- Aug 2, 2020
When I wrote about Crucial’s decision to swap inferior NAND flash into its products without updating the reviewer community or announcing a separate SKU, I hoped the problem was a one-off. While this has happened before, it’s typically been the exception, not the norm.
Guess that was too much to hope for. According to a report from Chinese tech site Expreview, the WD SN550 Blue — which is currently one of the best-reviewed budget SSDs on the market — has undergone a NAND lobotomy. While the new SSD variant performs on-par with the old drive that WD actually sampled for review, once you exhaust the SLC NAND cache, performance craters from 610MB/s (as measured by THG) to 390MB/s (as measured by Expreview). The new drive offers just 64 percent of the performance of the old drive.
This is unacceptable. It is unethical for any company to sample and launch a product to strong reviews only to turn around and sell an inferior version of that hardware at a later date without changing the product SKU or telling customers that they’re buying garbage. I do not use the term “garbage” lightly, but let me be clear: If you silently change the hardware components you use in a way that makes your product lose performance, and you do not disclose that information prominently to the customer (ideally through a separate SKU), you are selling garbage. There’s nothing wrong with selling a slower SSD at a good price, and there’s nothing right about abusing the goodwill of reviewers and enthusiasts to kick bad hardware out the door.
As a reviewer of some twenty years, I do not care at all about the fact that SLC cache performance is identical. While I didn’t realize it at the time I wrote up the Crucial bait-and-switch on August 16, I’ve actually been affected by this problem personally. The 2TB Crucial SSD I purchased for my own video editing work is one of the bait-and-switched units, and it’s always had a massive performance problem — as soon as it empties the SLC cache, it falls to what I’d charitably call hard drive-level performance. Performance can drop as low as 60MB/s via USB3.2 (and ~150MB/s when directly connected via NVMe) and it stays there until the copy task is done.