About 10 years ago, SSDs were only just starting to become mainstream. Most consumers, PC gamers especially, were using standard hard drives, which were so, so much slower than what SSDs would go on to become.
Jump forward a few years and SSDs became more common; SATA SSDs to begin with, followed by M.2 variants more recently, but now we're at the next step. Western Digital has released a PCIe expansion card NVMe SSD promising ridiculously fast read/write speeds - faster than most NVMe M.2 SSDs, and one that will certainly challenge for the top spot on best SSD for gaming lists up and down the internet.
Of course, being an expansion card has its pros and cons: it's arguably the easiest type of SSD to install because it slots in below your graphics card, but you're also going to be limited to one, maybe two, of these SSDs if you have space. It's a drawback compared to SATA, which there's usually space for a few in most PCs, but it's also a pro over the M.2 format which there is usually only one slot for per build.
In what might be a first for an SSD, the AN1500 also has RGB lighting effects. Download the Western Digital dashboard software and you're faced with some of the best RGB effects I've seen on a computer component - including the funky lighting we can now expect on the best RAM for gaming, and even the best graphics cards - let alone an SSD. Strobe, rainbow, glowing yoyo, the list goes on. The dashboard also allows you to monitor performance, temperature, how much life it has left on the drive... it's a magnificent piece of software that elevates this beyond just sticking a new part into your PC and that being the end of the matter.
It's worth noting that this review is of the 2TB WD Black AN1500, although it is also available in 1TB and 4TB capacities. Typically, the performance of an SSD peaks at around the 1TB-2TB mark, and it's worth mentioning that, as a contemporary benchmark, I have been comparing the AN1500 to my 250GB WD Black SN750.
Throughout all of the tests, the AN1500 outshines the SN750 significantly. With the 1MB sequential read and write tests via CrystalDiskMark, it offers 6,511 MB/s and 4,412 MB/s respectively. On the other hand, the SN750 – which is still a beast of an SSD – is at 3,108 MB/s and 1,575 MB/s.
With AnvilPro's sequential 4MB tests, the AN1500 stays on top; 4,231 MB/s read and 3,448 MB/s write. Meanwhile, the SN750 has a less significant drop from the 1MB test but still comes up short against the AN1500, with 2,474 MB/s read and 1,488 MB/s write. Again, the 1TB SN750 will definitely be a closer comparison, but those results are a testament to just how powerful the AN1500 is.
Of course, this translates to real-world performance, with the AN1500 loading games quicker than any of my other SSDs. There's no direct comparison here, but triple AAA titles like Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Cyberpunk 2077 loaded impressively quickly. In a lot of games, you'll be hard-pressed to have enough time to read the loading screen tips.
This is the finest SSD I've ever used, without a shadow of a doubt. It looks sleek and sexy in my PC, installing it was incredibly simple, and the speeds on offer are unmatched. Team this SSD with other top components like the best CPU for gaming and house it one of the best PC cases and you'll have a complete power and aesthetically pleasing package.
The only problem is the cost; a 1TB AN1500 is £270/$330, a 2TB model is £450/$550, and the 4TB costs a whopping £840/$999. When you can get the SN750 1TB for less than half the price, it does make the AN1500 out to be quite the luxury for most PC gamers. Other companies will undoubtedly follow with expansion card-based NVMe SSDs, which will bring the price down as more become available, but until then the AN1500 can only be recommended if you're desperate to get serious speeds while burning a hole in your wallet.