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Western Digital WD_Black SN750 SE 1TB | PlayStation 5 upgrade on a budget

The PlayStation 5 is a great console, it delivers true next-gen gaming experiences with high framerates, up to 4K resolutions, VRR implementation to stabilise performance issues, and it truly immerses you with the intuitive DualSense controller. However, there are a number of things I don’t like about Sony’s new console, most of the issues lie with the software side (including the terrible, and broken, PSN Store), but there’s one major issue I have with the actual hardware – the size of the included internal SSD space.

Don’t believe what people say, size does matter!

By default, your new PS5 console, if you manage to get your hands on one, only has an internal SSD size of 825GB. However, only ~667GB is usable as the console holds on to approx. 150GB for the operating system, update storage (to store temp files as it installs patches), the constant 1hr gameplay recorder (as you can save up to 60 minutes of whatever you’ve been playing in case you forgot to press record), and other housekeeping processes. Compared to the pathetically small 32GB you get in the Nintendo Switch, you’d think that’ll be enough – but nope, not when some native PS5 games can be 80, 90, or even over 100GB in size!

WD Black SN750 SE 1

Why is it so big!

How to store your games?
The PS5 launched with some very important features missing. There was no way to back up your PS5 games and the internal SSD expansion port was disabled. Thankfully, both of these things have been addressed for over a year now, giving you a few options when it comes to storing and playing both PS4 and PS5 games. So, before I get into the main review – how does the PS5 work when it comes to playing all generations of PlayStation titles…

PS5 games: Native PlayStation 5 games can only be played if they’re installed to either the internal SSD or an installed NVMe 4.0 M.2 SSD. This is due to the incredible speed advantage these have over standard mechanical Hard Drives attached via USB. For example, a game which takes around 60 seconds to load on last-gen hardware may only take 5 or 6 seconds if it’s been fully optimised for the new system. However, although the games can only be PLAYED if they’re installed to one of these, you can ‘move’ them to an external USB 3.0 HDD so you can quickly and easily copy them back over without having to re-download them.

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PS4 and PS2 games: These games can be installed and played on either the internal SDD, an installed NVMe 4.0 M.2 SSD, or directly from a USB 3.0 HDD. From the numerous tests I performed by installing these games in each location, there are hardly any speed benefits by using up your precious SSD space, so you’re best installing and running all of these games from an external USB drive. Unlike the Xbox Series consoles, the PS5 simply enables the PS4 Pro Backwards Compatibility mode when playing these, so it takes advantage of the more powerful hardware but not the faster storage bandwidth – sadly. 

PS1 and PSP games: These titles are new to the console, included within the new PS Plus Premium or as separate purchases on the PSN Store. Surprisingly, these all have both a PS4 or PS5 download, allowing you to take advantage of the newer hardware for a slight speed boost and a new set of trophies. If you opt to download the PS5 version, they can only be played if installed internally on the SSD or on the NVMe 4.0 M.2 SSD, yet the PS4 versions can be installed and played on any storage device. 
WD Black SN750 SE 2
Upgrading on a budget
PlayStation initially announced the M.2 slot being enabled with a blog post that listed some requirements and specifications which must be followed when looking to buy a new NVMe SSD. However, it seems that page has now become a generic FAQ on how to install the drive, with all specifications removed – as such, I’ve grabbed the below information from EuroGamer for reference.

Sony originally stated that the drive you place within your PS5 must be a PCIe Gen 4.0 (x4) M.2 NVMe SSD, at either 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB or 4TB. A heatsink is required to ensure the SSD doesn’t overheat whilst being used (they get very hot), and it must have a sequential read of 5500MB/s or higher. Finally, the form factor must be either 2230, 2242, 2260, 2280 or 22110.

However, the main requirement here is that the drive has to be a Gen 4.0 M.2 NVMe drive – a slower speed doesn’t actually stop the drive from working, it doesn’t even really affect any game that’s launched up to this point (as I’ll get to later). So, I asked Western Digital if I could take a look at their WD_Black SN750 SE 1TB drive, a 3,600MB/S NVMe 4.0 M.2 which meets every spec except the speed – will this work as intended or will it perform terribly and make you regret your purchase? Spoiler, I’ve already answered this question a few lines above!

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In regards to being ‘on a budget’, the drive I’m testing costs £80 on Amazon right now, and £100 on the Western Digital website.

WD Black SN750 SE 8 2

Very easy to install!

Installation
If you’ve ever replaced your internal drive on the PS4, installing the M.2 drive in the PlayStation 5 is just as easy. Simply turn off your console, remove the right-side panel, unscrew the compartment cover, slot in and screw down the M.2 drive, then work backwards until the console is back together. The whole process takes no more than around five minutes and (obviously) doesn’t break the warranty as the console was built to be upgraded. 

Now, as the WD_Black 750 SE doesn’t come with a built-in heatsink, I had to buy one off Amazon and fit it myself before I inserted it into my PS5. The one I bought is THIS ONE, it cost £7.99 and includes the double-sided heatsink, thermal pads, screws and a screwdriver. Not only was it straightforward to attach, but it also fits into the compartment perfectly.

Once installed and turned on, the PS5 advised it had spotted a new NVMe drive and gave me the option to format it so it can be used. It did give me a ‘warning’ that the tested speed isn’t as high as it wanted it to be, but that doesn’t stop you from continuing the process. One thing to be aware of (as I fell for this) – there are two SN750 drives out there. The original WD_Black SN750 is Gen 3.0, yet the newer WD_Black SN750 SE is Gen 4.0 – the PS5 won’t work with a Gen 3.0 drive, so you have to make sure you grab the SE version if purchasing this drive for the console.
WD Black SN750 SE 4
Testing
I’ve been using this drive for a few months now, installing all my PS5 games onto it and running them from there. As such, I’ve tested a few games to see how the less-than-recommended read speed affects booting them from the dashboard and loading a save game, in comparison to the internal SSD. I could have tested many, many more games than I have done, but I started to spot a pattern so I presume every game will have a similar outcome to the below…

Each game was tested three times both internally and when installed on the M.2 drive, creating an average time. I had opened and closed each game first, then began the test (as the first time you open it the PS5 checks for save files online that adds a few seconds to the load times). Also, no activity cards were used – booting a game was via the game icon on the home screen.

GameInternal SSD BootSN750 SE BootInternal Load SaveSN750 SE Load Save
A Plague Tale26.88s26.83s14.84s15.65s
Death Stranding6.52s6.16s8.14s8.93s
Dying Light 222.82s23.52s29.18s28.86s
The Quarry31.39s30.73s6.38s6.85s
Sniper Elite 515.95s19.30s7.26s7.85s
Guardians of the Galaxy44.81s43.92s8.58s8.68s
Horizon Forbidden West20.79s21.61s6.50s6.88s

As you can see, there’s surprisingly little to no difference between using the internal SDD or the WD_Black SN750 SE drive – in some cases the M.2 was a little faster! 
WD Black SN750 SE 5
Summary
Personally, I was surprised by the results I gathered above, I honestly thought that the internal SSD would have been at least a few seconds faster than the newly installed drive, especially when the speed is below what Sony recommends. As such, if you’re looking to expand your PS5 storage space on a budget, for playing PS5 games, then I highly recommend the WD_Black SN750 SE – just don’t forget the heatsink. Sure, you may see offers for the SN850, which is much faster and above the recommended speed, but you’ll tend to find that the SN750 SE is also discounted at the same time, making it even more appealing.

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If you tend to only play a few PS5 games at a time but you have a massive PS4 library which you would love to have ready to play without having to re-download, then maybe consider upgrading your setup with the Western Digital WD_BLACK P10 5TB External HDD – I reviewed that one a while ago. I’ve since upgraded to the 8TB version which has around 1100 PS4 and backed-up PS5 games on it! At launch there was an issue with using USB drives on the PS5 console – these issues were resolved within the first few months, I’ve had no issues at all running all my PS4 titles off the external drive.

One thing to be aware of, although there is little to no difference between this drive and the faster ones on the market, that may not always be the case once developers really start utilising the available bandwidth aggressively. Most PS5 games are upgraded PS4 titles, with only a few ‘next-gen’ only titles out there. As such, we may see a bigger difference between the SN750 SE and the new SN850X (7,300MB/s) in a few years’ time, but not right now.

Another thing to remember is that the Xbox Series consoles only have a 2,400MB/s SSD, so most third-party developers will develop their games with that in mind – so although this is only 3,600MB/s, it should still stand up this generation for all multi-platform games.

On a side note – there’s another Western Digital NVMe M.2 SSD which lies between the SN750 SE and the SN850 – the WD_BLACK SN770. DO NOT buy this for your PS5. Although it technically meets the criteria required for the console (despite also being a little under the recommended speed), I’ve been advised by Western Digital that it’s not officially compatible and may cause issues if used within the PlayStation 5.

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Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Although not the fastest or biggest SSD upgrade out there, the Western Digital WD_Black SN750 SE 1TB is a great choice if you’re looking to increase the PS5’s storage space on a budget. Out of all the tests I performed, there was little to no difference between the internal SSD and this NVMe drive in terms of loading and playing native PS5 and PS4 games (via BC). We may see a bigger difference when true next-gen titles begin to roll out, but it’s hard to speculate on that right now. 

Having an extra 1TB of space makes a massive difference if you own a decent sized collection. You’ll no longer have to keep deleting and then re-downloading them whenever you pick up a new game or a massive patch drops for a game you like to have installed at all times. Plus, if you also pick up an external USB drive, like one of the WD_BLACK P10 range, then you can backup and restore your PS5 games much faster than installing or re-downloading them.

A Western Digital WD_Black SN750 SE 1TB was kindly provided for review purposes

Western Digital WD_Black SN750 SE 1TB | PlayStation 5 upgrade on a budget

£80-100
8.5

Final Score

8.5/10

The Good:

  • Great value for money
  • Despite being under the recommended speed, all PS5 games run just fine
  • Loading was very close (if not faster) than the internal PS5 SSD
  • Perfect if you need to add more storage without spending too much money

The Bad:

  • Although this is a great price, the faster drives aren't that much more expensive at the moment
  • The maximum size in this range is only 1TB
  • There's no option with a heatsink included, so you'll have to pick one up for around £8
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