For such a big noise in storage, Western Digital is awfully late to the SSD game. It's enough to make you suspect WD has been in a sulk for the past year or two.
Only now is it reluctantly facing up to the undeniable fact that solid state is clearly the future. The millions, perhaps even billions, of dollars it has buried in the development of spinning magnetic platters are soon to be as nought.
But no matter. We're much more interested in the performance, reliability and value proposition of WD's first solid state drive launch than its timing or emotional disposition. Enter, therefore, the new SiliconEdge Blue 256GB.
In WD's new colour coded nomenclature Green drives are tuned for energy efficiency, Blue are mainstream items and Black indicates ninjascopic performance.
The context here is SSDs, of course, so don't go thinking this drive's mainstream status translates into affordability. Frankly, prices for the SiliconEdge Blue are all over the e-shop. But as we go to press the lowest is £415. Hardly affordable, then, but certainly competitive with other 256GB SSDs.
Intriguingly, WD says compatibility and reliability rather than speed are the focus for this drive. That's something we're perfectly happy to hear. There's no shortage of SSDs that deliver lightning throughput out of the box. The problem usually comes a month later as performance falls off a cliff. If this drive can deliver sustainable long term grunt, it'll be a winner.
Our number one concern is the identity of the controller. Worryingly, this isn't something WD is being terribly forthcoming about. But our best info suggests that it comes from JMicron. For many an SSD aficionado the mere mention of a JMicron controller co-existing in the same postcode as an SSD is cause for concern.
But fear not. The controller in question is not the infamous, stuttering JMF602. Rather it's likely to be the new JMF612. What's more, it's backed up by 64MB of speedy DDR2 memory and feeds into 256GB of the latest Samsung MLC flash memory.
It's also worth noting that WD claims to have cooked up a custom version of Jmicron's firmware tuned for compatibility and reliability.
As for claimed performance, the official peak figures clock in at 250MB/s read and 170MB/s write. Not world beating stuff but more than good enough if maintained over time, then.
And for the record, yes, this drive does support the memory-block cleaning TRIM command. All of which just leaves us with the minor matter of actual performance.
Out of the box, things look good with peak read and write performance broadly in line with the claims. Even better is the random write performance. Often a weak point for SSDs, Western Digital finds itself losing out significantly only to drives based on Intel's technology.
But what about long term performance? After a quick brim-and-empty cycle we did detect a fall off in both peak and random performance, but it was very small indeed.
As with any new SSD, we're reluctant to give an unreserved buy recommendation. But WD's first foray certainly looks promising.
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