Using solid state storage (flash storage) with a mechanical drive gives rise to a hybrid drive, which makes use of the speeds of an SSD and the capacity and cost benefits of an HDD.
Western Digital’s first foray in this space is a unique offering. The WD Black² (pronounced Black squared) Dual Drive although housing flash storage and mechanical drive, isn’t technically a hybrid drive in the same vein as the more well-known Seagate solid state hard drive (SSHD) range. WD is offering two distinct storage types within a single package, in a 2.5-inch form factor. So what was initially possible only on desktops, with two separate drives (a larger capacity HDD paired with a smaller capacity SSD), is now possible with one single device - the WD Black2 Dual drive.
Build and Features
The WD Black 2 Dual Drive comes in an all-black body with a metallic finish on top. The glossy metal finish on top has the WD Black 2 branding on the bottom right hand side. You will notice a patterned design reminiscent of a printed circuit board on the left hand side. This is actually the backside of the SSD circuit board painted black. On the underside you will notice the familiar looking WD laptop HDD.
The package consists of a 1TB WD Blue HDD and a 120GB SSD section. Unlike the Seagate SSHD, there is no caching involved, so technically the WD Black isn’t a hybrid drive, but more like two drives in one single package. But the WD Black 2 dual drive has a single SATA 6Gbps interface.
The 1TB hard drive has a rotational speed of 5400RPM which is similar to the WD Blue series of laptop drives. The SSD section has 120GB MLC NAND flash controlled by a JMicron JMF667H SSD controller. The 2.5-inch dual drive comes in the 9.5mm z-height form factor, thus making it an ideal candidate for most laptops. Some laptops only take in a 7mm z-height HDDs, so take care.
In the package, you get a SATA to USB 3.0 adapter which basically lets you clone your OS onto the dual drive from your older HDDs. Just ensure that the data to be cloned is around 100GB if you are cloning to the SSD. You have a USB drive which when connected to the system, runs a command which takes you to the WD Black downloads page. From here you can download the image cloning software as well as the proprietary drivers.
When you connect the drive for the first time to your system, you will only see the 120GB SSD component under Disk Management. To see the 1TB HDD section as well, you will have to install the drivers you have downloaded. The WD Black 2 drive shows up as a single drive with two partitions SSD+HDD. You can also combine the two drives into one single partition, but then you have no control over which content goes on HDD or SSD. First preference is SSD, but after its capacity fills up, things are moved to the HDD. It is not recommended to use the WD Black as a single partition as there are no visible benefits.
Processor: Intel Core i7-4770K
Motherboard: ASRock Z87M Extreme4
RAM: 2 x 4GB GSkill RipjawsX
OS Drive: Intel SSD, 80GB
Source Drive: Corsair Neutron GTX, 240GB SSD
PSU: Cooler Master 800W Silent Pro Gold
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Considering the WD Black dual drive has an SSD and a HDD, we had to perform tests for both the sections and compare them with the regular HDDs and SSDs.
Crystal Disk Mark 3.0
Crystal Disk Mark allows you to find out sequential as well as random read and write speeds. We kept it on the default mode which uses random data. It also gives you the option to perform sequential and random read and write tests 4KB, 512KB and 4KB with queue depth of 32 data.
This is the most popular storage benchmarking tool and it allows you to check read and write speeds across various transfer sizes and queue depths. ATTO is also a good tool to check for the marketing spiel of SSD makers where they publish sequential read and write speeds on the packaging.
AS SSD is a benchmark tool built specifically for SSDs which uses incompressible data and calculates sequential and random read and write speeds and gives an overall score at the end. It also gives you the input/output operations per second or IOPS for each of those tests which is interesting. Apart from this you can also perform Copy Test where it creates test folders for large files simulating ISO, programs and games and measures the transfer speeds and duration.
PC Mark 7
PC Mark 7 is a complete PC bench-marking solution for Windows 7 having a dedicated Storage test module. It is a collection of workloads that isolates the performance of your PC’s SSD. The Secondary Storage test allows you to test drives other than your system drive. It simulates operations such as importing pictures, gaming, starting applications and so on.
We installed Windows 7 64-bit OS on the SSD part of the dual drive and it gave a startup time of mere 11 secs with no extra software installed.
Real Life Test on 1TB HDD
For the real-life transfer speeds, we transferred a 10GB single file and an 10GB assorted file from the source drive to the WD Black 2 Dual Drive's HDD component.
Verdict and Price in India
Western Digital has certainly released an interesting drive which allows one to have a full-blown SSD+HDD dual drive combination inside your laptop. However, the price point of Rs 18,500 which gets the cost per GB to around Rs 17.75 is quite high. For desktop users, buying a 1TB HDD + 120GB SSD will come to around Rs 11,000. And you can certainly get a much better performing 120GB SSD in that price point.
Agreed, WD has come out with something innovative, but the performance offered by the SSD is nothing great. As can be seen from the scores above, the SSD portion is certainly lacking when it comes to write speeds. That would have been excused was it just a caching segment, but we are talking of a proper SSD on which you will load your OS and have heavy applications on. The HDD portion performs well, in fact it gave us higher scores than most laptop drives we have tested in the recent past.
If you are sold on the idea of having two drives on your laptop which has space only for a single drive, then the WD Black 2 Dual Drive is the only option at the moment. But we would not recommend it at its current pricing. We would have liked it if the price was closer to the Rs 11,000-12,000 mark, as the SSD write performance is certainly that of a mid-range SSD. Then again, it is a first generation product and WD will hopefully put in a better SSD controller and better quality NAND chips in future variations.
If you're only looking for a regular hybrid drive, then the Seagate SSHD 1TB (Rs 8,300) offers the best value for money. But mind you, unlike the WD Black 2 Dual Drive, the Seagate SSHD gives only 8GB MLC NAND component to which you have no access.
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