Next generation video game consoles have changed the conversation about supplemental storage for big game libraries. In short, it looks as though they won’t support external storage for installing and playing next-gen games, but external storage is still a big deal. There are hundreds of millions of Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles in use, not to mention all those gaming laptops. These systems all benefit from additional storage to handle huge game installs, and external drives are are the easiest solution. Even the new consoles will be able to use external drives to play previous generation titles. Western Digital has a great option for gamers in its WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD series.
I tested out a 1TB capacity WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD (MSRP $249.99) and it proved to be no ordinary portable drive.
The WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD doesn’t look like any other portable SSD I’ve used. The SanDisk Extreme portable SSD (also made by western Digital) I reviewed in August was technically tougher — including being water resistant — but this one looks the part. Clad in a tough metal housing with the logo stencilled in white lettering over black paint with exposed screws on the corners, the P50 Game Drive SSD looks almost military. That metal enclosure also makes it pretty tough. It may not be waterproof, but it is shock resistant and able to take a bit of knocking around if used to transport games from one console to another.
That metal case makes it a bit larger and heavier than other portable SSDs, but it’s still quite pocketable. The USB-C port is used to supply power, so there’s no adapter to cart around, just the USB cable. Western Digital includes both USB-C and USB Type-A versions in the box so you can connect the drive to pretty much anything.
It’s a bit larger than other portable SSDs, but that metal case makes it rugged and shock-resistant.
The big advantage of the WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD is that it doesn’t just give your gaming machine additional storage for those ever-growing game libraries, but it can also speed up the gaming experience. In particular, this external drive with its USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 interface can seriously cut into game load times, and the long pause between levels on some games.
The most extreme example during my testing was with a stock Playstation 4, which uses a 5400 RPM laptop-style hard drive. The PS4 is also equipped with traditional USB Type-A ports (USB 3.0/3.1). So the internal drive is slow, but the older generation ports hobble the potential throughput of the external SSD. Still, the potential for improved performance proved to be pretty spectacular.
For the first part of the test, Marvel’s Avengers was installed on the PS4’s drive. Launching the game took over a minute (70 seconds to be exact). That is a long time to be sitting and staring at a TV screen… Next, the same game was installed on the WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD. Launching the game from the external SSD instead of from the Playstation’s own drive, that load time was cut by more than half, to 32 seconds.
To be clear, gameplay doesn’t see a measurable difference — that’s all processing — but any time the system is hitting the drive, the wait times are halved. So whenever the system is loading cutscenes or chugging along while it loads data for the next level, you are going to find the WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD offers a big improvement.
A gaming laptop with USB-C support is even better equipped to take advantage of this drive’s capabilities. When used with a gaming laptop, a relatively new model with a motherboard that fully supports the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 should see even more dramatic load improvements.
For what it’s worth, the WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD’s speed makes it a great portable backup drive for a Mac or Windows PC, but that seems like almost criminal underuse…
If you need additional storage for your console or PC game library and you want the convenience and portability of an external drive, the WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD is a great option, offering up to 2TB of additional storage capacity. Even better, this portable SSD doesn’t just look extreme, it can deliver extreme performance upgrades — especially when it comes to game loading times.
Disclosure: Western Digital provided a WD Black P50 Game Drive SSD for evaluation but had no input into this review.
My primary mission is to help readers enjoy the best experience from their gadgets, consumer electronics, and accessories — through hands-on reviews, commentary and
My primary mission is to help readers enjoy the best experience from their gadgets, consumer electronics, and accessories — through hands-on reviews, commentary and guides. Expect to see lots about Apple gear from the latest iPhone to the newest Apple Watch, and a steady stream of content for all things music, including wireless speakers, headphones, and turntables.
I began my career at the Richard Ivey Business School in Canada, transitioned to running the product management team at one of Canada’s largest fintech companies and finished out office life as a senior research analyst. Along the way I got my Apple certification and began amassing cool gear. For the past decade and a half I have been writing about technology-related subjects, contributing to outlets that include: Wired, InvestorPlace Media, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Shaw Media, About.com, and Kiplinger. In addition I am the computing solution editor for Best Buy Canada’s Plug-in blog and one of the original writers for the award-winning GeekDad blog.
Solid-state drive, Hard disk drive
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