Western Digital has unveiled a slick 2.5″ hard drive it is calling the WD Black Squared Dual Drive. Unlike previous 2.5″ drives which featured either a spinning hard drive or an SSD, or the combination of the two in a caching setup (a hybrid drive). This new design features two separate volumes that reside in one chassis. The designers have constructed this drive with high-performance in mind and for those with single-bay devices, such as a notebook. If you happen to place yourself into this category and you can squash your OS onto a 120GB volume, it maybe a happy day for you my friend, I say “maybe” because there are a few drawbacks.
The Solid State Drive is a 120GB model, which features midrange specifications and uses an unknown controller. WD does specify that it uses 20nm MLC NAND flash however, but it does not say which company makes the flash. The HDD portion is a 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive, with similar specs as its midrange Blue model, but this particular drive is a super-slim new model that is being placed in its new “Black” category of high-performance drives. The drive’s chassis is 9.5mm tall, so although it will fit into most notebooks it will not fit into an ultrabook. The WD Black Squared features a SATA 6Gb/s interface that both drives share and the SSD can perform at 350MB/s read speeds, and 140MB/s write speeds.
When you first connect the drive only the 120GB SSD portion is visible. To “unlock” the terabyte (931GB after formatting) you will need to insert a USB key that comes in the package and run the included software (this can be discarded after use). You now have two visible volumes, the 111GB SSD, and the 931GB HDD. WD keeps the 1TB hidden for two reasons. One, it recommends users perform a clean install of the OS on the drive; so hiding the other volume simplifies this process. Two, software is required to delineate the two partitions (according to WD).
There are a few limitations to the Dual Drive that should be pointed out. First, drive images cannot be spanned across both the SSD and HDD. If you want to move your 250GB OS install onto the drive you are unable. WD recommends reinstalling your OS, then copying your existing data to the new drive. They include a handy USB-to-SATA connector in the box to help you do this. WD also does NOT support the Mac OS this time, so the software used to unlock the 1TB drive is for Windows only. (Why?) You also cannot use RAID to stripe or mirror the volumes of this drive with other volumes and any recovery partitions that came with your PC will not be able to be cloned to the drive!
For those who don’t want to do a clean install of their OS, WD provides a copy of Acronis True Image that you must download, but it is included in the purchase price. The drive also comes with a five-year warranty.
So, for a fair amount of cash, you get a drive that is able to perform at ok speeds but the functionality is somewhat lost, not to mention a lack of Mac OS support. Not a hard choice for me this time WD, not a hard choice at all.
[Image via extremetech]