OCZ Trion 100 480GB & 960GB SSD Review
It is no secret that Crucial has been dominating the value end of the mainstream SSD marketplace since their MX200 and BX100 series were released. It should also come as no surprise that every other manufacturer has been thinking of ways to counteract the incredible value those drives brought to the table. While Intel has moved away from SATA controllers and into NVMe, Kingston has moved into more exotic form-factors, Samsung…well Samsung has done what they always do: change the market and use 3D NAND before everyone else. While each of those manufacturers have focused on enhancing the ability of high end SSDs, less expensive models have (for the most part) been left to languish. OCZ on the other hand has been relatively quiet and instead have taken the time to get their house in order before focusing on the entry level / 'budget' corner of the marketplace. The Trion 100 aims to change that in a big way.
Many enthusiasts have been paying close attention to OCZ since, under the tutelage of Toshiba they have the best chance of introducing some true competition in this critical corner of the marketplace again. In bygone years OCZ would have unleashed a torrent of different models aimed at counteracting the BX100 and MX200 series. The new lean and mean OCZ on the other hand have opted to split the difference and offer a single model that is not as expensive as the Crucial MX200, yet should offer more performance than the BX100.
The new Trion 100 hopes to capture consumers interested in both of those popular Crucial models by approaching things in a radically different manner than all previous Toshiba-backed OCZ drives. It is the first truly collaborative effort between Toshiba and OCZ, with OCZ doing the finalization, testing, and support for it. A lot has changed since OCZ approached launches in a scattershot way.
First and foremost amongst these changes is the fact that the Trion 100 series is not a MLC NAND based drive like many of its competitors but instead relies upon triple level cell (TLC) NAND. However, this new TLC NAND is not like the usual low end stuff attached to most other entry level drives. Instead this is premium grade Toshiba A19 Toggle Mode NAND featuring a triple cell design instead of the two cell A19 found in previous OCZ models. This in conjunction with Toshiba's proprietary - most likely Quadruple Swing-By Code (QSBC) - error correction abilities is why even though the Trion 100 series has a Total Bytes Written rating of 120 Terabytes for the 480GB model (110GB/day/3yrs), and 240TB (219GB/day/3yrs) for the 960GB model. Those are pretty good numbers for the market this SSD plays in.
Before we move on, OCZ are adamant that even though A19 NAND is nearly at the end of its product cycle, the Trion 100 will not be silently changed to Toshiba’s new A15 series. When A15 becomes available, and they decide to refresh the Trion 100 series, it will be given its own unique name.
This huge divergence from previous models in the NAND department is sure to grab consumers' attention but it is only the start of the changes. In a very interesting move OCZ hasn’t opted for an Indilinx controller. Instead of a Barefoot 3 variant, the Trion 100 is powered by a Toshiba controller which in its current form allows it to boast a 90K/64K rating for read/write IOPS.
Toshiba may not be as well known in the consumer marketplace but their controllers are highly respected in the professional sphere. Besides being potentially better at handling TLC NAND, the Toshiba’s chip also has much lower power requirements than the Barefoot 3, making the Trion 100 tailor made for mobile computing platforms.
The only potential hiccup with this TC58NC controller is that it is most likely only a four channel design (this is an educated guess since OCZ clammed up whenever we asked for details about its architecture). This may limit performance somewhat, but as this is an entry level drive aimed at first time SSD buyers the 90K/64K IOPS rating is more than acceptable.
In either case it is this combination of new NAND and a new controller that allows the Trion 100 to compete directly against both the BX100 and MX200 series for your hard earned dollar. In fact with an asking price of $185 for the 480GB model and $370 for the 960GB model this new series slots in nicely between those two competing lines.
From the exterior anyone would have a hard time telling this new TLC-based drive from previous MLC-equipped models. The Trion 100 uses an all metal enclosure that conforms to the newer 7mm z-height form factor. We can honestly say build quality is one area OCZ did not cut corners on.
Internally the Trion 100 shares more in common with Crucial's BX100 series than previous OCZ models or the Crucial MX200. Instead of a full sized PCB, OCZ has opted for a smaller layout which can only fit half the number of ICs. Of course, neither the 480GB nor the 960GB make use of eight NAND ICs. Instead they utilize four. These are extremely dense ICs (16 layers in the case of the 960GB capacity version) aren’t covered with heatpads so keeping them cool could be an issue during extended usage scenarios.
Speaking of that TLC NAND, as Samsung does with their TurboWrite technology, OCZ segments a portion of the NAND to act in a quasi-SLC caching mode. In this scenario all of the downstream information gets shunted off towards the cache partition, at least initially. However, once the buffer reaches capacity writes will go directly to the slower TLC portion.
For those interested in such things, calculating the absolute largest possible size for the SLC cache is fairly simple. Simply take the true capacity, subtract the rated capacity, and then divide that amount by three (as SLC caching requires a full TLC cell be converted to 'SLC'). For example the 480GB is in reality a 512GB drive, and the 960GB is a 1024GB drive. This means the SLC on the 480 is at the most 10.6GB and the 960GB's is 21.3GB. This may be us being overly generous since OCZ doesn't come out and state how much they use. However it will get you in the right ballpark when comparing it to Crucial's DWA which can be half the rated capacity, thus providing much better flexibility.
On the positive side the 480GB has a rather large NANYA branded DDR3 256MB RAM IC for additional caching purposes. The 960GB capacity version doubles this to 512MB via two of those RAM ICs with the second being located on the PCB’s back.
Another thing missing is any form of power loss data protection. In this critical area the Trion does one-up the BX100 and but can’t compete against the MX200 which does feature advanced fail-safes. This will be a deal breaker for many consumers and certainly explains the $10 differences in price versus the MX200. However, that is ten dollars of savings that many will not want to make. We were not expecting true Flush In-Flight abilities, but even OCZ's PFM+ abilities found in their other would have been welcome.
It’s also important to mention OCZ’s warranty since it does add to the overall value of the Trion series. The 3 years is pretty standard but with OCZ’s ShieldPlus RMA shipping costs are covered by OCZ) and advanced SSD replacements are available through cross-shipping. That’s a pretty big deal compared to the competition. But is it enough?
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