OCZ Trion 150 480GB & 960GB SATA SSD Review
When OCZ’s Trion 100 was released last July it proved to be a pretty impressive value-forward SSD series. It also happened to be a rather big deal for OCZ and end users since it combined very good performance with an affordable price, features which were backstopped by some key Toshiba technology. As we stated at that time the OCZ Trion 100 was primarily targeted at users who were migrating from HDD territory and wanted higher levels of performance without sacrificing too much capacity.
Was that original Trion 100 perfect? Not quite since a good amount of expectation management was required to understand that it wasn’t going to be a chart-topper. It wasn’t meant to be one anyways. However, we still found performance fell by the wayside in some key metrics.
Fast forward to February 2106 and both Toshiba and OCZ are proving that the do indeed listen to feedback. To that end, they have reworked and revamped the Trion series so that it delivers better throughput. Hence the Trion 150 has been born. It is actually advertised to be ‘up to’ 50% faster than its predecessor and it is priced lower.
Looking at the chart above, we can see that on the surface of things not much has actually changed since the Trion 150 seems like a direct clone of its predecessor. Everything from IOPS performance to NAND endurance is identical and yet still very much in-line with its competitors. Supposedly, there has been a lot of optimizations going on behind the scenes with the NAND itself as well as the way OCZ’s controller handles that NAND which has directly affected sustained performance.
There’s a good reason for OCZ’s approach here. Despite being launched less than nine months ago, the original Trion has been showing its age. While still competitive, there are SSDs like Crucial’s BX200 and PNY’s newly minted CS1311 which are arguably more appealing in a number of respects. Many have been lamenting the fact that the high-end SSD market has stagnated as companies pause to take a breath before fully diving into next generation storage interfaces like U.2, NVMe and M.2. Meanwhile, the mainstream and entry level markets have been firing on all cylinders and if OCZ hadn’t refreshed the Trion, they ran the very real risk of being left behind.
With an asking price of $50 for the 120GB to a mere $270 for the largest 960GB version, the new Trion 150 is tailor made for budget minded buyers. In order to achieve such a low price of entrance, OCZ and Toshiba have not thrown the baby out with the bath water. Instead they have taken the self-same controller that powered the Trion 100 and paired it with the latest 15nm Toshiba Toggle Mode TLC NAND rather than the toggle mode A19 modules which graced its predecessor.
Further backstopping this NAND and controller combination is firmware that promises to be razor sharp, and much, much more refined than what is found on the Trion 100 series. Specifically, OCZ has introduced a new algorithm to their SLC caching technology which detects when the controller senses when a write request will exceed the SLC cache. It will then circumvent the SLC cache portion and implement ‘old fashioned’ direct-to-NAND cell writes. This may sound like a step backwards, but as we saw with the Trion 100, once the SLC cache is exhausted the drive would go into emergency write mode to flush this buffer before continuing to accept write requests. This caused a very noticeable – and consistent- drop in performance that put the Trion 100 at a distinct disadvantage versus the competition.
While the Trion 150’s method of temporarily ignoring the SLC cache is not without its downsides – namely increased wear and tear on the NAND – it should allow this model to be much more stable in its performance. This last piece of the puzzle is easily the most crucial as when dealing with TLC’s (and value orientated drives in specific) generalized long term performance. This is key to creating a drive that can take on Micron and other NAND manufactures and beat them at their own game.
As you can see the exterior of the OCZ Trion 150 looks basically the same as its predecessor and it is only by paying close attention to the label on the drives that a consumer will be able to tell the various capacities – or even models – apart from one another. Both use an all-metal chassis (a rarity at this price point) that looks great, both make use of the more compact 7mm Z-height form factor instead of the older 9.5mm version, and both capacities also come with a 2.5mm height adapter.
Even on just a cursory glance we can see that internally the Trion 150 does not follow in the Trion 100’s footsteps. Instead of the Trion 100’s half-length PCB that could only accommodate four NAND ICs, the Trion 150 makes use of a full length PCB that can accommodate sixteen. This is actually important as the individual NAND ICs are not stacked as densely as before and thus there is more surface area for heat dissipation. Equally important is the controller itself now has a heatpad to help keep it from overheating. From experience, the last generation could get extremely hot during extended testing; so these improvements should help in the durability department.
Interestingly enough, OCZ have not increased the RAM cache buffer for the Trion 150 series. Instead, just like the Trion 100 before it, the 480GB capacity version has a moderately large NANYA branded DDR3 256MB RAM IC while 960GB capacity version doubles this to 512MB via two of those modules with the second being located on the PCB’s backside.
Sadly, also like the Trion 100, the Trion 150 is missing one critical feature: enough on-board capacitors for true hardware-based data protection when there is a power failure. Instead it once again relies upon OCZ’s mainly firmware based Power Failure Management Plus (PFM+). On the positive side PFM+ does provide a level of security against power failure-based data loss that is rare in this corner of the marketplace. However it is what will once again keep the Trion 150 from competing against the MX200’s of mainstream marketplace.
All in all this OCZ’s new Trion 150 looks like a pretty significant improvement upon its predecessor. This is something which was needed if OCZ stood a chance of staying relevant in the quickly evolving entry-level SSD marketplace. The questions remains though: will these changes make enough of a difference to keep the Trion series ahead of the competition.
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