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.
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.
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.