Western Digital's WD Black2 Targets Notebooks, All-In-One PCs

Western Digital Monday released the first storage drive that combines a full-featured SSD and a full-featured spinning hard drive in a single unit.

The company's new WD Black2 dual drive targets notebooks, all-in-one PCs and enthusiast PCs, said Melyssa Banda, senior director of product marketing for the Irvine, Calif.-based drive manufacturer.

"The primary emphasis is on single-bay devices," Banda said. "Disaggregated hard drives and SSDs can be purchased at a lower price. This product does both drives' functions."

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The WD Black2 combines a 120-GB SSD based on MLC NAND memory technology along with a 1-TB spinning disk in a single enclosure with a list price of $299.

In terms of pure price, Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minneapolis-based system builder, said Egghead, a Western Digital direct retail partner, offers a WD-branded 2.5-inch, 1-TB hard drive that could go into a portable PC at a list price of about $90. Egghead also offers a Samsung 120-GB SSD for about $90. Putting the two together would cost about $180.

"But the new WD Black2 packages the two drives into one package," Swank said. "It's a compelling idea. Customers get the best of both worlds, with the performance of an SSD and the capacity of a hard drive. Buying them separately costs less. But notebooks may not have room for both."

Both Western Digital and rival Seagate already offer hybrid hard drives that are spinning disks with some flash memory built in to act as a high-performance cache.

While the Western Digital version of that type of hybrid drive is currently only available as an OEM offering to portable PC makers, the Seagate Momentus XT drive, introduced two years ago, is available via retail and through solution provider channels. A 1-TB model with a built-in 4-GB SSD and a 32-MB cache is priced at about $146 at Egghead.

Banda said that in the earlier hybrid drives, the SSD portion was treated as a high-performance cache. "They didn't allow customers to store applications or user data on the SSD part," she said. "Customers don't get the benefit of NAND without being able to access it.

Because the new WD Black2 drive is really two separate drives accessed by a single SATA port, customers can run their applications or store specific data on the SSD part for performance, Banda said.

"The WD Black2 ships as a 120-GB SSD," she said. "But when customers download the software, it reveals the 1-TB hard drive. We had to establish the boundary of the SSD volume, but customers' PCs actually see two separate volumes."