WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Portable SSD in review: Balanced storage

WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Portable SSD in review: Balanced storage

New products in the WD_BLACK lineup were unveiled at the What’s Next Western Digital event in May 2022. On the portable SSD (PSSD) front, the WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive SSD expanded the company’s strong offering in the gaming market. Complementing the popular WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD, the new PSSD kept the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20Gbps) connection and added RGB lighting to the chassis.

The P40 was launched at a much lower price compared to the P50. To match the lower price point and make the P40 a mid-range offering, the company has cut some corners and continues to advertise the drive as a 2GBps-class drive. The following review provides a detailed assessment of the WD_BLCK P40 Game Drive SSD and compares it to a variety of other PSSDs in the same capacity class. Our analysis shows use cases in which the P40 can be used sensibly without spending much more for the premium P50.

introduction

External bus-powered storage devices have increased in both storage capacity and speed over the past decade. Thanks to rapid advances in flash technology (including the advent of 3D NAND and NVMe) and faster host interfaces (like 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 (10Gbps) is fast becoming the entry-level USB flash drive and portable SSD. Premium devices with the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20Gbps) interface have emerged in recent years, with host support becoming increasingly important in desktops and other computing platforms. Broadly speaking, there are five different performance levels in this market:

  • 2GBps+ drives with Thunderbolt 3 or USB4 using NVMe SSDs
  • 2Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 drives using NVMe SSDs or USB Direct Flash Drive (UFD) controllers
  • 1 Gbps drives with USB 3.2 Gen 2, with NVMe SSDs or direct UFD controllers
  • 500Mbps USB 3.2 Gen 1 (or Gen 2 in some cases) drives with SATA SSDs
  • Drives under 400MB/s and USB 3.2 Gen 1 with 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 product line targets the gaming market with an emphasis on performance numbers and industrial design/RGB lighting. The company has also used the lineup to launch new technologies – such as the WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD in 2019. It was one of the first 20Gbps PSSDs to hit the market when it was launched . This allowed the company to charge a premium for the high-performance product, which continues to this day. In an attempt to add a mid-range offering to the lineup, WD released the P40 Game Drive SSD earlier this year with very similar specs (up to 2000MB/s) at a much lower price point.

The WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive SSD maintains the industrial design and looks of its premium sibling but is slightly more compact. One of the main innovations, appreciated by the target market, is the addition of RGB lighting to the case (controllable via WD’s Dashboard software). Instead of providing two separate cables, WD ships a single Type-C to Type-C cable with a Type-C to Type-A adapter attached.

WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive SSD – Box Contents

The solid aluminum metal case gives the drive a robust look and eliminates all possible thermal problems 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-populated SN750E used in the P50, WD uses a DRAM-less SN560E in the P40. The cost savings result in a lower price for the P40 compared to the P50.

SMART Passthrough – CrystalDiskInfo

The table below shows a comparative view of the specifications of the different memory bridges presented in this report.

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
perfomance bus operated bus operated
use case Compact and rugged mid-range 2Gbps portable SSD in a rubber pencil form factor for the gaming market Premium, compact and rugged 2Gbps portable SSD in a gumstick form factor for the gaming market
Dimensions 107mm x 51mm x 13mm 118mm x 62mm x 14mm
weight 79 grams (without cable) 115 grams (without cable)
Cable 30cm USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C to Type-C
Fixed Type-C female to Type-A male adapter (resulting Type-C to Type-A cable length: 33 cm)
30cm 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 Not available Not available
Evaluated memory 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 $210
review link WD_BLACK P40 Game Drive SSD 1 TB in review WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD 1TB Review #1 (2020)
WD_BLACK P50 Game Drive SSD 1TB Review #2 (2021)

Before considering the benchmark numbers, power consumption and thermal solution effectiveness, a description of the testbed setup and evaluation methodology is provided.

Testbed setup and evaluation methodology

Direct attached storage devices will be evaluated using the 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 – the IM2P33E8 1TB by 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 discrete GPU—which isn’t needed in a DAS testbed—both slots are available. In fact, we added an additional SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe SSD to the CPU’s directly attached M.2 22110 slot on the baseboard to avoid DMI bottlenecks when evaluating Thunderbolt 3 devices. This still allows for two add-on cards operating at x8 (x16 electric) and x4 (x4 electric). Since the Quartz Canyon NUC does not have a native USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port, Silverstone’s SST-ECU06 add-in card was installed in the x4 slot. All non-Thunderbolt devices are tested with the Type-C port enabled by the SST-ECU06.

The specifications of the test bench are summarized in the table below:

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

The testbed hardware is only one segment of the evaluation. In recent years, the typical direct-attached storage workloads for memory cards have also evolved. High bitrate, 60 frames per second 4K video is now widely available, and 8K video is gradually emerging. Thanks to high-resolution textures and graphics, the installation sizes of games have steadily increased, even in portable game consoles. With this in mind, our evaluation scheme for direct-attached storage devices includes several workloads, which are detailed in the relevant sections.

  • Synthetic workloads with CrystalDiskMark and ATTO
  • Real access tracks with the PCMark 10 memory benchmark
  • Custom Robocopy workloads that reflect typical DAS usage
  • Sequential write 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 we make any final comments, we also have some observations on the device’s power consumption and thermal solution.

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