When deciding on parts for my current desktop, I was hesitant to spend the extra money on an M.2 drive. Instead, I opted for a fast and reliable solution that offered more GBs per buck while having less overall read and write times than an M.2 NVMe SSD counterpart.
Despite Microsoft announcing DirectStorage coming to Windows platforms back in late 2020, the service, which promises to take advantage of the rapid bandwidth capabilities of m.2 SSDs for loading large volumes of data, has yet to roll out for any games, both Microsoft published or otherwise.
Regardless, with the success of consoles such as the PlayStation 5, more and more people are looking to NVMe M.2 SSD solutions for expanded storage, which in turn, at least in theory, should mean more affordable options for those looking to upgrade.
Priced at $144 Canadian, the WD_Black SN770 is a DRAM-less M.2 drive and an affordable middle-ground solution that doesn’t compromise performance. Due to its DRAM-less nature, which bottleneck speeds slightly, coupled with the rated speed of 5150 MB/s, I wouldn’t recommend the WD_Black SN770 for PlayStation 5 owners. Instead, the SN770 is a better fit for those looking for blazing-fast performance and storage when it comes to their library of existing PC games, making the SN770 a hard-to-beat piece of kit.
Installing the 1TB SN770 was simple for my Crosshair VIII Hero motherboard. It only required loosening the M.2 heatsink, which came with its own adhesive, sticking on the SN770 and then firmly placing it into the appropriate slot before fastening it down. Upon first boot, the drive is unallocated, meaning Windows won’t immediately display it under your drive listings, but simply using a program such as EaseUS Partition Wizard or Western Digital’s own WD Dashboard application will format the drive accordingly.
For my real-world tests of the SN770, I have decided to focus primarily on game loading as the device is advertised as a game drive. For my tests, I will be running titles after a fresh format using EaseUS Partition Wizard and then comparing it to the Game Mode toggle present in the Western Digital Dashboard software.
“Installing the 1TB SN770 was simple for my Crosshair VIII Hero motherboard.”
Starting with Halo Infinite, a game I currently play the most on my machine, the title loads into the training facility within 08 seconds. Loading into a local map is equally as fast, although playing online will limit this significantly. With game mode activated, I noticed a drop to around 5 seconds from a fresh boot of the game, not bad.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, the beefiest game on this list, took 1:03 for its initial load — however, loading into different zones took only 30 seconds and an even more impressive 11 seconds per sequential load. Game mode also seemed to help performance the most for Microsoft’s latest flight simulation title, with the initial loading cut down to around 55 seconds and subsequent loads to various points on the globe taking about 10 seconds, after a slightly shorter 25 to 30-second initial load.
Another favourite go-to game for me is I, which, even without its expected next-gen update, loaded in about 10 seconds from the main menu, both in the overworld and within dungeons and interior venues. Toggling on game mode was negligible for this title, with the game loading around the same amount of time, if not a fraction of a second faster.
Finally, I decided to test two very different games to round things out to see what speeds were like for smaller titles versus larger, AAA efforts. Starting with the smaller game of the two, Hotshot Racing, the low-poly retro-inspired arcade racer loaded at a blistering 2 seconds, unsurprisingly making it the fastest game during testing.
Lastly, I decided to load up The Evil Within 2 on Xbox Game Pass as it was a game I wanted to try anyway. The Evil Within 2 loaded at an impressive 6 seconds from the moment the player hits new game and after the initial cutscene that transitions into gameplay, proper. Like The Witcher 3 prior, both Hotshot Racing and The Evil Within 2 seemed to load around the same time regardless of the game mode toggle.
Regardless of the Directstorage API not being utilized in any currently released title, the WD_Black SN770 1 TB M.2 SSD is an excellent value that future-proofs any PCIe 4 compatible rig while still benefiting from substantially fast loading times in most games currently available on the market.