Earlier this week, news broke that Western Digital was shipping WD Blue SN550 drives with QLC NAND instead of the TLC NAND the drives had launched with. This had a significant negative impact on the drive’s performance when the SLC cache was exhausted.
Currently, a number of companies are known to be engaging in this type of behavior, though not all of them have switched from TLC to QLD NAND. Adata, Crucial, WD, and Samsung have all recently made significant drive changes without notifying customers. ExtremeTech and other tech websites have challenged companies to cease this behavior, and Western Digital has taken some significant action to redress the situation.
A Western Digital spokesperson who contacted ExtremeTech on Thursday told us the following:
[I]n June 2021, we replaced the NAND in the WD Blue SN550 NVMe SSD and updated the firmware. At the time, we updated the product data sheet. For greater transparency going forward, if we make a change to an existing internal SSD, we commit to introducing a new model number whenever any related published specifications are impacted. We value our customers and are committed to providing the best possible solutions for their data storage needs.
When we inquired if the company would offer redress to customers who had purchased the WD Blue SN550 but had not received the performance they paid for, the spokesperson told us:
For any WD Blue SN550 NVMe SSD with the new configuration that is under warranty but does not meet performance requirements, customers can reach out to our Customer Service team for assistance with replacement.
The SN550 comes with a five-year warranty, so this should literally cover any drive.
While we would like to see the currently ambiguous SN550 solution split into two separate SKUs, this change in position offers customers who might not have gotten the drive they paid for a way to solve the problem.
The current SN550 maintains its original performance while the SLC cache is full — it only drops if the cache empties. Whether that’s a problem is up to the end-user. The original version of the drive performed more consistently and is significantly faster, but if you’ve already put the drive into service, it may be a significant headache to remove it.
Our guidance on whether you should seek a replacement is this: QLC NAND is intended for relatively light workloads where reads are more important than writes. If you bought one of these drives as cool storage for photos or video and you don’t normally perform 150GB+ file copies, it should be fine. If you bought it for light workloads, it should be fine. If you’ve been perfectly happy with your SN550 to date, you don’t see your needs changing, and swapping it out for RMA would be a headache, you may not need to worry about it.
If you bought an SN550 that didn’t meet your performance expectations, we suggest contacting WD. Please let us know how it goes. Thank you to Expreview for surfacing this story. We’ll be keeping an eye on this, but we’re glad to see WD moving to promptly address the issue.
- Why Lying About Storage Products Is Bad: An IBM DeskStar Story
- Western Digital Caught Bait-and-Switching Customers With Slow SSDs
- Buyer Beware: Crucial Swaps P2 SSD’s TLC NAND for Slower Chips