Solid State Drives Guide

Western Digital Black2 (SSD + HDD) review

Western Digital Black2 Dual Drive - Don't Call It a Hybrid (Updated with SSHD Performance!)

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Launch SRP S$459
Latest Price From S$439 (Check Latest Prices)

Overall rating 8/10
Performance:
7.5
Features:
8.5
Value:
7.5
THE GOOD
Innovative two drives in one design
1TB of storage
Easy to setup
THE BAD
Lackluster SSD performance
9.5mm thickness won't fit all notebooks
Windows only
Very pricey
More Awards:
Most Innovative Product


Conclusion

An Alternative to Hybrids

The WD Black2 is remarkable because it combines two drives into a single 2.5-inch form factor. As a result, its target market are notebook users who are seeking to upgrade their storage, specifically those who want the speed of an SSD but the storage capacity of a hard disk drive.

On a whole, the concept of the WD Black2 certainly works. However, as the benchmarks show, performance is somewhat compromised. Write performance, in particular, is particular poor; and read performance was not anything to shout about either. Nevertheless, we doubt users would be able to notice the differences in daily usage. As our timing tests show, and from our experience with the drive, the drive performed smoothly enough and launched applications almost as quickly as a high-end SSD would. Besides, the hard disk drive of the WD Black2 performed respectably, easily outscoring the Seagate Laptop Ultrathin HDD on all tests and was more than a match for the WD UltraSlim.

From a cost perspective, there is no getting around the fact that at S$459, the WD Black2 is pretty costly. If you break it down, a single high-end 128GB SSD and 1TB hard disk drive should cost just around S$290. Furthermore, consider also that the most affordable 480GB SSD is presently retailing for around S$499 - just S$40 more - while a hybrid hard disk drive from either Seagate or Toshiba will set you back around S$160. The premium is therefore considerable, and mainstream users might want to look elsewhere. However, for advanced users, whether or not the WD Black2 is worth its asking price depends very much on your own preferences and requirements.

As it is, we think that the WD Black2 is a pretty niche product for notebook users who only have a single hard disk bay and want the best of both worlds, but do not want to compromise on a hybrid hard disk drive. To elaborate, the WD Black2 trumps a hybrid disk drive in two areas: 1) more flash memory and 2) full control over what files are stored on the flash drive.

Unfortunately, without a hybrid hard disk drive in our labs as comparison, it is difficult to say if the two drives in one concept of the WD Black2 is truly superior. Therefore, we will refrain from providing ratings for the drive until we have had the chance to test a hybrid hard disk drive.

As it is, the WD Black2 is an interesting product that works as advertised. Performance might be a little underwhelming, but in practical usage, we think users would be hard pressed to notice the difference. Stay tuned as we will update this review once we have had the chance to test a hybrid hard disk drive.

Updated on 21 Jan 2014 to Factor in Hybrid Hard Drive Performance:-

To focus on just the benchmarks to evaluate both the WD Black2 and hybrid hard disk drive would be unfair to the latter. The WD Black2 is really two drives in one and in terms of benchmarks it absolutely blows the doors off the hybrid hard disk drive, which is really just a regular hard disk drive but with a larger flash memory cache.

In practical usage scenarios, the gulf in performance is not that wide. For example, on PCMark 7, which puts the drives through everyday usage scenarios, the hybrid hard disk drive managed a score of 3287 or about 35% less than the WD Black 2. However, if were to pit this against the hard disk drive portion of the WD Black 2, the hybrid hard drive actually outscored it by by close to 100%. Clearly then, a hybrid hard disk drive provides substantial performance benefits over a pure mechanical hard disk drive.

In addition, if we were to look at the timing tests, cold start timings were actually quite competitive, but reboot timings were a bit disappointing. And while it may take our hybrid hard disk drive close to a minute and a half to launch the entire suite of Adobe CS6 applications, remember that it takes a performance-grade 7200rpm hard disk drive over five whole minutes to do the same. We reckon it will take a shorter time for the hybrid disk drive if we had kept the number of apps down to a smaller number, this will enable it to make better use of its limited amount of cache capacity.

Hence, if performance is not the utmost concern for you or if your budget is limited, a hybrid hard disk drive is not a bad way to go as it offers substantial performance increases over a regular all mechanical hard disk drive. Plus it costs only slightly more than regular mechanical hard disk drives and substantially less than the WD Black2. On the other hand, if you only have a single drive bay in your notebook and you desire SSD levels of performance but do not want to sacrifice on capacity, the WD Black2 is the only viable, albeit costly, option.

However, do be sure that your notebook can accommodate drives that are 9.5mm in height; many Ultrabooks may only be able to accommodate 7mm drives or thinner. As such, the WD Black2 might not be compatible with a wide range of notebooks even if you can afford it.