WD combines 120GB SSD with 1TB HDD in a laptop drive

Benchmark tests of WD's Dual Drive were less than impressive when compared with pure SSDs

Western Digital (WD) today released a laptop drive that combines a full-sized solid-state drive (SSD) with a 1TB hard disk drive, offering users high performance or high capacity storage through a single interface.

The company claims its WD Black Dual Drive is 17 times faster than a traditional hard disk drive and costs about three times less per gigabyte than an SSD. The new drive only works with Windows hardware and will retail for $299. The drive does not come as a stand-alone unit, but as a kit that includes installation instructions and hardware. It comes in a standard 9.5mm high, 2.5-in diameter form factor, and has a SATA III, 6Gbps interface.

Dual Drive
The WD Black Dual Drive combines a 120GB SSD with a 1TB hard disk drive.

Desktop computers have offered dual drive slots for years, allowing users to install a low-capacity SSD for the OS and heavily used applications, and a slower, but much higher capacity hard disk drive (HDD) for mass data storage.

"This is a great solution for users that have only one slot," a WD spokesperson said in an email to Computerworld. "They want the speed of the SSD and the capacity of the hard drive."

As with Seagate, WD was already selling a "hybrid" laptop drive (also called a solid state hybrid drive or just SSHD), which combines a small amount of NAND flash (SSD) with a traditional spinning disk. Like the new WD Black Dual Drive, WD's SSHD uses a 5400rpm spinning disk. The difference between the two drives is that the SSHD stores all data on the spinning disk and uses the SSD portion of its storage as cache to serve up frequently used data, such as the OS during boot ups and for apps when they're loading.

WD said its SSHD, which began shipping in April, was sold exclusively to computer manufacturers; the price of the WD Black SSHD was never released.

But it was WD's own laptop-maker customers who clamored for a new product to give consumers more control over where data could be stored.

"Our SSHD didn't allow them to optimize their speed and storage," said Melyssa Banda, WD's senior director of product marketing. "We're not controlling what goes where. Users have full control over where their data goes."

A spokesperson said WD has no plans to discontinue its existing SSHD drive in light of the new WD Black Dual Drive.

The new WD Black Dual Drive is an industry first in terms of capacity and functionality. As Banda said, users can control where data is stored -- on the SSD or on the spinning disk. With 120GB of SSD capacity, users can store not only the OS, but a large number of applications and files that they frequently use, such as games or streaming video. Data can then be archived on the hard drive portion of the disk.

By comparison, WD's Black SSHD comes with 8GB to 24GB of NAND flash memory on board, depending on laptop system manufacturer requirements.

Seagate, the first manufacturer to produce hybrid drives, has gone through several generations of its 7mm high laptop SSHD. That drive comes with 8GB of flash memory from Intel on board. Seagate also uses a 5,400rpm spindle speed hard drive.

In comparison to WD's new Black Dual Drive, a 1TB Seagate SSHD sells for about $120 on sites like TigerDirect.com.

Performance

SSD Performance Comparison Chart

WD Black Dual Drive Seagate 600 SSD Samsung 840 EVO SSD
Tested capacity 1.2TB 480GB 500GB
Price $299 $410 ($209 for 240GB) $350 ($199 for 250GB)
Boot-up time 22 sec. 12 sec. 25 sec.
Max. read time (4K blocks) 269MB/sec. 514MB/sec. 508MB/sec.
Max. write time 147MB/sec. 443MB/sec. 488MB/sec.
2GB file transfer 8 sec. 8 sec. 20 sec.
Shutdown time 5 sec. 25 sec. 13 sec.
Restart time 34 sec. 35 sec. 36 sec.
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