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Western Digital Black2 Dual Drive Full Review - 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD in a single 2.5" package

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Internals, Testing Methodology and System Setup

Internals:

I normally dive right in and field strip these devices as they arrive for testing. The Black2 is so precisely assembled that I opted to do the disassembly *after* all of the testing, out of fear for rendering it inoperable after the surgery. There is a dust-sealed HDD in there after all, and inadvertently breaking that seal would mean no test results for you fine folks. That said, I did manage to break it down while leaving the important bits intact.

First the belly:

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After warranty voidance step 1 we expose the drive electronics. These parts are mostly responsible for driving the HDD portion of this drive, with an added bridge to tack on the SSD controller:

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Now for the real goodies - the SSD portion. This part is extremely delicate as the PCB is razor thin and is very well attached to the HDD frame. Do not try this at home - seriously:

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As you can see from the plain-as-day label, the SSD board is in fact mounted straight to a right off the line WD 1TB Slim HDD chassis.

The SSD only takes up a small portion of the PCB. Looking at the thicknesses involved, it's possible to get more chips within the sandwich, but WD chose to keep everything mounted closer to the 'open' end of the HDD structure. Here's a detail shot of the SSD logic:

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Aah, finally, we get to see the new(ish) JMicron 667H (details / specs) in action. 

Here's what the 667H looks like, functionally:

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As SSD controllers go, this is a standard setup. We just hope the newer JMicron model performs better than previous generations from this manufacturer.

One last shot to show the difference between the drive logic and SSD PCB's:

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You can see just how thin WD needed to go in order to make this happen. The Slim is a 7mm chassis, meaning WD had only 1.5mm to work with for the entire SSD portion.

Testing Methodology

Our tests are a mix of synthetic and real-world benchmarks. PCMark, IOMeter, HDTach, HDTune, Yapt and our custom File Copy test round out the selection to cover just about all bases. If you have any questions about our tests just drop into the Storage Forum and we'll help you out! 

Test System Setup

We currently employ a pair of testbeds. Our trusty Z68 SandyBridge testbed sits along side a newer ASUS P8Z77-V Pro/Thunderbolt.Results between both boards have been +/- 2% of each other - well within the best data scatter of a typical benchmark.

PC Perspective would like to thank ASUS, Corsair, and Kingston for supplying some of the components of our test rigs. 

 
Hard Drive Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i5-2500K
Motherboard Asus P8Z68-V Pro
Memory Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR3-2133 CL9
Hard Drive G.Skill 32GB SLC SSD
Sound Card N/A
Video Card Intel® HD Graphics 3000
Video Drivers Intel
Power Supply Corsair CMPSU-650TX
DirectX Version DX9.0c
Operating System Windows 7 X64
  • PCMark05
  • Yapt
  • IOMeter
  • HDTach
  • HDTune
  • PCPer File Copy Test
  • Write Caching Test
November 25, 2013 | 08:29 AM - Posted by Robert

The only thing that would make this a perfect option for me is if the 1TB drive were 7200RPM or faster. Perhaps they will come out with one.

November 25, 2013 | 08:57 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

If you're using the 1TB for bulk storage, accessed sequentially, the 7200 RPM drive isn't going to get you much more of an advantage. The 1TB may be 5400 RPM, but it hits 140 MB/sec (at the start of the drive space) without issue.

November 25, 2013 | 08:44 PM - Posted by danwat1234 (not verified)

Instead of a 7200RPM drive I would like to see the mechanical drive having 16GB of flash memory itself, so it'll be a hybrid drive, along with the 120GB SSD.

My only concern with the device is that the controller is kind of unstable if you try to intensively access the mechanical and SSD drive simultaneously, storagereview found. WD will probably revise the firmware.

November 25, 2013 | 08:31 AM - Posted by Robert23655124 (not verified)

Holy crap my laptop has a new friend :)

November 25, 2013 | 09:06 AM - Posted by mAxius

toss it in a ps4

November 25, 2013 | 09:24 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Won't work as the PS4 won't be able to access the 1TB portion.  And I don't know if the PS4 can handle working on more than one drive that shows up internally. 

A lot of questions there...  :)

November 25, 2013 | 11:51 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Yeah from what we've seen of the PS4 partitioning scheme, it *might* work if the 1TB portion was already unlocked on a PC and then all partitions deleted prior to installing it into the PS4, but then you're stuck with not knowing where the PS4 puts its data. It's definitely not aware of this SSD / HDD layout, so it'd be a crap shoot as far as performance goes, and it may not like data spanning the logical crossover between the two physical devices.

November 25, 2013 | 10:15 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Isn't it better to go with a large 3 or 4 TB drive and pair that with a small SSD (like 60Gb) and just do intel SSD catching?

You end up with a huge "hybrid" drive that's pretty fast.

Your thoughts Allyn?

November 25, 2013 | 11:33 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Sure that would work great - in a desktop. This is meant for laptops with a single 2.5" bay. Even a laptop with dual bays would benefit from an SSD and HDD in separate bays, and be more cost effective as well.

November 25, 2013 | 06:31 PM - Posted by NightWinggl (not verified)

What about a situation where you could use an Msata SSD with a HDD in the 2.5" bay?

November 26, 2013 | 11:24 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

It's still a bit of a coin toss, but if that same laptop is RST caching capable, you can get a better overall benefit by going with a fast 60GB mSATA caching a larger 2.5" HDD.

November 25, 2013 | 11:38 AM - Posted by PaulJ (not verified)

Aside from the lack of Linux/OSX support out of the box. I wonder if you provision it on a Windows box and then plug it onto a Linux or OSX machine... should be able to see both drives.

If this is the case, then this would make a great drive for ZFS NAS/SAN boxes.

November 25, 2013 | 11:57 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

It's possible, and this would be completely unsupported by WD, but you'd need to partition the SSD space under a PC, then let the WD driver unlock and partition the HDD space. Once this is done, you could reformat those two partition spaces to whichever file systems you wanted, but you'd need to maintain the *exact* offset and total sector figures for those two MBR entries or you risk seeing some odd performance from the SSD, HDD, or both.

You should be able to make multiple partitions within the SSD space (for power users who want to do custom multiple boot setups), but the HDD partition *must* start at the same offset that is created by the WD software.

November 25, 2013 | 01:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The main problem this disc has is the 9.5mm thickness. most drives that fit this disc will have a optical bay, which with a cheap 11$ adapter can become a new home for your 90$ ssd. the laptops that don't have an optical bay usually only fit a 7mm disc, most ultrabooks with 2.5" slots as an example.

People and reviewers should really know that this possibility exists and is VERY much cheaper than the approach WD has taken.

https://dx.com/p/designer-s-2-5-sata-to-sata-hdd-ssd-caddy-for-9-5mm-opt...

November 25, 2013 | 06:39 PM - Posted by NightWinggl (not verified)

Agreed. My Laptop (Thinkpad T430s) has Msata, the 2.5" Bay, and the Optical Bay and I got the Ultrabay adapter for about $11 on ebay. It just seems like I have a lot of way cheaper options to get the same amount of speed and storage. I realize I have more options than others.

If this WD drive was 7mm, it would be far more impressive in my mind though. The height really limits the machines it can go into.

November 25, 2013 | 08:49 PM - Posted by danwat1234 (not verified)

9.5mm has been industry standard for a long time now, it's just limiting in that some new thin laptops may be limited to 7mm drives.

November 25, 2013 | 03:28 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nice concept, getting 2 drives onto one SATA port! I can not wait to see what the other drive manfactures will come up with to compete with this! Who would have thought that the thin hard drives ment for Ultrabook/thin and light laptops, also have opened up some intresting possabilities for regular form factor laptops! I hope they get the thin laptop hard drives even thinner, maybe someone will stack 2 thin 1 TB hard drives togather, and make a dual drive onto one laptop SATA port RAID drive, for regular form factor laptops! Maybe 2 thin hard drives In a RAID configuration with a larger than 8GB SLC SSD data Cache. I'll have to wait for the Linux drivers to become available for this drive!

November 25, 2013 | 06:41 PM - Posted by amadsilentthirst

This is great for a laptop. well done WD.

I'd like to see a 3.5" one for a desktop, some of us like small cases and only having "one" drive is quite an advantage.

Maybe something like a 250GB SSD with a 4TB green platter.

Thanks for the review Allyn (inappropriatecontext?)

December 9, 2013 | 08:18 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

You've got much more room in a desktop, as well as more SATA ports and bays to work with, so it's far easier to just add an SSD to a large HDD. No need to pay the cost premuim for WD's technology-shrinking voodoo.

November 26, 2013 | 02:40 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Allyn, thanks for the review.

In the WD software, is there an option to use the SSD as a cache drive? I know there's third-party software to do this, but does WD support it in their software?

November 26, 2013 | 11:27 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

No such option, and no way to enable it in other ways (i.e. Intel RST would not work as the drive appears as a single combined physical volume).

November 26, 2013 | 05:37 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Most people considering this type of hardware for their laptop or PC wil look at a SSHD drive as well (SSHD = HDD Drive backed with SSD Cache).

In this review a comparison to such a drive type lacks as well as the comparison to a drive of another major vendor; Seagate. Comparing this drive just to SSD's and HDD's is not enough in my opinion.

November 26, 2013 | 11:29 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

You seem to have overlooked this page of the review, where I compared the SSD and HDD portions, directly against both 500GB and 1TB versions of the exact Seagate SSHD you're referring to.

The SSHD models do not appear on the other tests because those tests can not be cached by the SSHD and therefore give inaccurate results.

November 26, 2013 | 02:16 PM - Posted by sixstringrick

Want it! Want it now! When and where can I get it.

December 9, 2013 | 08:16 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Amazon

November 29, 2013 | 10:32 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hello
Can u secure erase the SSD part like other SSD on the market ?
I mean, i have a samsung 840 ssd at this time, and i can secure erase it (reset the nand, internal secure erase command) by parted magic, its way faster and quicker than secure erasing with multiple pass a HDD.

Since the device is in two part, one regular HDD and one SSD but pluged into one Sata port. Did this will work ?

December 9, 2013 | 08:14 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

You can, but the HDD partition must be removed and it must be reverted back to SSD-only mode prior to doing so. Only the SSD portion will be secure erased. To securely wipe the HDD portion, you'd have to do it the old fashioned way, with a partition-based wipe tool.

December 1, 2013 | 03:23 AM - Posted by Neshi (not verified)

Allen,

Do you think there would have been a way for WD to have this drive show up as 2 independent drives in the system (does sata support 2 drives on the same link) if it does is there any benefit to doing it the way they currently are?

December 9, 2013 | 08:15 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

I would imagine they approached this as an initial design, but it would require port multiplication, which is very iffy as far as being supported by all of the various mobile chipsets.

December 2, 2013 | 11:52 PM - Posted by aselwyn1

i wonder if you can put this in a ps4?

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