M.2 Efficiency With out the Slot

With PCIe 4.Zero M.2 NVMe drives holding the desktop storage efficiency crown at present, and solely AMD platforms in a position to deploy them, we’ve reached an odd place.

Till Intel wakes from the deep slumber, it has loved people who need the quickest doable storage to have solely the selection of mounting twin PCIe 3.Zero models and RAID Zero striping them to compete. However that possibility assumes that the pc has twin or extra M.2 NVMe slots and many computer systems used every single day have none.

Engineers at WD seen this improve dilemma and got here up with the WD Black AN1500, an answer that may add NVMe efficiency to machines that don’t sport M.2 slots and provide higher than PCIe 3.Zero x4 efficiency.

Too good to be true? Let’s see if the AN1500 is all WD says.

Design & Construct

To the uneducated, the WD Black AN1500 appears to be like like a video card that wasn’t cherished sufficient to get a fan or any means to output its renderings.

Aesthetically it matches with many the WD Black collection, having a metallic casing that resembles a transport container and sandwiched between the from and again are the cardboard electronics and a band of vibrant LEDs.

The sting connector and endplate determine this as a PCIe slot card, and one which requires a PCIe 3.Zero x8 or x16 slot to function. And, what slot it finally ends up occupying is vital I realised in testing.

As curious because it appears to be like outwardly, the place the AN1500 is particular is hidden inside. This card is a provider for 2 PCIe 3.Zero M.2 NVMe SSDs, pre-configured with two WD SN730 NVMe drives in a RAID 0 (striped) mode.

Specs & Options

There are three variations of the AN1500 accessible providing 1TB, 2TB and 4TB capacities. Every design accommodates two every of the WD SN730 modules in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB sizes accordingly. This isn’t a single drive.

The efficiency in these drives is channelled to the PC utilizing a PCIe 3.Zero x8 hyperlink by way of a Marvell 88NR2241 NVMe RAID controller, an Enterprise-class chip.

Subsequently, in principle, it could actually leverage double the efficiency of a single WD SN730 NVMe drive through the use of twice as many PCIe lanes as a single M.2 NVMe slot and are available near the efficiency ranges of a single PCIe 4.Zero M.2 NVMe.

It may possibly obtain this even when the motherboard has no M.2 slots if it has eight lanes of PCIe 3.Zero accessible and an appropriate slot to be positioned.

As I realised when testing, that final assertion accommodates a well-hidden bear lure.

PCI lanes required

Not desirous to pre-empt the benchmark outcomes, however my preliminary testing didn’t go as anticipated. The AN1500 carried out as about half what I had anticipated. After which I realised that the second PCIe x16 slot on the check system wasn’t providing the cardboard eight PCIe lanes.

Fairly often in desktop programs, there aren’t sufficient PCIe lanes to totally function all of the doable makes use of for these lanes. And, whereas many boards have a number of x16 bodily slots, relying on what else is related these might be degraded by the system to x8 or x4. And, in my occasion, that’s what occurred.

To get the total efficiency of this machine, I used to be pressured to evict the video card from the primary x16 slot, that all the time will get the total sixteen lanes, and put the AN1500 there. If I’d have spent additional time on this, I am assured that I may have disabled a characteristic and gotten this to work with out the swap, however this variation labored.

I point out this difficulty as a result of anybody contemplating the AN1500 wants to know what number of PCIe lanes they’ve spare, and if they’ll direct eight of them to spare slot, hopefully with out compromising the video playing cards efficiency or the rest.

It’s important to grasp that should you place the cardboard in a PCIe 3.Zero slot with solely 4 lanes or perhaps a PCIe 2.Zero slot, it would work, however you received’t expertise the efficiency ranges that it was designed to generate.

LEDs and software program

It might sound a minor factor, however this {hardware} places on a light-weight present each time the pc is powered.

By default, this can be a rainbow impact that cycles across the fringe of the AN1500, and beautiful it’s in a case the place the internals might be seen.

For people who need extra management, WD presents a Home windows-only Dashboard software that may configure one in all 13 completely different LED patterns and the colors that it generates.

However this software program software can be the mechanism to replace view the standing, replace the firmware and monitor efficiency and temperature of the machine. It additionally offers hyperlinks to a free model of Acronis that WD presents to clone an present drive to the AN1500 if you would like it to grow to be the OS boot drive.

The software program isn’t included on the drive or within the field, however as an alternative might be discovered on the assist pages for the {hardware}.


As I remarked earlier, get this drive within the improper slot, and also you received’t see what it actually can do. Like placing a limiter on a sports activities automotive.

Positioned in a PCIe 3.Zero slot with x8 lanes it exceeded the quoted 6,500MB/s reads, and 4,100MB/s writes in some artificial checks.

CrystalDiskMark 7.Zero it recorded 6,860 MB/s reads and 4,496 MB/s writes, obliterating any single PCIe 3.Zero NVMe drives efficiency Tech Advisor has examined. And that’s unlikely to vary since each values are higher than the theoretical most for a tool related by a PCIe 3.Zero utilizing 4 lanes solely.

These usually handle reads within the 3,500 MB/s and writes as much as 3,400MB/s on the easiest merchandise.

What it doesn’t high are the very best PCIe 4.Zero M.2 drives which have the identical bandwidth as this unit, however can obtain higher than 7,000MB/s reads, and 5,000MB/s writes utilizing a PCIe 4.Zero NVMe slot.

I attempted a spread of benchmarks, they usually largely got here up with the identical narrative; the AN1500 is healthier than any single PCIe 3.Zero NVMe drive, however it could actually’t match the PCIe 4.Zero related SSDs.

It is usually value noting that like so many NVMe drives those contained in the AN1500 use SLC reminiscence as a cache to deal with sustained writing of enormous recordsdata, and as soon as that cache turns into saturated the efficiency drops to round 700MB/s, i.e. the actual efficiency of NAND reminiscence.

Besides on this design, now we have two NVMe drives doubling the scale of the cache and likewise the minimal write efficiency as soon as the cache is full. For individuals who transfer enormous recordsdata round their system, this final facet could be a major power of this product.


The WD Black AN1500 SSD is available in three choices beginning with the 1TB unit that prices £228.99 (or $229). The evaluation {hardware} was the 2TB mannequin priced at £452.99 (or $449.99). And, for these with deep pockets, the 4TB model is £868.99 (or $999.99).

All these costs are immediately from the Western Digital Retailer however you can too get the AN1500 from Amazon or Scan.

By way of alternate options, a 4TB PCIe 3.Zero drive might be discovered for round $700 from Sabrent, though it could actually’t match the efficiency of the AN1500 and it assumes a free M.2 slot.

An alternative choice is the Dell Extremely-Velocity Drive Quad NVMe M.2 PCIe x16 Card. It prices round £300/$220, takes 4 M.2 NVMe playing cards and boasts learn speeds of as much as 9GB/s. Putting in 4x 1TB drives would nonetheless make that path cheaper than the 4TB AN1500 when you’ve got a free x16 slot for it to make use of.

The Dell card is an incredibly ugly factor that has no LED lights or quantifiable type, however it presents higher worth if all you need is a quick and versatile storage resolution.

Try our chart of the greatest SSDs to see what different choices you will have.


What is great in regards to the AN1500 is that it permits older programs to have NVMe efficiency even when they haven’t any M.2 slots. I lately retired an Intel X79 collection system that was nonetheless remarkably highly effective however lacked fashionable options like M.2 slots, and this could be the proper companion for that system.

Technically it might have been good to have the choice to configure this as a RAID 1 machine for max resilience, and the dearth of {hardware} encryption will put some prospects off. Nevertheless it does include a five-year guarantee and the metallic enclosure stored the drives inside cool throughout use.

Efficiency is a lot better than PCIe 3.Zero NVMe drives, though it ever reaches the throughput peaks that we’ve seen with true PCIe 4.Zero {hardware}, just like the Samsung 980 Professional.

The extra important difficulty right here, like a lot gear now, is the fee justification, particularly if you would like 4TB.

If you happen to like LEDs, have an x8 PCIe slot unoccupied and no free M.2 slots then this could be good on your system however anticipate to pay a premium to have one thing straightforward to deploy and visually alluring.

WD Black AN1500: Specs

Capacities: 1/2/4TB
Capability examined: 2TB
Examined 4KB efficiency: 54.30/187.67MB/s
Examined sequential efficiency: 6860MB/s learn, 4496 MB/s write
Quoted sequential efficiency: 6500MB/s learn, 4100MB/s write
Encryption: NA
Flash expertise: SanDisk 64-layer 3D TLC
Connection: PCIe 3.Zero x16 slot (x8 required)
Guarantee: 5 years

About the author: SubSellKaro

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