Samsung 980 Pro vs WD Black SN850: Which top PS5 SSD is right for you?

The best PS5 SSD battleground is hotly contested, and one of the fiercest battles that rages within it is that of the Samsung 980 Pro vs WD Black SN850. We’re digging into both models to find out which top-performing drive comes out on top. Both the Samsung 980 Pro and the WD Black SN850 are incredibly popular PS5 SSDs due to their brand recognition and strong sequential performance which is perfect for the console’s uses so they are always near the top of rankings and guides.

Ever since support for M.2 NVMe drives was added via a firmware update for the console back in September 2021, the Samsung 980 Pro and WD Black SN850 have been top contenders to fill the slot. Let’s put some emphasis on that slot-filling characteristic specifically, as that’s one of the biggest shared strengths of both these drives, being machine-engineered out of the gate with the PS5’s very specific secondary NVMe port in mind. At the very least, gone is the fear of gambling with a third-party heatsink or heat spreader, instead, there’s some comfort in knowing either model is the ideal fit. 

With that said, only one drive can come out on top. For every way in which these top-performing PS5 SSDs share similarities, there’s a fair amount of differences to contend with, too, which we’ll get into in more detail in just a moment. We’re analyzing not just the raw numbers, but also the individual strengths and weaknesses afforded by the type of controller in use, as well as considerations to DRAM cache, and how each drive performs in a PC, too. 

Of course, if you’re after more storage solutions for your Sony console then the best PS5 external hard drives should be high up on your priority list. Naturally, you’ll need to transfer games back onto the console’s internal storage, or one of these NVMe drives, to play them, but it’s far faster than downloading again from square one.  

Samsung 980 Pro vs WD Black SN850: the differences

Samsung 980 Pro

  • Samsung in-house controller
  • Samsung V-NAND 3-bit MLC
  • AES 256-bit Encryption (Class 0)
  • Samsung Low Power DDR4 SDRAM
  • 59g / 2.11 oz

WD Black SN850

  • WD_BLACK G2 controller 
  • BiCS4 96L TLC
  • No hardware encryption
  • Micron DDR4 DRAM
  • 24g / 0.84oz

Samsung 980 Pro vs WD Black SN850: price 

Both the Samsung 980 Pro and the WD Black SN850 are available with built-in heatsinks making them natively compatible with your PS5 with minimal messing around, and straight out of the box. As expected, though, this convenience comes at a higher cost than the standard variants do on most occasions. 

Price is paramount in the Samsung 980 Pro vs WD Black SN850 bout, and fortunately, we’re seeing frequent deals on both happen fairly often, with rates hovering around $170 more commonly. The former carries an MSRP of $249.99 and the latter $279.99 in 1TB configurations. That makes the Samsung 980 Pro the better value for money as far as getting your hands on a drive that’s ready to go for your Sony system is concerned. 

As far as the pricing history of both drives goes, though, things become more interesting when doubling up that total storage. The WD Black SN850 with heatsink in 2TB configurations carries an MSRP of $550, with the Samsung 980 Pro 2TB heatsink model running you $370 when not discounted. It should be stated, though, that we frequently see the former selling for around the $400 mark in recent memory, however, we’ve seen rates plummet as low as $299.99, too. 

In contrast, the Samsung 980 Pro 2TB with heatsink model has steadily been falling since October from its original listed price, and down to around the $320 mark. Given that the price history is showing a consistent decline since October, it’s possible that this trend could continue and bring this drive down to the $299.99 price range as well. At the time of writing, the WD Black SN850 runs a little cheaper overall. 

Samsung 980 Pro vs WD Black SN850

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung 980 Pro vs WD Black SN850: specifications

Samsung 980 Pro 1TB SSD with Heatsink

  • Max read speeds: 7,000 MB/s 
  • Max write speeds: 5,100 MB/s 
  • Random write/read: 1M IOPS 
  • DRAM cache: 2GB LPDDR4 
  • Write endurance: 600 TB
  • Warranty: 5 years

WD Black SN850 1TB SSD with Heatsink

  • Max read speeds: 7,000 MB/s 
  • Max write speeds: 5,300 MB/s 
  • Random write/read: 1M / 720K IOPS
  • DRAM cache: 1GB DDR4 
  • Write endurance: 600 TB
  • Warranty: 5 years 

You’ll notice how both the Samsung 980 Pro and the WD Black SN850 are equally matched in terms of their maximum sequential read speeds, tied at 7,000 MB/s a piece. This is a figure that you could expect from a top-performing PS5 SSD and allows for enough headroom for both NVMe drives to keep up with (if not exceed) the console’s native internal storage solution. 

What should jump out at you, however, is how the Samsung 980 Pro features double the available DRAM cache of the WD Black SN850, with 2GB LPDDR4 compared to the latter’s 1GB DDR4. DRAM (or dynamic random access memory) essentially acts as a short-term index which is faster than the standard NAND flash memory that makes up the vast majority of the overall capacity. Put simply, NAND flash memory stores data on the drive with or without power, however, DRAM cache stores memory in the short term only while your system is active; once you turn it off, that small amount of memory disappears. Aside from that difference, there’s little to expressively set either the Samsung 980 Pro or the WD Black SN850 from one another. 

In our testing, we found that the Samsung 980 Pro 1TB PS5 SSD achieved read speeds of 5,585.17 MB/s according to the console’s built-in benchmark. This is a rate that’s consistent with many of the best SSDs for gaming, too, such as the Corsair MP600 Pro LPX, which clocked in at 5,581.50 MB/s in our testing despite being technically faster on paper. Generally, the vast majority of high-end PS5 SSDs are going to come into the 5,500 MB/s read range, and this can be attributed to how the console stops the drives from maxing out in order to keep the core temperatures down. 

The PS5’s dedicated M.2 port features no built-in heat spreader solution to speak of meaning that any drive inserted into it needs a heatsink. However, as not all heatsinks are created equally, and there are few ways to determine the actual thermal performance, we can discern that Gen 4.0 drives, such as the Samsung 980 Pro and WD Black SN850 are being clocked to the same speeds as the console’s internal storage. 

Samsung 980 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

The main differences between the Samsung 980 Pro vs WD Black SN850 can be analyzed a little more specifically when taking their Gen 4.0 NVMe nature inside one of the best gaming PCs. Keep in mind that the Samsung 980 Pro and WD Black SN850 do not use the faster Phison E18 controller that we’ve seen in the likes of the Kingston Renegade, for instance, so you won’t be seeing write figures pushing the 7,000 MB/s mark here. 

In our Samsung 980 Pro review, we found that the drive scored in the upper bracket in CrystalDiskMark with 6,700 read and 4,900 MB/s write speed, falling just short of that claimed 7,000 MB/s figure. However, our WD Black SN850 review testing saw Western Digital’s top-performing drive pull ahead slightly with 6,996 MB/s read and 5,205 MB/s write, coming much closer to the 7,000 MB/s limits. 

The constant here is that the overall read speed hovers around the 5,000 MB/s mark, which is consistent with the read speeds we’ve observed in the PS5 itself as touched upon above. 

Samsung 980 Pro vs WD Black SN850: which should you buy?

There’s ultimately such a negligible difference between the Samsung 980 Pro and the WD Black SN850 inside a PS5 that your choice largely depends on which one you can find cheaper. Regardless, these are two top-performing PS5 SSDs that will help to expand your console’s storage and match the onboard SSD with loading and transfer times. 

The only thing that could sway it is taking the opinion of PS5 architect Mark Cerny into consideration, with the WD Black SN850 1TB being his personal drive of choice. The man himself wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab) how his multiple WD Black SN850 drives are a: “Couple of awesome options for 7000MB/s, ended up putting my $$ down on this one.” 

Our price comparison software scours the web for the best rates on the Samsung 980 Pro with heatsink that’s ready for your PS5: 

We’re also searching for the best prices on the WD Black SN850 PS5 SSDs, too: 

For more on Sony’s latest console, our guides on the best PS5 accessories, best PS5 headsets, and best PS5 deals have you covered. 

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