WD Black 2 Dual Drive review: Capacious and affordable SSD-based storage

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MSRP: $299.00

WD Black 2 Dual Drive

(Part #: WD1001X06XDTL)
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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The WD Black 2 Dual Drive offers fast SSD-based performance while providing 1.2TB of total storage space. The drive can be used with both laptops and desktops and includes a generous five-year warranty, useful software, and a handy USB-to-SATA connector.

The Bad There's no support for RAID, and you can't blend the two included drives into one single partition; compared with high-end SSDs, the performance is a little disappointing. At the time of the review, the drive only works with Windows.

The Bottom Line Fast, user-friendly, and affordable, the WD Black 2 Dual Drive is an easy recommendation as a replacement drive for any standard laptop or desktop computer.

8.3 Overall
  • Setup and ease of use 9.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Service and support 9.0

For the first time ever, laptop users can now have a dual-drive setup on their computers. All thanks to the WD Black 2 Dual Drive.

The new internal storage device has a solid-state drive (SSD) and a regular hard drive (HDD) inside the standard laptop design. Prior to it you would have needed two separate drives to achieve the same effect, and could only do that with a desktop computer.

The reason this is significant is because this drive has fast performance and 1.2TB of storage space, without the premium cost of an SSD of the same capacity. And for this purpose, at the cost of $300, the WD Black 2 Dual Drive delivers.

In my testing, the Black 2 was easy to install and offered the equivalent performance of an entry-level 120GB SSD. Unfortunately, the drive doesn't offer a way to blend its two drives into a single partition without losing performance, which is why it's not a hybrid drive.

In all, the WD Black 2 Dual Drive is an affordable dual-drive solution with ample space for both laptops and desktops, and is an excellent choice as a replacement drive. For more options on great internal drives, check out those on this list.

WD Black 2 Dual Drive
The WD Black 2 Dual Drive takes the shape of a standard laptop SATA hard drive. Dong Ngo/CNET

Standard design, yet totally original
From the look, the WD Black 2 Dual Drive is just like any standard laptop internal drive. The drive measures 2.5 inches diagonally, is 9.5mm thick, and supports SATA 3 (6Gbps) standard. This means the drive will work with any standard laptop or desktop, but not ultrabooks which generally require thinner drives. You can install it in a computer just like you do any regular laptop hard drive.

On the inside, however, it's totally unprecedented: the drive comes with a 120GB SSD and a 1TB HDD. These two drives share the single SATA connector.

In many ways, the Black 2 is WD's answer to the solid-state hybrid drives (SSHD) from Seagate or Toshiba, which combine both SSD and HDD into one physical drive to offer an SSD-like performance boost. WD's solution offers real SSD performance, however.

On the inside, the Black 2 Dual Drive comes with one 120GB solid-state drive and one 1TB hard drive.
On the inside, the Black 2 Dual Drive comes with one 120GB solid-state drive and one 1TB hard drive. Dong Ngo/CNET

Not a hybrid drive
The reason the WD Black 2 is not an SSHD is because the two drives on the inside are not meant to be merged. They remain two separate volumes, just as you would use two physical drives in a system. At least this is the way WD recommends it's used.

In my quick trial, I was able to merge the two into one single partition of 1.2TB. However, according to WD, in this case the system doesn't know where the SSD part begins and ends, and therefore it is not optimized for performance. In other words, if you wanted to, you could use the WD Black 2 Dual as a hybrid drive, but there's no benefit to this, at least for now. In the case of Seagate's SSHD, the drive comes with built-in algorithm to automatically allocate hot (frequently accessed) data to the SSD part.

With WD's Black 2 Dual Drive, you will see real SSD performance immediately, whereas with the Seagate's SSHD the boost in performance is only realized gradually, and the drive is never really as fast as a real SSD.

The WD Black 2 installation software will unlock the HDD portion of the WD Black 2 Dual Drive and format it into a new partition for the user.
The WD Black 2 installation software will unlock the HDD portion of the WD Black 2 Dual Drive and format it into a new partition for the user. Dong Ngo/CNET

Two-step installation, no RAID support
Out of the box, when plugged into a computer only the Black 2's SSD drive is recognized, and it looks as though it's a 120GB SSD. You can install Windows on this drive (the Black 2 only works with Windows for now, but Mac support is coming soon), or clone an existing system onto it. In the latter case, you'll find the included USB-to-SATA transfer cable and Acronis drive clone and backup software very helpful; just make sure the system's old drive has less than 120GB of data on it. (If you need help cloning your system check out this how-to post. )

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