• Valuable combination of storage space & performance
• Convenient for single bay computers/laptops
• 5 year warranty
• Pricey in comparison to dedicated SSDs
• Write speeds aren’t very impressive
When the time comes to upgrade your computer’s hard drive, choosing between the enormous amount of Solid State Drives (SSDs) available isn’t easy, especially when you’re the owner of a single drive laptop, all-in-one computer or small desktop.
That single drive bay means you have only one option to invest in, so ideally you want it to be something that’ll serve you well in the long term.
Whilst you can opt for the cheaper 120GB SSD options retailing at under $100/£100, you won’t be getting a lot of storage space for your money — and even if you spend more on a 480GB SSD, it just works out too expensive at around $400/£300.
WD Black² Dual Drive
That’s where Western Digital’s Black² comes in; a 1.2TB dual drive that pairs the high performance of a 120GB SSD, with the larger and more affordable 1TB capacity of a traditional hard drive — all in a single 2.5-inch form factor.
Retailing at around the $300 mark (or £250 in the UK), the idea behind the Black² is that the SSD partition hosts your *Windows operating system as well as regularly used applications to boost up your computer’s performance & boot-up time; whilst the hard drive can host all other media and files.
*Windows XP up to 8.1. The WD Black² unfortunately isn’t available for Mac at this point in time.
Unlike other hybrid drives that use SSDs as a cache — meaning speeds only slightly better than a traditional hard drive — WD’s Black² uses the full capabilities of its SSD, promising up to 350 MB/s read and 150 MB/s write speeds.
So is it the right upgrade for you? Read on to find out.
Unboxing & Setup
Western Digital have certainly made more of an effort with the packaging and presentation of Black² than I’ve seen with any of their other products. They seem to have gone for a premium look & feel, and for the most part that’s the impression I got during my unboxing.
Once you remove the box from its outer sleeve and lift the lid’s magnetic clasp, you’re greeted with product documentation, a cool looking USB stick that carries the installation software (including Acronis cloning software), and of course the WD Black² drive itself in a typical 9.5mm, 2.5-inch form factor.
Packed underneath the drive, Western Digital also include a USB-to-SATA cable to help you transfer your files over from your current system if you prefer not to do a clean install. You’ll need to keep in mind however, that if you decide to transfer all of your files over, the total size of your current system needs to be below 120GB so that it can fit on the Black²’s SSD partition.
Although it was confusing during initial setup, the hard drive partition isn’t accessible when you first connect it via USB; only the SSD is visible on your system. That’s mainly to avoid you installing Windows on the wrong partition which is useful, so for the sake of the setup process you’ll only be able to work with the SSD.
After the WD installation software is complete and you connect the Black² via its 6GB/s SATA connector – both partitions become accessible.
For the main 120GB SSD partition, the WD Black²’s read speeds were impressive at around 403 MB/s — much better than I anticipated based on WD’s advertised specs. That places it amongst some of the mid range SSDs currently available.
The SSD’s write speeds on the other hand came in at 145 MB/s, which was slightly lower than its advertised specs. That small discrepancy in itself didn’t bother me much, but I couldn’t help but feel that 145 MB/s, or even the 150 MB/s advertised by Western Digital is quite low by today’s SSD standards.
Don’t get me wrong, it still delivers significant improvements over the speeds you’d otherwise achieve with a traditional hard drive, but it’s by no means comparable to the capabilities of a dedicated SSD that can deliver over 500 MB/s read/write speeds.
HARD DRIVE PERFORMANCE
What’s positive about the Black²’s 1TB hard drive partition is that it performs similarly to a USB 3.0 drive, like the WD My Passport Ultra for example. The 110 MB/s performance bracket is more than good enough for standard media and files, and all in all it’s a major improvement over the 30 MB/s speeds you’d get with a traditional hard drive anyway.
The Bottom Line
Judging solely on performance and cost, there’s no denying that the WD Black² falls short by today’s SSD standards. They’re essentially two factors that stop me from giving this drive a better rating.
Some are likely to argue that you can buy a 256GB SSD for cheaper and with superior specs — and the truth is, they’d be right. So, why should you even consider the WD Black² then?
The value of this dual drive is ultimately in it’s ability to deliver SSD performance improvements to your computer and merge that with a generous 1.2TB of storage capacity — all in the convenience of one single drive. Pair that with Western Digital’s 5 year warranty, and you’ve got a hard drive upgrade that’s future proof too.
If those are things you’re going to value, then I can’t recommend this product enough.