WD_BLACK D50—A Great Dock for Gamers and Everyone Else

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Gaming is getting huge. A natural result of that is equipment being designed explicitly for gamers. One such brand is WD with its WD_BLACK series of products. Yes, they are great for gaming, but I want to say that these are genuinely good products that are worth a look for other industries. In particular, it was the Thunderbolt™ 3-equipped D50 Game Dock that caught my eye as a great option for creatives who need speedy storage and a way to dock their laptop for heavier workloads and add more inputs to hook up various peripherals.

The Gamer-Creative Crossover

Check out that list of core requirements again:

  • Fast storage
  • Laptop docking for heavier work
  • Connections for multiple peripherals

You will notice that gamers and creatives have similar demands for their computers. Generally, they both ask for powerful graphics, too. The other part of the equation, perhaps more so for creatives like myself who are drawn to Mac, is that there are never enough USB or Thunderbolt™ ports on their devices, and a dock or hub is a necessity.

My current desk setup. Relatively clean, but I definitely ran out of ports on the Mac mini and we can't even see the various external hard drives, RAID arrays, and SSDs.
My current desk setup. Relatively clean, but I definitely ran out of ports on the Mac mini and we can't even see the various external hard drives, RAID arrays, and SSDs.

My most recent acquisition is a Mac mini with M1 Chip, and for someone who currently has a desk with a Thunderbolt™ 3 enclosure hosting a Decklink Mini Monitor 4K, an external SSD for current projects, an RX100 VII with Atomos Connect 4K as a webcam, a 27" display with USB-C connection, and a few random things like card readers and older drives, I have very quickly exhausted the Mac mini's integrated ports without even thinking about it.

A dock was in my future.

Seemingly by chance, WD had recently released a version of the D50 with integrated NVMe SSD that allegedly had incredible speed. Tack on having a solid set of ports, and this seemed like a surprisingly ideal option that I might not have stumbled upon without deep research in the category.

The dock itself is quite lightweight and compact. It tucks away nicely if you don't want it to be obvious.
The dock itself is quite lightweight and compact. It tucks away nicely if you don't want it to be obvious.

Core Specs on the D50

"Dock" is in the name, and the D50 has plenty of good ports:

  • 2 x Thunderbolt™ 3 (one for host with 87W pass-through charging)
  • 1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • 2 x USB-C (10 Gb/s)
  • 3 x USB-A (10 Gb/s)
  • 1 x 3.5mm audio in/out
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x DC in for power supply

In addition to these ports, the NVMe SSD editions of the D50 have the following storage specs:

  • 1TB or 2TB NVMe SSD
  • Read speeds up to 3,000 MB/s
  • Write speeds up to 2,500 MB/s

If you were shopping for a dock and were ignoring the WD_BLACK branding and RGB lights (which can be controlled via the Windows-only WD_BLACK Dashboard utility), this list makes it a very good dock.

Excellent Port Selection

As someone who has purchased and shopped for multiple Thunderbolt™ docks in recent years, I want to explain how this dock is better than most. It's simply that it gives you top speed and features on every port. The most frustrating thing about most docks is that they have a variety of ports and speeds, meaning one will be full 10 Gb/s and another will be limited to 5 Gb/s and this just goes on and on. Don't make me think or fiddle with cables just because I have to figure out which port is best for what device I'm hooking up.

The main port side has all the major connections and the Thunderbolt™ 3 port for hooking up your PC.
The main port side has all the major connections and the Thunderbolt™ 3 port for hooking up your PC.

The D50 is simple in that way. I can plug in my other drives or card readers into whichever port I get to first. An argument could be made that an SD card slot would be nice, but as I have moved to the a7S III with its CFexpress Type A cards, I now have to have a dedicated card reader anyway, which happens to have SD support as well. Many other creatives would probably appreciate an SD slot even though its omission makes sense for a gaming-focused device.

Pass-through charging up to 87W is solid for anyone using this with a laptop. While just under the 96W of the latest 16" MacBook Pro charger, I don't see this being an issue if you are an Apple user.

In my case, the main side hosts all the devices that stay plugged in while this side provides easier access for devices I use intermittently.
In my case, the main side hosts all the devices that stay plugged in while this side provides easier access for devices I use intermittently.

The second Thunderbolt™ 3 port supports all the devices you would expect. I'm currently using it for an Akitio expansion chassis hosting the aforementioned Decklink card hooked up to an Atomos Ninja V for basic HDR video editing. Plus, I plugged in another Thunderbolt™ drive into the chassis to extend the chain. This drive had slower speeds than usual (down to about 1200 MB/s from a usual of 1800 MB/s), which is expected since all the devices are straining the bandwidth of a single Thunderbolt™ stream. Still, it's a solid performance.

There isn't much more to say about this. It looks like it has all the ports an average user would need. As someone who has migrated as many devices as possible to USB-C, I would love it if a future generation swapped out more of the USB-A ports for some extra Type-C ports, but I understand that we are not quite to that point for a majority of people.

Ultra-Fast Drive Speeds

This is the truly eye-catching spec of the D50 NVMe SSD. It has read/write speeds of up to 3000/2500 MB/s. We are talking about literal gigabytes transferred in a second. This is something I had to test.

The D50 came very close to its rated numbers, which are already very impressive.
The D50 came very close to its rated numbers, which are already very impressive.

Using Blackmagic's Disk Speed Test software (my usual for this thing) set to 5GB on the stress I got results of ~2590 MB/s for write and ~2750 MB/s for read. Write was dead on for WD's stated speeds and read just a touch under, but still within what I would call acceptable at these speeds.

The addition of integrated storage is what gives the D50 its real value. Buying a dock and storage separately will cost at least as much as the retail price of the D50 to match performance. Plus, there are plenty of reasons to have a dedicated storage device always hooked up to your PC instead of on internal storage.

  • Asset libraries (SFX, titles, logos, music, etc. used across multiple projects)
  • Scratch disks and media caches
  • Template projects
  • Active projects

If you aren't paying attention, these files can quickly eat up your internal storage until you get the dreaded "not enough space" error when trying to export or render a file. You can also use it as your working drive for the current project before archiving it to a NAS or RAID array upon completion. It's certainly fast enough to be a working drive.

All these cache and media files can fill up internal storage if you aren't careful. Putting them on a constantly connected external drive can save you.
All these cache and media files can fill up internal storage if you aren't careful. Putting them on a constantly connected external drive can save you.

I ran some 4K projects off the drive using a variety of ProRes RAW footage in Final Cut with some overlays also drawn from the D50 with no playback stutter. I also loaded in some heavy ProRes 4444 files to DaVinci Resolve, threw in some random other footage I had lying around, including a series of TIFFs from an old time-lapse, and again, had no issues.

Plus, if you are a gamer on the side there's no reason to not use the D50 for its intended purpose.

For Gamers

I know I focused on creatives in this review, but I would feel bad not hitting on the gaming aspect of the D50. Considering that game sizes are exploding, with AAA titles coming in at well north of 100GB, all those internal SSDs are getting filled up. The D50 NVMe SSD manages to hit speeds close to internal while adding a good chunk of storage. Plus, it has RGB lighting.

The WD-BLACK Dashboard app for Windows provides stats on drive performance and longevity, checks for errors, and gives control over the D50's RGB lighting.
The WD-BLACK Dashboard app for Windows provides stats on drive performance and longevity, checks for errors, and gives control over the D50's RGB lighting.

WD claims that the 2TB model can hold up to 50 games. That's at an average size of 36GB per game. YMMV. Cyberpunk 2077 is at least 70GB and Call of Duty: Warzone is 175GB, so…. While it may not hold all 50 of your games, these game sizes do emphasize that something like the D50 Game Dock is going to be a necessity. An average 1TB internal SSD that wants to hold your OS, apps, and these two games will have a solid chunk eaten up. Hosting your game installs on an external drive will help keep things organized and running smoothly.

The read speeds of ~3000 MB/s will make sure games are getting excellent performance. I highly doubt your bottleneck in performance will be this drive. Processors, graphics cards, and even memory will have a bigger impact.

Final Thoughts

The D50 Game Dock NVMe SSD is going to be my default dock recommendation for people who will benefit from the storage. It has all the key docking features you want, plus the built-in drive is among the fastest drives I've seen in consumer devices.

It's great for gamers, but it's also great for everyone else.

What are your thoughts on the D50 Game Dock? Is there a dock you prefer or a feature/port you want included in the future? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

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