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WD Black SN850X vs Seagate Firecuda 530 SSD Comparison

31 août 2022 à 01:16

PCIe 4 NVMe SSD Comparison – WD Black SN850X vs Seagate Firecuda 530

In all my years of covering the subject of storage here on the blog, there are a few brand rivalries that stand out more than any other – and when it comes to HDDs and SSDs it has always been Western Digital vs Seagate! These two brands are grown into the two biggest names in storage, recognizable both inside/outside of the industry as the go-to media makers! In the Hard Drive industry, these two brands dominate more than 2/3 of the industry, but when it comes to SSDs, things get a little more complex. You see, Seagate utilizes long-running partnerships with 3rd Party companies such as Phison, Micron and SK-Hynix, whereas WD develops their SSDs using in-house teams and acquired companies that are part of the Western Digital family, such as Sandisk and HGST. This means that although both brands are targeting the same areas of the solid-state storage industry, their results arrive with very different architecture that ends up prioritizing very different user needs. Today I want to compare the two fastest PCIe4 M.2 NVMe SSDs that either company has ever commercially released (to date). The 2021 released Seagate Firecuda 530 and the Summer 2022 released WD Black SN850X (not to be confused with the 2020 released original WD Black SN850).

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

500GB – $119.99, 1TB – $159.99, 2TB – $299.99, 4TB – $729.99

WD Black SN850X

1TB – $159, 2TB – $289, 4TB –$699

PCIe Generation PCIe Gen 4 PCIe Gen 4
NVMe Rev NVMe 1.4 NVMe 1.4
NAND 3D TLC Micron B47R 176L BiCS4 114L TLC
Max Capacity 4TB – Double Sided 4TB
Controller Phison E18-PS5018 WD_BLACK G2 NVMe Controller
Warranty 5yr + 3yr Data Recovery (Rescue) 5yr
NASCompares Review
NASComapres YouTube Review
 

I want to look at these two SSDs and compare them on Price, Value, Architecture, Performance and Durability, in order to help you decide which of these two SSDs is best for your PC or PS5 Storage needs. Let’s begin.

WD Black SN850X vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – Price & Capacity

Now, the prices below for the Seagate Firecuda 530 and WD Black SN850X SSD are from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk as of August 9th 2022 and do not take into account any promotions/deals. It is worth highlighting that due to a huge range of reasons (hardware shortages locally, cost of living rises affecting buy patterns, post-pandemic supply chain issues and a pain in the bum that was Chia crypto currency in 2021) the price and availability of SSDs have been particularly unstable. Still, even if we JUST look at this snapshot of the pricing of these drives, spread across the available capacities, we can definitely see that the prices for the WD Black SN850X are unusually mixed across the different currencies. Now, the Seagate Firecuda has been in the market much longer now and has had time to spread itself out and have a more balanced pricing structure (much as the original SN850 did a couple of years ago).

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

WD Black SN850X

500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 N/A
Price in $ and $ $139 / £119 N/A
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T2X0E
Price in $ and $ $189 / £159 $159 / £159**
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T2X0E
Price in $ and $ $399 / £359 $289 / £309**
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013 WDS400T2X0E
Price in $ and $ $799 / £769 $699 / £749**

Nevertheless, there is no avoiding the fact that the Seagate Firecuda 530 is almost always going to be the more expensive choice over the WD Black SN850X, wherever you are in the world. Now, it is worth remembering that Price is not everything, whereas as VALUE is much more significant – AKA what you GET for your money. In this area, it could be argued that the Seagate Firecuda 530 (despite it’s 10-15% higher price tag) gives you a tiny bit more. The higher layer density NAND of 176L, the higher durability (will touch on that later) and the inclusive forensic level data recovery services all add up to (in the eyes of many) justifying that increased spend. Now, it should be highlighted that only a small % of users will likely use/see the benefits in these and once you cost up the budget of your kit, chances are that this small price diff (particularly in bulk/RAID builds) is going to mount up, but it would be remiss to ignore it.

WD Black SN850X SSD = Best Price

Seagate Firecuda 530 = Best Value

*TBC at the time of writing and will be addressed/confirmed later. The video below will break down the definitions and meaning of the terms used throughout this review and the comparison tables

** Pricing for the SN850X is quite varied online at launch and regardless of tax and currency exchange rates, the pricing here (taken from the official WD store and then undated with Amazon pricing) seems a bit uneven. This will hopefully even out soon.


WD Black SN850X vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – Reported Read & Write Speed

Next, we should discuss the traditional sequential performance of the Seagate Firecuda 530 and WD Black SN850X SSD, as this is by far the most common way drives have been compared (despite the rise in importance of IOPS and durability when it comes to SSDs, in the eyes of many the ‘MB/s’ and ‘GB/s’ figure will always reign supreme). As both of these drives are part of the m.2 PCIe 4 x4 NVMe generation of SSDs, that means that each drive has 8,000MB/s of PCIe bandwidth to attempt to saturate and, frankly, they do an incredible job of it! Now, it is important to keep things relative when you see performance stats, as the capacity of the drive plays a HUGE part in hitting higher speeds. The reason for this is because the actual storage on an SSD is the NAND, one or more modules on the PCB that scale in density and frequency depending on the scale of the drive total capacity. So, for example, a 1TB SSD will either be a single block of NAND at 1024GB or two blocks of NAND at 512GB. Two blocks mean that the drive can be read/written to twice as much and tends to increase performance in most cases. This same logic extends to higher capacities (e.g. 2TB = 1x 1TB or 4x 512GB) and depending on the quality of the NAND (e.g MLC vs TLC, or 96L vs 176L) and factors such as power use and heat, different SSD brands tend to pick their physical architecture differently. This is very much the case when it comes to the Seagate Firecuda 530 and WD Black SN850X SSD, meaning that the scaling performance of each drive model as you jump between each capacity tier is quite pronounced. Note that sequential performance refers to big ‘blocks/blobs’ of data when data, not hugely spread across the drive in small chunks (that is more accurately measurable in IOPS, which we will touch on in a bit). Another key point to remember is that these reported speeds are supplied by the brands themselves, in test scenarios running high high end CPU+GPU combos (eg, 12-16 Core Xeon/Ryzen and 64GB Memory) that they represent to maximum performance possible, but domestic and mid-range commercial users are going to hit max performance thresholds a good 10-15% lower. Use the links at the top of the article to see the full testing and benchmarks of the WD Black SN850X and Seagate Firecuda 530 in my 11th gen i5 + 16GB RAM setup.

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

WD Black SN850X

500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 N/A
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7000MB N/A
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 3000MB N/A
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T2X0E
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7300MB 7300MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 6000MB 6300MB
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T2X0E
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7300MB 7300MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 6900MB 6600MB
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013 WDS400T2X0E
Sequential Read (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 7300MB 7300MB
Sequential Write (Max, MB/s), 128 KB 6900MB 6600MB

Now, both drives here predominantly hit the reported maximum 7,300MB/s sequential read figure on the bulk Terabyte scale drives, which is very good indeed and largely saturates the maximum potential bandwidth of PCIe4 nicely. The write performance is a fraction different (as write performance typically has a pinch more work to do than read) and on that score, the Seagate Firecuda 530 takes a small lead, at 6900MB over 6600MB on the larger capacities. Alot of this advantage comes down too the NAND on the Seagate, in two very clear ways. 1) the NAND is 176L and of a higher density count and 2) the 2TB on the Seagate is double-sided (4x 512GB modules) and the spread is still better on the 4TB in memory chips and NAND as well. The WD Black SN850X is a tremendous leap in Write (and partially Read) over the WD Black SN850 released almost 2 years previously and the increased range of a 4TB option is great news, but when it comes to traditional transfer sequential performance, the Seagate Firecuda 530 wins on points.

Seagate Firecuda 530 = Best Sequential Performance


WD Black SN850X vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – Reported IOPS

Now, unlike the traditional performance benchmarks of transfer speeds in sequential Read/Write, IOPS has a much more important place in modern SSD use – especially as we start to see the capabilities of CPU, Memory and GPUs to harness the bandwidth of PCIe NVMe (such as Microsoft Direct Storage and modern gen consoles). Because modern high-scale computer processes (databases, loading game sandboxes and AI engines) use incremental loading and in-world loading on the fly, the abilities of an SSD to load vast numbers of smaller assets into the memory (either directly towards the GPU or unpacked by the CPU first) is incredibly important. The IOPS figure presented by SSD manufacturers is presented as a 4K random IOPS operation in Read and Write (4K being an incredibly small packet size and random, meaning constantly accessing data locations across the NAND). Both the Seagate Firecuda 530 and the WD Black SN850X SSD score very, very high in IOPS (once again, based on high-end PC hardware and benchmarks by the brand themselves) and either one will do a fantastic job of loading/recording vast scales of low-volume/high-frequency data – but which one does it better?

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

WD Black SN850X

500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 N/A
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 400,000 N/A
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 700,000 N/A
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T2X0E
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 800000 800,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1000000 1,100,000
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T2X0E
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000 1,200,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000 1,100,000
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013 WDS400T2X0E
Random Read (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000 1,200,000
Random Write (Max, IOPS), 4 KB QD32 1,000,000 1,100,000

The WD Black SN850X has an almost clean sweep of the board here compared with the Seagate Firecuda 530, almost consistently living in the 1.1-1.2 Million IOPS reported mark. This is not a huge surprise and alot of this can be attributed to the in-house development of the hardware on board being much more fixed in its intended use. The Phison/Micron architecture of the Seagate Firecuda 530 is exceptionally good, but these components are used in several other branded SSDs in the market (Sabrent, Gigabyte, Kingston, MSI and PNY just to name a few) and that means they need to be a little more malleable. Much like the SN850 before it, the WD Black SN850X is extremely well geared to high volume and frequency operations and at 1.2 million ops per second is practically the highest in the PCIe4 M.2 NVMe sector right now commercially.

WD Black SN850X SSD = Highest IOPS Rating


WD Black SN850X vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – NASCompares Tests

Now, up to this point, we have been looking at the reported maximum performance of the WD Black SN850X and Seagate Firecuda 530 that was benchmarked by the respective brands. Although these are tremendously useful figures in isolating the max read/write for them both, the systems that they are tested with do not really represent the average user. So, in my reviews and benchmark video/article for each SSD, I use a Windows 10 Pro machine, running on an Intel Core i5 6-Core 11th Gen Processor, 16GB of DDR4 2666Mhz Memory and the M.2 NVMe SSD for the review being accessed as an additional drive (not OS, but still on a PCIe Gen 4×4 m.2 bandwidth slot). These are some of the results of that testing in traditional performance and IOPS:

Seagate Firecuda 530 ATTO 4GB Test R/W WD Black SN850X ATTO 4GB Test R/W

 

Seagate Firecuda 530 Crystal Disk 4GB Test R/W WD Black SN850X Crystal Disk 4GB Test R/W

 

Seagate Firecuda 530 AS SSD 5GB IOPS WD Black SN850X AS SSD 5GB IOPS

 

Seagate Firecuda 530 Temperature During Tests WD Black SN850X Temperature During Tests

Now, as you can see from the testing, there WAS an unfortunate hurdle of the Seagate Firecuda 530 being a 1TB and the WD Black SN850X being a 2TB! This was unfortunately unavailable, as I did not have comparable drives of capacity available from each bran’s SSD at the time, so these results need to have that VERY important piece of context taken into account and the write performance is too different to rely upon, because of how the NAND was distributed). However, in terms of Read performance in transfer rates and IOPS, we can still draw accurate comparisons. In all tests (with the exception of the Crystal Disk 4GB test and early parts of the ATTO tests), the WD Black SN850X was faster than the Seagate Firecuda 530 by a pinch in Seq Read and a noticeable jump higher in IOPS (even if you discount the capacity difference). In contrast, though, the Seagate Firecuda ran much lower in temp throughout all the testing (either though both were using quick large and highly proficient m.2 heatsinks).

WD Black SN850X SSD = Best Overall Performer in a Domestic PC

Seagate Firecuda 530 = Ran Much Lower Temp Throughout


WD Black SN850X vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – Endurance & Durability

Unlike the other points in this comparison of the Seagate Firecuda 530 and WD Black SN850X, the Endurance and Durability of an SSD is an area that is overlooked often enough that I wanted to take a moment to focus a little more on this – you can thank you years from now! The importance of SSD durability and endurance in 2022/2023 is actually pretty massive. Now that the devices we use all feature incredibly powerful processors, often cloud/network hybrid AI processes and graphical handling that will be instantly bottlenecked by traditional hard drives, SSDs are no longer just the ‘boot’ drive for our OS and are now the day to day working drive. This combined with SSD being used as caching and larger SSD capacities allowing suitable substitution for HDDs entirely means that the CONSTANT concern about SSDs lifespan and the durability of those NAND cells is now quite paramount. SSDs wear out – it’s as simple as that. The more you write, the more wear those individual NAND cells suffer – degrading performance over the years and inevitably leading to drive failure. Likewise, the smaller the drive, the greater likelihood that you will be writing, then rewriting, then rewriting, time and time again. The Seagate Firecuda 530 and WD Black SN850X are no exception and alongside massive research and development in better controllers and interfaces to improve performance, the way NAND is improved has led to SSDs lasting lover than ever before. However, SSDs and NAND are not built equally and there is actually quite a large difference in durability between the WD Black SN850X and the Seagate Firecuda 530. The Storage industry typically measures the predicted durability and endurance of an SSD as TBW, DWPD and MTBF. They are:

TBW = Terabytes Written, rated as the total number of terabytes that this SSD can have written to it in its warranty-covered lifespan. So if the TBW was 300TB and the warranty is 5 years of coverage, that would mean that the drive can receive on average (with deleting/overwriting data each repeatedly) 60 Terabytes per year (or 5TB a month). After this point, the manufacturer highlights that durability, endurance and performance will decline. Often highlighted as an alternative to warranty length when gauging the predicted lifespan of a SSD.

DWPD = Drive Writes Per Day / Data Writes Per Day, this is a decimalized figure that represents what proportion of the capacity of an SSD (where 1.0 = 100% capacity) can be filled, erased and/or rewritten on a daily basis. This is provided using the warranty period and TBW figure. So, for example, if a 500GB drive has a 0.3DWPD rating, that is approx 150GB of data per day

MTBF = Mean Time Between Failure, which is the interval between one failure of an SSD and the next. MTBF is expressed in hours and most industrial SSDs are rated in the Millions of Hours. MTBF and MTTF (Mean Time to Failure) have largely become overlooked in recent years in favour of TBW and DWPD in SSDs, but are still stated on most Data Sheets.

So, now you know what those large Terbyte stats, hours and decimal point details are on the average SSD datasheet. So where do the Seagate Firecuda 530 and WD Black SN850X stand on this:

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

WD Black SN850X

500GB Model ZP500GM3A013 N/A
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 640TB N/A
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 1,800,000 N/A
DWPD 0.7DWPD N/A
1TB Model ZP1000GM3A013 WDS100T2X0E
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 1275TB 600TB
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 1,800,000 1,750,000
DWPD 0.7DWPD 0.3DWPD
2TB Model ZP2000GM3A013 WDS200T2X0E
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 2550TB 1200TB
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 1,800,000 1,750,000
DWPD 0.7DWPD 0.3DWPD
4TB Model ZP4000GM3A013 WDS400T2X0E
Total Terabytes Written (TBW) 5100TB 2400TB
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF, hours) 1,800,000 1,750,000
DWPD 0.7DWPD 0.3DWPD
Note – Seagate Firecuda 530 includes 3yrs Data Recovery

This is pretty much a solid victory for the Seagate Firecuda 530 over the WD Black SN850X SSD. That higher quality NAND and higher quantity NAND distribution of modules on the PCB (and perhaps the running temperature too, but that is unconfirmed) with everything running for longer on the Seagate drive, as well as the inclusive data recovery services being thrown in too (either as a safety net or a guarantee of the quality – whose to say) means that the Seagate Firecuda 530, despite it’s slightly higher price point in most eShops, definitely being the more durable drive of the two.

WD Black SN850X vs Seagate Firecuda 530 – Conclusion

There is a good reason why the WD Black SN850X and Seagate Firecuda 850X still continue to be two of the most popular PCIe4 M.2 SSDs in the market – they are both such outstanding drives! So comparing them was never going to be easy. The WD Black SN850X is the better drive for mixed-use, PC gamers and post-production, thanks to it’s higher IOPS rating and excellent sustained performance ratings (though keep an eye on the heat in laptop usage). The Seagate Firecuda is the better choice for professional esports gamers, PS5 and use in large-scale databases, where an element of 24×7 use and high data recycle rates come into play. Both are excellent drives and deserve their places at the top of the food chain of consumer SSDs in 2022 and whichever one you choose, you will have an insanely capable SSD in your system for years to come!

Brand/Series Seagate Firecuda 530

WD Black SN850X

Best Performance
Best Endurance/Durability  
Best Price for TB  
Best Extras  
Best Value  
Where To Buy

 

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