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It never hurts to have a little bit of extra hard drive space at your beck and call. There’s no shortage of online and cloud-based solutions to store your files, but nothing beats the physical security of a good old-fashioned external hard drive. But to paraphrase Maxwell Lord, portable hard drives are good! But they can be better.

That upgrade comes in the form of an external SSD, which combines the lightning-fast data transfer speeds of a solid-state drive with a form factor that can slip into your pocket. There’s no shortage of SSD drives available either, but few of them look as ruggedly sexy as the WD Black P50. It’s admittedly a sexy piece of tech: A pocket-sized storage device wrapped in rugged black steel that feels thick enough to stop a bullet and wouldn’t look out of place on the desk of a black ops secret base.

WD Black P50 Review – Solid speed, solid state of mind 3

It’s minimalist design extends to a single blinking light, whisper-quiet operating sounds and a pair of short USB cables: A regular USB-C to USB-A and a USB-C to USB-C, for whatever floats your boat. Good looks aside, how does it operate in the field? Pretty darn well! I’d been sent a 500GB drive to test out, which after digital real estate tax worked out to 465GB of usuable space, or one Call of Duty install.

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On the box, the P50 is advertised as being compatible with PC, Xbox One, and Playstation. It’s worth noting that if you intend to grab an external drive for your console, it’s an either/or scenario. Both consoles use their own format of storage, with the Xbox favouring NTFS while PlayStation devices prefer ExFAT.

WD Black P50 Review – Solid speed, solid state of mind 4

The idea here for testing, was to see how well the P50 did on my PS5. Sony’s latest console has one of the best internal SSDs on the market, but it’s only a piffling amount of space available that is very quickly filled up by first-party games which are nearing the 100GB mark already. So a fancy SSD should sort that out, right? Not at first.

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Try as I might, the PS5 just refused to support the P50, which left me flummoxed. My PS4 did register the device, and after running a format of it through the last-gen console, it finally decided to play ball with the PS5. I have no idea why that method worked, but there we go, problem solved. Anyway, while you can’t run PS5 games off an external drive yet, PS4 games are still good to go. I’ve got a regular WD 1.5TB external hard drive hooked up to my PS5 for legacy games, but I decided to do some transfers and experience gaming with better technology.

The results was a definite improvement, but not a gigantic one. Marvel’s Avengers, Call of Duty and Dragon Ball Z Kakarot did manage to shave several substantial seconds off of load times when running from the SSD, and while it was close to what the PS5’s internal SSD was capable of, it did fall short of that benchmark. It wasn’t a drastic gap mind you, but the benefits were definitely tangible.

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On PC, there was also some impressive performance even if my own hardware is starting to show its age. Copying over a few dozen gigabytes of data was speedy enough, reaching an average speed of 125MB/s. The P50 is capable of much MUCH faster data transfer speeds, but it requires bleeding edge hardware to tap into its full potential. A PC with USB 3.2 Gen 2 standard, can achieve a maximum speed of 10GBps, while those people with money to burn can copy files over even more quickly with newer tech.

The end result is a storage option that’s perfect for bringing over and preserving a library of games from a console generation that still has so much to offer gamers. On PS5, the P50 hits a comfortable middleground for taking the best of last-gen and keeping it relevant on current-gen hardware. It may not be as fast as the PS5’s insanely ahead-of-its-time internal SSD, but it’ll easily leave more traditional external storage drives choking on its dust.

With a sexy design, rugged appeal, and an overall size that’s barely bigger than a smartphone, the WD Black P50 feels like a reliable and impressively secure investment for keeping an entire generation of video games on you at any given time.

Last Updated: February 3, 2021

WD Black P50
With a sexy design, rugged appeal, and an overall size that’s barely bigger than a smartphone, the WD Black P50 feels like a reliable and impressively secure investment for keeping an entire generation of video games on you at any given time.
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