WD Black² Dual-Drive 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD Hybrid Review

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Western Digital Doubles The Pleasure

Ever since the emergence of Solid-State Drives, there’s been a conundrum facing laptop users in regards to storage options. Storage could be fast, large capacity, or low price – pick two of the three. We’ve seen hybrid drives that mesh SSDs with HDDs using a caching method to boost performance but generally the SSD portion is less than ideal. Western Digital has a new spin on this concept with a hybrid drive of a different sort that they’ve aptly named Black². With it, they’ve actually combined a 120GB SSD and a 1TB HDD on a single drive, although separate save for the the SATA III interface they share. Before you go wetting yourself with anticipation, have a look at the performance numbers and our impressions to see if it truly delivers full SSD performance with HDD capacity (hint: not quite).

Black2 Box

We’ve been a bit ambivalent towards hybrid drives in the past as they offer some improved performance but often at the expense of additional risk or required compatible hardware. Generally they lack enough SSD storage to be as effective as we’d like but doing so also negates most of the cost savings they provide. However, we’re always willing to look at new methods of employing them so having an open mind, we venture forth with the Black² drive. Retailing at $299.99, it’s still not going to make the inexpensive drive list but compared to a 1TB SDD it’s at least half if not one third of the cost. The WD specifications list the reads to max out at 350MB/s and writes at 140MB/s. Writes are hindered a bit by the hybrid controller though the impact of slower writes is much less perceived by the user than reads would be so that works out nicely. It does have a 2.5″ form-factor with a 9.5mm z-height to make it compatible with most notebook computers.

Black2 Front

The exterior design is a bit different with a hint of circuit board pattern embossed onto a third of the top side of the drive giving hint as to the SSD lying beneath. The predominant color is a glossy black with splash of gold in the form of the drive logo in the corner. Of course, no review would be complete without the obligatory marketing video to whet your whistle followed by the specifications…


WD Black² Features and Specifications:

  • Product Specifications:
    • Interface: SATA 6 Gb/s
  • Performance Specifications:
    • Load/unload Cycles: 600,000 minimum
  • Transfer Rates:
    • Buffer To Host (Serial ATA): 6 Gb/s (Max)
  • Physical Specifications
    • Capacity: 120 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD
    • Form Factor: 2.5 Inch
  • Performance Specifications (SSD):
  • Target Performance:
    • Internal transfer rate (read, max): 350 MB/s
    • Internal transfer rate (write, max): 140MB/s
  • Physical Dimensions:
  • English:
    • Height: 0.374 Inches
    • Depth: 3.95 Inches
    • Width: 2.75 Inches
    • Weight: 0.28 Pounds
  • Metric:
    • Height: 9.5 mm
    • Depth: 100.3 mm
    • Width: 69.85 mm
    • Weight: 0.125 kg
  • Environmental Specifications:
  • Shock:
    • Operating Shock (Read): 30G, 2 ms
    • Non-operating Shock: 350G, 2 ms
  • Acoustics:
    • Idle Mode: 20 dBA (average)
    • Seek Mode 0: 21 dBA (average)
  • Temperature (English):
    • Operating: 32° F to 140° F
    • Non-operating: -40° F to 158° F
  • Temperature (Metric):
    • Operating: -0° C to 60° C
    • Non-operating: -40° C to 70° C
  • Electrical Specifications:
  • Current Requirements:
    • Power Dissipation:
    • Read/Write: 1.80 Watts
    • Idle: 0.90 Watts
    • Standby: 0.90 Watts
    • Sleep: 0.90 Watts

Black2 Rear

When you flip the drive over, it suddenly looks very HDD-like with nary a hint of the SSD buried within.

WD Black2 Packaging

We have to say that the packaging and presentation are impressive. The drive comes packaged in sleeved box that then opens up via magnetic flap. There’s a card stock crafted, key shaped USB drive that contains the necessary software for using both drives – a process we’ll look at later.

Black2 Cables

Also included in the package is a super useful SATA to USB cable so those wanting to migrate from an existing notebook can do so with relative ease. Using USB is a lot slower than a traditional SATA connection but it beats the pants off of trying to track down another PC to do the drive copy.

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  • walterm

    A quick look at today’s prices. The Crucial M500 960 GB around $470-570. Which mean this makes sense, if you need it.
    It also means all those fancy laptops without an optical drive to exchange for a HHD/SSD caddy lose out, as do those requiring 7mm Drives.

  • Computer_Curmudgeon

    As far as I’m concerned, the WD Black2 is only a viable option if you:

    * Must have an SSD and a hard drive
    * Only have one drive bay available

    Otherwise, it’s grossly overpriced and underpowered. I can easily get a 120GB SSD and 1TB, 7200 RPM, 2.5″ hard drive that will run circles around this thing for less than 2/3 the price.

    • James Cook

      you forgot the third option – “because you’re rich”

      • Zlý Medvídek Míša

        rich people buy best ssd smartass…lets say revodrive? 🙂 twice the speed of usual ssd…

        • James Cook

          Not where i work, the rich buy whatever the hell they want + wasn’t trying to come across as a smartass. Just stating the truth

    • nate

      seriously though. If this was reasonably priced (and maybe it will be in time), OEMs and consumers would be all over this.