Western Digital Black2 Dual Drive: a new heart for an old laptop

Written by Martin Regtien on . Posted in Storage

You know the problem: your old laptop is few years old and a bit wheezy. It is not as fast as it used to be and you have tweaked enough bits and pieces to know that it really needs a heart bypass operation. We are talking about replacing the hard drive.

The obvious choice to get things moving faster is to install an SSD. Good choice but expensive and not nearly as much capacity as your old laptop. What we need is a combination of SSD and conventional hard drive. Something like the Western Digital Black 2 Dual Drive. It is fast, it will fit in most laptops, and it has enough capacity.

What's not to like?


Some time ago Western Digital released a 2 ½ inch hard drive which is a combination of a conventional 1 TB HDD with a 120 GB SSD. It looks like a hybrid drive, but in reality they are 2 individual drives using the same SATA interface.
Can you see the benefits of using a set up like this?
I could because one of my old test platforms was a former top-of-the-line Asus notebook with a core I7 chip, a decent hard drive but now as slow as molasses. An ideal patient for a heart transplant.

The Western Digital packaging for the Dual Drive looks impressive and follows the Black theme. The actual drive is a little bit thicker (9 mm overall) than most of the 2 ½ inch laptop drives so you might want a double check if it fits comfortably. And Acronis clone tool is included which is a good choice as Acronis is my main backup software package.

Normally, when you have just one partition and the new drive is bigger than your old one (or the same capacity) cloning is a pretty fast way of getting all your data and programs across.
In this case however the plan was to get all the programs onto the SSD, including of course the main operating system. All the data would go on the very generous 1 TB HDD.
Because now the computer would have 2 different and separate hard drives it was easier to do it the old-fashioned way. In fact, I took all the libraries such as Videos, Music, Pictures and Documents and copied them to a backup drive and cloned the C drive.

The package includes also a very useful USB to SATA adapter cable for cloning with the additional bonus that when you're done with it all you can plug in your old hard drive for some more external capacity. It would have been nice if they provided also an external case like the one we got when we did the Imation review.
The result is a much faster machine, where all the programs open quickly and with more room for data as well.



But Is There More to This Happy Ending?
It is a good outcome but relatively expensive. The Dual Drive at around 300 bucks is fairly heavy on the wallet but it is also unique in the marketplace. That always carries a little bit of a premium. If you really want a speed demon you probably should go for a pure SSD solution. The Black 2 Dual Drive is not particularly fast but fast enough when you're talking about giving an old laptop a new life.

There is no point in providing elaborate speed tests in this user review – they have been done elsewhere and they bear out the same conclusion. When you're old and you need a new heart you won't be complaining either if you don't get the heart of Usain Bolt, as long as it works better than your old wheezy "heart " drive....
The official SSD max speed is 350MB/sec for sequential read and 140MB/sec sequential write. Some tests put the drive at 225MB/sec for 4KB random reads and 122MB/sec for random reads. These are fairly average figures. Don't expect too much either from the 2 platter 5400 rpm HDD in the speed stakes either.

The biggest beef I have for this combination drive is the price premium when you consider that – if you have the room – buying a separate 120 gig SSD plus a 1 TB drive can be had for much less. However, it's a rare laptop that has space for 2 separate drives.


Western Digital has a fairly unique product with the Black 2 Dual Drive. Yes, it is overpriced. Yes, it underperforms. But it can be a great solution to give an old laptop some new oomph. There is another consideration to the price issue. If you are not comfortable doing the cloning and partitioning yourself you might have to pay someone to do the transplant. That may cost you some extra money or a case of beer.
I guess we are all still waiting for affordable 1TB SSDs...

Our rating for this product is a 7/10 because of can fill a need when we don't have too many other choices.

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