Western Digital just introduced the Black², a combination of SSD and conventional hard disk in a single 2.5-inch enclosure. It's not SSHD, however, with SSD cache. This is a normal 120 SSD on top of a normal 1 TB hard disk. For laptops with room for only one disk, this could potentially be the holy grail of storage.
The Black² measures 9.5mm in height, quite impressive when you consider it contains a 7mm notebook hard disk with a 120 GB SSD on top of it.
What's also impressive is that both communicate via a single SATA600 port, which technically shouldn't be possible. Western Digital came up with a pretty clever work-around. When you first hook it up to your computer, initially you can only access the 120GB SSD. After installing Windows and the special drivers for this disk, it turns into a single 1,120 GB disk with two partitions: one for the 120GB (the SSD) and one for the 1TB conventional hard disk. The OS sees it as a single disk, so it's the Black² that creates the distinction.
That driver is currently only available for Windows (XP, Vista, 7 and 8) and not for MacOS or Linux. It's unclear whether other operating systems will be supported. The very nice box the Black² comes in includes a USB stick. It's not a flash drive with software, but functions as a virtual keyboard. When you plug it into your PC, it activates WINDOWS+R (Run) and then goes to the website where you can retrieve the driver. Installing the driver is very easy after this.
Prior to installation you'll only see the 120GB SSD in Windows (Disk 0 is the system disk of our test platform)
After installation you see a 1120 GB disk (1043 GiB) with two partitions: the 120GB SSD, and the 1TB HDD.
The HD Tune benchmark, which operates on a block level and not parition level, shows clearly how it works. The first 120GB of the 1120GB is the fast SSD, the remaining 1TB is the hard disk.
For laptops and all-in-ones
Once the driver has been installed, Windows sees the Black² as two separate drives. Considering laptops with two 2.5-inch positions are rare and mSATA slots also aren't standard yet, this could be the perfect storage solution for notebooks.
For the first time you no longer have to sacrifice storage volume if you only have a single storage slot and want SSD performance, without settling for the SSHD compromise solution. The same is of course true for all-in-one PCs that have a single 2.5-inch slot.