Western Digital, and its subsidiary SanDisk, have had some of the best performing planar TLC SATA SSD components in recent memory, so the bar is high for a new generation of SSDs. This review covers two drives which have the same design but differ in name only: the SanDisk Ultra 3D 1TB, and the Western Digital WD Blue 3D 1TB. Each drive will be targeted to the customer bases that appeal to each brand name.

The new drives don't change the basic formula that has worked in the past: the controller is the same Marvell 88SS1074 used in the original WD Blue SSD, and SanDisk is still developing the firmware in-house. SanDisk was a relatively early adopter of TLC NAND flash for consumer SSDs, starting with the Ultra II introduced in 2014. Prior to adopting 3D NAND, they had already moved to using TLC for their mainstream client drives, not just for entry level products. The original WD Blue SSD from last year used 15nm TLC, as did their flagship business/OEM SanDisk X400 client SSD.

SanDisk's 3D NAND, now in its third generation, is finally ready for mainstream SSDs. The NAND is a BiCS3 3D design, which uses a 64-layer charge trap flash design and is shared with Toshiba's 3D NAND. Western Digital has launched this 3D NAND in the retail market with a SATA drive that is being sold under both their SanDisk and WD brands. Like almost all current consumer SSDs with 3D NAND, the new SanDisk Ultra 3D and WD Blue 3D NAND SSD uses 3D TLC NAND flash.

Toshiba's version of this 3D NAND debuted in the Toshiba XG5 M.2 NVMe SSD for the OEM market, a drive we were quite impressed by. The SATA interface will limit how much the drives in this review can improve performance over their planar TLC predecessors, but there's still some room for improvement, especially around power consumption.

SanDisk Ultra 3D and WD Blue 3D NAND Specifications
Capacity 250 GB 500 GB 1TB 2TB
Controller Marvell 88SS1074
NAND SanDisk 64-layer 3D TLC
Form Factor 2.5" 7mm
M.2 2280 (WD Blue only)
Sequential Read 550 MB/s 560 MB/s 560 MB/s 560 MB/s
Sequential Write 525 MB/s 530 MB/s 530 MB/s 530 MB/s
4KB Random Read IOPS 95k 95k 95k 95k
4KB Random Write IOPS 81k 84k 84k 84k
Idle Power (Slumber) 56 mW
Idle Power (DevSlp) 5-7 mW 5-12 mW
Write Endurance 100 TB 200 TB 400 TB 500 TB
Warranty Three years
MSRP $94.99 $164.99 $309.99 $619.99

The new WD Blue 3D NAND serves as the successor to the original WD Blue SSD, while the SanDisk Ultra 3D is a long-overdue replacement for the Ultra II. Both of the new products use the same technology under the hood; they differ primarily in the stickers on the outside of the drive and the retail packaging it arrives in. The product family includes capacities from 250GB to 2TB, and there is a M.2 SATA version available under the WD Blue branding. (The 2TB M.2 WD Blue 3D NAND has been announced but is not yet available.)

The performance and power specifications of the new WD/SanDisk drives are typical for a mainstream or high-end SATA SSD. Endurance ratings are good at slightly more than 0.3 drive writes per day, except for the 2TB model that is rated for just over 0.2 DWPD over the course of the three-year warranty.

For this review, Western Digital provided a 1TB WD Blue 3D NAND and a 1TB SanDisk Ultra 3D. Since these drives only differ cosmetically, their benchmark results should theoretically be the same. Any variations are due either to variability in our own tests, or to manufacturing variability that would be similar for two samples of the same model. We requested different capacities, which may come at a later date, although companies like to show off their best hand first - a 1TB drive is in peak of performance while not being as power hungry as a 2TB drive. It would still be interesting to get the other drives in to test, however.

This review will compare the WD Blue 3D NAND and the SanDisk Ultra 3D against the following drives:

  • Last year's WD Blue, using SanDisk 15nm TLC and the same Marvell 88SS1074 controller
  • The SanDisk X400, a slightly earlier drive using the same planar TLC and Marvell controller as the original WD Blue, but with different firmware and less overprovisioning.
  • The Crucial MX300, Crucial BX300 and Intel 545s, representing all three variants of Intel/Micron 3D NAND that have hit the market so far. The MX300 uses 32L 3D TLC and the Marvell 88SS1074 and is the closest competitor to the new WD/SanDisk drives.
  • The Samsung 850 PRO and 850 EVO, using Samsung 3D NAND and Samsung controllers.
  • The Patriot Ignite 960GB, OCZ VX500 and OCZ Trion 150 (now branded TR150), all using 15nm planar NAND from Toshiba and thus comparable to the previous generation WD/SanDisk drives, but with controllers from Phison and Toshiba instead of Marvell.
AnandTech 2017 SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1703
Linux kernel version 4.12, fio version 2.21
AnandTech Storage Bench - The Destroyer
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  • MrSpadge - Thursday, September 14, 2017 - link

    The production cost is pretty much the same, be it SATA or PCIe. So "SATA being tapped" doesn't help price at all, except for the fact that manufacturers can't bill you for extra performance. But that was always the case with the slower SSDs.
  • nathanddrews - Friday, September 15, 2017 - link

    I know it's not realistic, hence "it would just be nice if".
  • CheapSushi - Sunday, September 17, 2017 - link

    V-NAND QLC will make that happen. I think for bulk storage, QLC SATA drives will be perfect for that duty and will decrease price per GB.
  • Magichands8 - Thursday, September 14, 2017 - link

    Unfortunately, it's still about 3 times more expensive than it should be for it to be viable. Still wouldn't buy either as they're both crippled by the SATA interface but hey, at least they got the form factor right by offering them in 2.5".
  • MajGenRelativity - Thursday, September 14, 2017 - link

    I'm not aware of any SSDs that are 1/3 the price, and there certainly aren't any that are 1/3 the price and have competitive performance. The SATA interface will not be going away for a while, and most people don't need the performance afforded by PCIe
  • DanNeely - Thursday, September 14, 2017 - link

    I assume he's sulking because it's still about 5-6x as expensive as spinning rust. ($50 for the 1TB blue at 5400 RPM on amazon). I haven't seen any more recent projections but as of a a year ago the crossover in price per TB was predicted to occur in the mid 2020's; so we've still got a way to go.
  • MajGenRelativity - Thursday, September 14, 2017 - link

    Fair point, but SSDs are still viable without a price drop, mass-market adoption is what requires the price drop
  • Magichands8 - Friday, September 15, 2017 - link

    Oh I don't mind paying a premium for the SSD tech but I do mind the ridiculously inflated prices and performance bottlenecks that we've had to put up with for years and years. From the other posts here it's obvious that there are a lot of people comfortable with that though and willing if not eager to pay very high prices for low capacity and low performance drives even while manufacturers have had years to differentiate their products. Even when said people must know of the supply shortages and the impending lower prices only a matter of months away. Like I've said before, drives like these might be real last ditch options for people in a crunch who absolutely need a replacement drive immediately or perhaps some other niche reason. But otherwise it just doesn't make much sense.
  • CheapSushi - Sunday, September 17, 2017 - link

    Are you saying this because you want to have ONE drive in your system to function as a performance panacea? I can see why someone would advocate for that particular setup if JUST a gamer with a mini-ITX system. But with ATX systems, there's nothing wrong with multiple drives; fom NVMe Optane, to NVMe PCIe to AHCI SATA, each have a place.
  • Magichands8 - Sunday, September 17, 2017 - link

    EVERYONE should advocate for that setup. You're obviously very accustomed to think it natural for someone to have 3 or 4 different kinds of storage to achieve their goal(s). Are you telling me that if I offered you a single drive and interface that satisfied all of those rolls you would reject it? Are you actually advocating that computer users should be FORCED to compromise at every step of the way when they use their system?

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