WD_Black SN770: No DRAM, No Problem


When Western Digital first announced the WD_Black SN770 SSD, our initial thought was that this might end up being one of the best midrange drives on the market. Promising fast transfer speeds, a solid range of storage options, and an aggressively low cost, the SN770 appeared to be the perfect blend of performance and price. But could the real-world results live up to the promise of its marketing? To find out, we installed the SN770 in our PC testbed and put it through its paces.

WD_Black SN770 SSD
WD_Black SN770 SSD

WD_Black SN770: Design and Installation

True to its designation as a “gaming” drive, the SN770 features an all-black PCB with quasi-militaristic white and orange lettering, making it look like something out of the Call of Duty: Black Ops franchise. It comes in an M.2 2280 form factor, so it’s slim and features a low profile, and it’s DRAM-less, meaning it foregoes onboard DRAM in favor of NAND flash.

Now, onboard DRAM might sound worrisome but fear not. Gone are the days when onboard DRAM determined whether an SSD was super-fast or super-enfeebled. Thanks to Host Memory Buffer (HMB) technology, modern DRAM-less drives like the SN770 can achieve accelerated performance that rivals SSDs with an internal DRAM chip.   

Installing an M.2 drive in your PC or laptop is typically fairly easy, and that’s definitely true of the SN770. First, find the open M.2 connector slot on your motherboard and remove the mounting screw. Next, plug the SN770 into the M.2 slot. Don’t be alarmed if it stands at an angle once you’ve pushed it into the slot—that’s normal. Now, gently push it down and secure it with the mounting screw you removed and you’re good to go.

Before installing the SN770, we recommend downloading WD’s free SSD Dashboard software, which will automatically detect the SN770 once it’s installed. The software allows you to monitor and manage the drive's health, performance, and temperature in real time, and it provides a firmware tool that will help keep the SN770 up to date. It also allows you to enable Game Mode, which helps reduce latency while you play.

WD_Black SN770: Performance

The SN770 comes in three storage options: 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB. We benchmarked the 1TB model since it was listed as the fastest of the three variants. During our testing, we measured the SN770’s performance with and without Game Mode enabled.

Gaming Performance

To grade the SN770’s gaming performance, we used UL’s 3DMark Storage Benchmark, which measures gaming-specific tasks like load times, file installation, and the time it takes to save your progress. One of the reasons we favor this benchmark is because it focuses on practical, everyday tasks, giving you an accurate picture of how well an SSD will perform in the real world.

WD’s premiere SSD, the WD_Black SN850, currently holds the top spot for 1TB drives in this benchmark, outscoring every other drive we’ve tested with an overall score of 4,249. Going into the test, we knew the SN770 wasn’t going to beat that. In fact, we reasonably assumed it wasn’t going to get close. After all, the SN770 is just a “midrange” drive. It’s not meant to compete with a top-ranking SSD like the SN850.

WD_Black SN850
WD_Black SN850

Except that it did, and it does.

To our surprise, the SN770 aced the 3DMark Storage Benchmark, scoring 4,149 with Game Mode enabled and 4,060 with Game Mode disabled. The top-ranking WD_Black SN850 is the only other 1TB SSD to ever score higher. In other words, despite its DRAM-less architecture and “midrange” billing, the SN770 offers gaming performance that rivals the best SSDs on the market.

Everyday Performance

For everyday performance, we benchmarked the SN770 using UL’s PCMark 10 Storage Benchmark. Similar to the way the 3DMark Storage Benchmark grades an SSD’s gaming performance, the PCMark 10 Storage Benchmark evaluates how well an SSD handles everyday tasks and applications.

Although it was a different test, the story was the same: the SN770 absolutely wrecked the PCMark 10, proving that it was extremely well suited for everyday tasks and applications. In fact, the 1TB SN770 performed so well that it even topped the 1TB SN850 (with Game Mode enabled). With Game Mode disabled, the 1TB SN770 was virtually tied with the SN850.

Transfer Performance

With such an h2 showing in both gaming and everyday performance, you’re probably starting to wonder why anyone would opt for a more expensive, more premier drive. The answer is transfer performance.

We use a variety of storage benchmarking tools to test SSD transfer rates and performance (ATTO, DiskBench, etc.). In all of our tests, we found that while the SN770 performed reliably well, it was never a match for top-ranking SSDs like the SN850, which delivered read and write speeds that were several hundreds of MBps faster.

WD_Black SN770: Value

We believe the SN770 returns tremendous value. Not only does its performance stand toe-to-toe with some of the best SSDs on the market, but it does so at a dramatically reduced price. On top of that, the SN770 comes with a generous and lengthy five-year warranty, making its overall value proposition nigh unbeatable.

WD_Black SN770: Verdict

Offering top-tier performance, lots of storage, excellent value, and an outstanding warranty, the WD_Black SN770 earns an enthusiastic thumbs-up from us.

Despite its “midrange” label and lack of DRAM architecture, the SN770 shredded our benchmark tests and much of the competition. Its transfer scores weren’t quite as high as its gaming and everyday performance benchmarks, but they were solid nonetheless, and for the price you pay, tough to beat.

Whether you’re a gamer, content creator, or just someone who’s looking for fast, consistent performance, the SN770 is a great option at an affordable price. If you’re in the market for a new SSD, we highly recommend it.

Questions about the WD_Black SN770’s performance or SSDs in general? Drop us a line in the Comments section, below.