottlenecks when evaluating Thunderbolt 3 devices. This still allows for two additional cards , running on x8 (x16 electric) and x4 (x4 electric). Since the Quartz Canyon NUC does not have its own USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port, the Silverstone SST-ECU06 add-on card was installed in the x4 slot. All non-Thunderbolt devices are tested using a Type-C port enabled by the SST-ECU06.

The test bench specifications are summarized in the table below:












AnandTech DAS Testbed 2021 configuration
System Intel Quartz Canyon NUC9vXQNX
processor Intel Xeon E-2286M
memory ADATA Industrial AD4B3200716G22
32 GB (2x 16 GB)
DDR4-3200 ECC @ 22-22-22-52
OS Drive ADATA Industrial IM2P33E8 NVMe 1TB
Secondary disk SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D SSD 1TB
Additional card SilverStone Tek SST-ECU06 USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C Host
OS Windows 10 Enterprise x64 (21H1)
Thanks to ADATA, Intel and SilverStone Tek for the build components

Test bench hardware is only one segment of the evaluation. Over the past few years, typical direct-attach storage workloads for memory cards have also evolved. High-bitrate 4K videos at 60 frames per second have become quite common, and 8K videos are starting to appear. Game install sizes are also growing steadily even on portable gaming consoles, thanks to high-resolution textures and artwork. With this in mind, our evaluation scheme for direct-attached storage devices includes multiple workloads, which are detailed in the relevant sections.

  • Synthetic workloads using CrystalDiskMark and ATTO
  • Tracks real-world access using the PCMark 10 storage test
  • Custom robocopy workloads reflecting typical DAS usage
  • Sequential Enrollment Stress Test

In the next section, we have an overview of the performance of the WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive SSD in these benchmarks. Before providing the closing remarks, we have some observations on the power consumption values ​​of the device and the thermal solution as well.



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