Since the WD Black² was first announced, I have had my keen eye on it and when I finally got one to put through its paces, I was certainly a very happy man. It is one of the first consumer drives of its kind but how far does the innovative design take the WD Black²? Is it a good performer or is there a limitation due to the shared SATA 6GB/s port? Let’s get cracking….
Starting with the performance, I was very surprised to see just how good the performance of both drives was compared to their individual separated counterparts. The 120GB WD SSD lost out in sequential read and write speeds to the OCZ Vertex 3 drive but was a bit faster in the 4k IOPS read test which I find is more important due to IOP = Input/output operations per second performance being a good metric for not only responsiveness but throughput as well. The 1TB HDD part of the WD Black² is a 5400rpm drive which is not blisteringly fast. But given the that it’s combined with an SSD does the 1TB HDD really need to be when it’s combined with a 120GB SSD for your operating system? Bearing in mind the WD Black² has a slight limitation causing it only to currently work with Windows rendering these drives a no go if you plan to install one in an Apple Linux system. Another disappointing fact about this drive is that they are not compatible with AS Media controllers, but this wasn’t a problem as I was using the Intel Z87 chipset SATA3 ports to run the testing. Overall in performance, the mechanical HDD performed literally identical to a Western Digital Caviar Blue 5400rpm drive and the SSD part of the WD Black² equaled the performance of the SandForce based Vertex 3.
In terms of aesthetics and overall design, the WD Black² Dual Drive has a lot going for it. It is the best looking storage drive I have ever laid my eyes on but I do feel the design could have been a little bit better. What I mean is that the back of the drive itself could have been enclosed and the PCB of the drive didn’t need to be shown. Another thing is the USB key; it is a nice idea but is it really needed? I had to move 2 x USB cables out of the back of my motherboard to even enable the use of the USB key. Although I would imagine most people would use their front I/O for this, the key seems rather superfluous given that the drive usually would be installed inside the PC. I also found Western Digital’s software a little bit of a hassle. For those who want to just download the software via the Western Digital website will undoubtedly have no complaints, for those who prefer a more comprehensive package, a driver/software disc included within the packaging would have been much appreciated especially given the price tag.
Not everything is smooth sailing out of the box as Western Digital make it out to be however. Although the 120GB SSD works out of the box with no issues, the 1TB drive needed to be unlocked via the software which is downloaded by using the key/browser. Which is rather a hassle given that the software isn’t included unless it is downloaded. Once the driver is installed and the 1TB drive is unlocked, the drive becomes visible just like any other drive would do in My Computer.
Cloning software is also available in the way of the included Acronis True Image WD Edition which can be downloaded via the Western Digital site. This is free to use and allows users to clone Windows operating systems and/or data files across with next to no effort. This can also be done via the dual USB cable which comes supplied. 1 connector is for the data and the other is there to purely provide power to the WD Black² Dual Drive itself. Overall it is a nice touch that offers a rather generous amount of convenience and allows users to clone/copy without the need to open your PC case.
In terms of pricing, the WD Black² Dual Drive isn’t by any means the cheapest solution on the market currently. It will set you back an impressive £249.99 but is it really worth that? Technically it would be cheaper to buy 1 x 120GB SSD and 1 x 4TB of storage for cheaper so why would anyone want to shell out so much money? Well the main word here is convenience! How many solutions on the market allow you to truly harness the pure speed of an SSD and large 1TB device on the market? Only this one! It is designed to save space and allow laptop/All in one PC owners to expand on their storage without sacrificing speed for pure storage. In my opinion, I don’t think it does represent good value for money on a storage scale due to the rather low pricing of the 4TB HDDs out recently, but this would be ideal in mobile solutions given the rather limited space in many laptops and AIOs as well.
It is worth noting that the WD Black² Dual Drive doesn’t currently support Apple Macs/Macbooks and also doesn’t support Linux. Another incompatibility is the inability to RAID with other drives and also AS Media SATA controllers are incompatible with the drive. These incompatibilities somewhat limit the utilization of the drive but if you are looking for a drive for a Windows operating system and don’t plan to use AS Media ports, then this drive is pretty much geared towards you!
Overall, the Western Digital Black² Dual Drive has performed better than expected, it is rivaled by no other drive in terms of aesthetics in my opinion and although it is expensive, there is a market for this type of product and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dual Drives wasn’t the next step for a lot of manufacturers for 2014. If it was priced around £200, I could see myself having a couple of these for different systems and my laptop but for now, I don’t think the price justifies the convenience unless you really needed both the space and the efficiency of an SSD in one single package.
Despite this though, I’ll still give the Black² an editor’s choice because the combination really brings about a good modicum of practicality and performance. And given that that the drive performs almost identical to separate solutions despite the combining of two different technologies, I can’t help but admire the performance of it. So the WD Black² will get an editor’s choice despite the price tag due to the fact that it combines two technologies and delivers almost identical performance without sacrificing the need for two separate drives.
Big thanks to Western Digital for the sample and I look forward to seeing more storage devices in the near future.
The WD Black² Dual Drive is a true testament to Western Digitals vision for the consumer and have created a near perfect product to boot. With the combination of the high performing SSD and a good quality 1TB drive in one 2.5″ enclosure is surely going to be convenient for a lot of people and although the price might put quite a few off, I would be surprised if most people didn’t want one of these in their system/laptop. The WD Black² Dual Drive truly deserves the Editors Choice award!
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