Recent designs in the laptop market are now seeing the availability of both an mSATA connector for SSDs, as well as the typical SATA connector for hard drives; the Lenovo Thinkpad is a great example of this. With the demand for additional capacity, we had also seen adapters which allowed for the swapping of optical drives for an additional hard drive. But what about newer models that have eliminated the optical drive altogether, or older models where you don’t want to give up the optical drive?
Although SSDs continue to narrow the cost per GB gap as compared to HDDs, we are still often left with the choice of either upgrading to a larger capacity HDD at a lower cost per GB, or to a smaller capacity SSD to achieve the speed and benefits of flash storage at that higher cost per GB price point. Only having a single drive bay also eliminates a caching solution as an option to try and get some of the best of both worlds. Enter Western Digital’s Black2 Dual Drive. WD refers to it as the “Black Squared.”
We have on hand for review today the WD Black2 Dual Drive, which consists of a 120GB SSD sandwiched on top of a 1TB 5400 RPM HDD, both fitting into a single 2.5″ drive bay. WD uses a Marvell bridge chip to allow both drives to connect through a single SATA interface connection. But how does WD expect the Black2 to be able to achieve true SSD performance when it has to share a port with the HDD? Will sharing a connection not compromise the performance of one or the other or both?
The solution lies in the proprietary partition management software that WD includes with the purchase of the Black2. Their partition software allows your system to see the combination of the two drives as a single disk, yet still gives you the option to move larger files to the HDD using WD’s new Shift_Technology. Your system will boot from the SSD portion, resulting in much quicker boot times, and main programs and applications will also run off the SSD at the much faster SSD speeds.
With today’s report, we will benchmark the performance of both the HDD and the SSD that comprise the WD Black2 dual drive separately, and then the performance of the combined disk utilizing WD’s partition management software. We will also walk you through the steps of downloading and installing the software, and getting the WD Black2 up and running in its new configuration.
PACKAGING AND CONTENTS
The WD Black2 is offered up in an eye-catching, slickly designed retail box. The black theme is predominant with a large numeral ‘2’, along with the rear third of a race car in gold and gray, and the script “WD Black2 Dual Drive”, again in gold.
When we begin to slide out the inner portion of the retail box, we see the other two thirds of the race car featured on the outer box. At about halfway removed, the race car becomes a compete picture, depicting the essence of speed.
Once we open the inner box, we see a user guide, and a black card that contains a removable USB “key”. The USB “key” is what will take us to WD’s product page for the Black2, where we will find the partition software download, along with a free download for a version of Acronis TrueImage drive cloning software. At this point, the Black2 is still hidden under the upper layers of contents.
Here we see the user guide, and the included USB to SATA adapter to assist with cloning. The adapter utilizes a USB 3.0 connection for data transfer, and a USB 2.0 connection to power the Black2 during the cloning process. The WD Black2 product page also features a couple of very well done installation tutorial videos on either cloning your current drive over to the Black2, or for a fresh install of your operating system. As is always the case with SSDs, it is recommended to perform a fresh installation of your operating system as opposed to cloning whenever possible.
Now then, we finally get to see the focus of today’s report — the unique Black2 dual drive. The top side is solid glossy black, and this is the 120GB SSD portion of the Black2. If you look closely, you can even see the tracing of the underside of the PCB circuits showing through the glossy black finish.
Flipping the WD Black2 dual drive over, we see the 1TB 5400 RPM HDD portion. You can also see at the connection end the Marvell bridge chip that marries the two drives together through the single SATA interface. The HDD utilized is WD’s Blue Slim notebook drive. The use of a 5400 RPM HDD is done in the interest of prolonging the battery life of your laptop or notebook.