Western Digital’s Blue SN550 is one of the best, most price-effective NVME SSDs on the market, but a quiet change in manufacturing could ruin its reputation. As reported by the Chinese outlet Expreview, newer versions of the Blue SN550 run on inferior NAND flash, leading to a near 50% decrease in speed.
The WD Blue SN550 relies on SanDisk 96-layer BiCS4 3D TLC NAND flash, which can be identified by the 60523 1T00 part number. But reporters at Expreview noticed that models of the Blue SN550 manufactured in July of 2021 use SanDisk NAND flash with a 002031 1T0 part number. Curiously, the WD Blue SN550 revision also runs on a new firmware, and this firmware will not work on original version of the drive.
During everyday activities, such as browsing or rudimentary photo editing, the two models of WD Blue SN550 perform at virtually identical speeds. But tests by Expreview show that, once the revised Blue SN500’s SLC (single-level cell) cache is filled, it runs at just 390MBps—around 50% slower than the original model. (Tom’s Hardware reports that the original Blue SN550 runs at 610MBps when its SLC cache is filled, so real-world speed differences may vary.)
Western Digital has not commented on this purported speed reduction, which could negatively impact video editors and other professionals who work with large files. If the problem is widespread (and not just a fluke that arrived on Expreview’s workbench), then the company needs to update its Blue SN550 specs sheets. Otherwise, it is knowingly misleading customers.
This is not the first time that an SSD manufacturer has quietly hampered performance using crappy NAND flash hardware, by the way. Crucial was recently caught in this same scandal, for example. Of course, further testing is required to back up Expreview’s observations, and there’s no guarantee that Western Digital is intentionally hurting Blue SN550 performance.
But why would Western Digital use new NAND flash hardware in the first place? Well, unless WD is sourcing cheaper parts to save money, it’s probably trying to navigate global supply shortages. Nearly all tech manufacturers are making compromises to deal with current supply shortages, and in many cases, that means swapping parts to keep up with customer demand.
To give you an idea of just how bad things are getting, Sony’s CFO Hiroki Totoki recently stated that the PlayStation 5 may need to undergo several small revisions to keep up with its current manufacturing volume. In fact, the console has already gone through its first revision less than a year after its launch.