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Western Digital Black2 Dual Drive

_DSC3485While most companies have transitioned from conventional spinning hard disk drives to solid state storage using some form of hybrid storage solution, Western Digital has taken quite a different approach with their Black2. It is a dual drive, as Western Digital describes it, which means it’s basically two hard disks, one spinning disk and one SSD, glued together. Your computer sees two drives, not one.

Most hybrid drive solutions basically use the SSD as a sort of a cache for the spinning disk. Or, in the case of Apple’s Fusion drive, the hierarchical tiered storage approach moves data between spinning disk and SSD to optimise access. Both give you the appearance of a single logical disk. Both aims to speed up access to your files. The trouble is that they need to guess what files to put in the SSD so that you reap the maximum benefit of its faster speed.

The WD Black2 Drive does away with the guessing. It’s two drives. The SSD, and the conventional spinning disk. Your computer will see two distinct drives. You decide what you want to put in each of them. There’s no guess work on the part of the drive or the operating system.

Now, you might be wondering. Why not just get a SSD and a conventional spinning disk separately? Well, on a desktop computer, that’ll probably be the best thing to do. You have space for multiple disks. But what about in a notebook? Most notebooks only have space for a single 2.5″ notebook-sized hard disk. That’s where the WD Black2 Dual Drive fits in. You get a speedy 120 GB SSD, and also a 1 TB conventional spinning disk, both inside the space of a single 2.5″ notebook-sized hard disk.

There’s only one SATA connector. You will need to install WD supplied software to see both the SSD and conventional spinning disk. At this time, only Windows (8, 7, Vista, XP) is supported at this time. No Mac, but perhaps that’s alright since most new Mac notebooks don’t come with space for even a notebook hard disk these days.

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So once the WD Black2 Dual Drive has been properly set up, you have two drives, and you decide what stuff go into which disk. What makes most sense, generally, is for your operating system and applications to go into the fast SSD. Your large media files, like music, video and photos, should go into the slower but much larger conventional spinning disk.

I won’t talk about performance benchmarks here. You can refer to reviews like this one on StorageReview. The short of it is this. The conventional spinning disk part of the Black2 Dual Drive delivers average performance compared with other notebook type conventional hard disk drive. In particular, it is quite identical to the WD Blue Slim that it is actually based on. However, when it comes to the SSD part, the Black2 Dual Drive doesn’t compare so favourably to other SSDs.

Then again, bear in mind that the WD Black2 Dual Drive offers a unique value proposition. There is no other two-in-one combo solution that packs both the speed of a SSD and capacity of a conventional hard disk drive, as two separate drives, in the space of a single 2.5″ hard disk drive. This is a very attractive feature particularly for notebook users with only space for a single disk in their notebook.

The Black2 Dual Drive is currently offered in only one configuration, 120 GB SSD with 1 TB spinning disk.

Conclusion

The WD Black2 Dual Drive brings a new strategy to combo solid state and spinning disk drives. It is two drives in one, letting you use the SSD for fast access separately from the conventional spinning disk for enormous storage capacity.

Pros:

  • Unique solution, best of both worlds
  • Great for notebooks

Cons:

  • SSD’s performance is underwhelming
  • Works only with Windows

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