WD Black P50 review: premium external SSD performance

The WD Black P50 will cost you but impresses in its speed and capacity

T3 Platinum Award
WD Black P50
(Image credit: Western Digital)
T3 Verdict

The WD Black P50 has some of the best NVMe SSD technology you can get in an external drive at the moment, and while you might not get its fastest speeds on your system, it's still an impressive package for storing and running games (or any other types of file).

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Impressive speeds

  • +

    Lots of storage

  • +

    Dramatic looks

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    On the pricey side

  • -

    Included cables are short

  • -

    Dramatic looks

Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

The WD Black P50 stakes a good claim for being one of the best external hard drives on the market, with its NVMe SSD technology and its huge capacity options. It's also one of the best SSD drives we've seen in recent times, for the reasons that we'll outline below.

It reaches blistering top speeds of 2,000MB/s, though you do need a very specific hardware setup to reach that, as we'll explain below. We'll also take you through everything else you need to know about the WD Black P50, from getting it set up to how much it'll cost you.

SSD prices continue to fall, and while the WD Blakc P50 isn't the cheapest option around, its performance levels and unusual looks make it an interesting proposition. It's styled in the same way as other WD Black drives, which cover HDD drives as well as SSD models.

WD Black P50 review: design and setup

As with the rest of the WD Black series of external drives, the WD Black P50 follows a rugged, industrial blueprint as far as the design goes: the distinct black ridges and the white lettering with a vaguely military feel won't appeal to everyone, but it's okay with us. You have to admit it looks rather distinctive, and it also gives the drive a feel of durability at the same time (Western Digital says that the design is "shock-resistant" but doesn't go into any details on that).

There's an NVMe SSD fitted inside here, so the drive is long and thin no matter what capacity you go for (500GB, 1TB, 2TB or a huge 4TB). The dimensions of the drive are 118 mm x 62 mm x 14 mm (that's 4.65 inches x 2.44 inches x 0.55 inches), and it weighs in at 115 grams (0.25 pounds). It's very compact, significantly smaller than a mobile phone, and you can almost hold it in the palm of your hand.

The size and the weight of the WD Black P50 means you can put it just about anywhere you like: on top of your games console, on a shelf, in a coat pocket, and so on. The days of having to clear half your desk to fit a giant external hard drive next to your computer are long gone, and it's hard to believe something this lightweight can now hold up to 4TB of storage. That's the fast pace of progress in tech gadgets for you.

Setup is of course very straightforward. You get a USB-C to USB-C cable and a USB-C to USB-A cable (the drive itself uses USB-C), so you can get connected right away – we'd prefer these cables to be a little longer, but it's nice that they're included. The drive works with Windows, macOS, PlayStations and Xboxes (though for now you can only store games with the PS5, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, not play them directly).

WD Black P50 review: specs and performance

WD Black P50

(Image credit: Future)

You can get some serious performance out of the WD Black P50, but bear in mind that you do need compatible USB ports to get the very best speeds: it's capable of 2,000MB/s read and write speeds over a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 cable and port, which is phenomenally good. That particular port remains quite rare on laptops and desktops – the drive will work on any USB port, but you won't get those top-tier rates.

We were able to test the drive with a USB 3.2 Gen 1 port, and shifted around 1GB of data in around 30 seconds. If you're using a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 connection over USB-C, the same amount of data should only take a few seconds to move over. If you've been used to an older, mechanical hard disk drive as your external storage solution, the jump feels almost like magic (it's not – it's just NVMe SSD and PCI Express).

Your storage choices are 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 4TB, so tailor your pick to suit your requirements – or, perhaps more likely, your budget, as the higher capacities are going to set you back a serious amount of cash. The unit we were sent to review was the 2TB edition of the WD Black, and with no files or folders on the drive you get about 1.81TB of usable space to work with.

The drive stays cool and quiet during use, which is good to see – though pretty standard for SSD storage devices like this one – and there's a small and subtle white LED light that indicates when the drive is in use. We're pleased to see that Western Digital includes a 5 year warranty with the device, which gives us confidence that the WD Black P50 is going to offer plenty of performance and reliability until it's time to upgrade to something else.

WD Black P50 review: price and verdict

WD Black P50

(Image credit: Western Digital)

There's no doubting the specs and the credentials of the WD Black P50. With the NVMe SSD technology inside, it's going to cost you more per gigabyte than a standard HDD, but it's also going to give you much better speeds (and fit into a smaller space in your backpack or on your desk too). It's a particularly good choice for running games on a PS4 or an Xbox One console, though compatibility with the next-gen machines is more limited (you can only store rather than run games).

It's worth bearing in mind that the relatively rare USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 port is required to get the maximum speeds out of the drive – if you don't have one of these on your laptop or desktop, the WD Black P50 isn't quite so appealing. It's still super-fast, especially if you're moving over from a more traditional external hard disk drive, but you might not get the top advertised speeds without a motherboard upgrade.

All our previous experiences with Western Digital drives have been good ones – an alternative like the WD Black P10 is a lot slower than the P50, but it's also a lot cheaper. If you just need lots of extra space to store files and folders, and the speed at which they transfer over is a secondary consideration compared with the price you're paying, then the P10 (or something like it) might be a better option for you.

Check the widgets embedded on this page for the latest WD Black P50 pricing, but at the time of writing pricing ranges from around £120 / $180 for the 500GB model to around £715 / $750 for the 4TB edition of the drive. That's a serious investment, but if you want one of the fastest external SSD drives around, and you're going to make good use of the extra speed, we'd say the WD Black P50 is absolutely worth it.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.