Toshiba OCZ TL100 120GB & 240GB SSD Review
In the SSD marketplace, there are very few new drives launched without any fanfare whatsoever but that’s exactly what OCZ did a few weeks ago with their new TL100 series. There was a press release and a few interesting marketing points but other than that, all was pretty quiet. Now while the TL series won’t win any awards for its speed or massive capacity, it will likely prove to be a key competitor in the entry level segment since -as its “TL” designation indicates- value is a key element of this new release.
Even though 3D NAND has landed and is now in full production, the much-hyped and promised massive reduction in price per Gigabyte for most SSDs has not materialized. The previous generation TLC planar NAND based solid state drives were selling in the 30 cent per Gigabyte range, with the smaller 120-240GB versions usually going in the 40 cent range, and TLC 3D NAND based models are also still in the 30 cent range. 3D TLC NAND may be technically less expensive to manufacture, most of the planar NAND models are being gradually phased out and replaced with a similarly priced TLC 3D NAND offerings. Essentially this means the cost of buying true value-focused low capacity SSDs hasn’t changed all that much in the last year or so.
Since Toshiba's OCZ division has not yet jumped on to the 3D NAND hype train, this has actually created a rather unique opportunity for them. You see, Toshiba still has a lot of planar NAND capacity that is not being utilized so they’ve taken a pretty logical step for its usage: a true mass-market SSD series that pushes the value yardsticks forward while still maintaining the performance we’ve come to expect from today’s solid state storage.
Thus the all new Toshiba OCZ TL100 series was born. As the name suggests the TL100 is not a direct replacement for the Trion / TR150 series and instead it will reside alongside those slightly higher priced drives with a laser like focus on the truly entry level, budget conscious consumer. So much so that for the time being only 120 and 240GB models will be offered – and anyone interested in bigger more expensive drives will have to step up to the TR150.
From a performance standpoint the TL and TR series are indeed quite similar, with the latter taking a slight lead in some areas. The TL100 however seems to be tailor-made for users who want an easy system upgrade which would see the OS and a few key apps running on a lower capacity SSD. Meanwhile their larger files like a Steam install directory would remain on an existing larger capacity HDD.
While this is an entry level model OCZ hasn’t cut any corners. They have simply taken their existing TR150 formula and tweaked it by changing out the controller and NAND so a lower price could be achieved. How low? How does an MSRP of $44.99(USD) for the 120GB model and a $67.99(USD) for the 240GB version sound?
Put another way, that is only 37.5 cents per GB for the 120GB model and a mere 28.3 cents for the 240GB version! These are literally some of the lowest prices you can find for their respective classes and the fact OCZ has done it without 3D NAND just shows that the other NAND manufacturer-backed companies are not even trying to deliver on their promise of lowered prices.
Both capacities will come with the same hassle free warranty as the VX500 and RD400 come with. The only change will be that TL100 will only have three years of coverage instead of a five-year warranty – just like the more expensive TR150.
Since these are TLC NAND-based drives durability is always a concern. Obviously OCZ are using a portion of the TLC NAND in pseudo-SLC NAND mode to act as a write buffer and this is why the 120GB has a TBW of 30TB (or 27GB of writes per day) and the 240GB has a TBW of 60TB (or 54GB a day). Since the average consumer, let alone the entry level web surfing user, only writes 5-10GB a day even the smaller 120GB model's NAND should be good for two to five times longer than the warranty period even when used to be maximum every day.
Externally, no one would ever be able to tell that this is an extremely budget friendly solid state drive series as both the 120 and 240GB capacity versions make use of a full metal 7.5mm z-height chassis – something that even Western Digital's more expensive Blue line cannot boast. The only minor issue is in order to keep costs as low as possible Toshiba has opted to not include the typical 2.5mm adapter bracket such as the ones which accompany their more expensive TR/VT lines.
Opening up both of these drives proved to be very interesting. First and foremost, both capacities make use of a rather small PCB and the 240GB uses a completely different one from the 120GB. Both have the same layout and the change could simply be an old stock versus new stock situation, but it was interesting to see radically different colored PCBs used in the same lineup!
As for specifics both capacity versions use three 15nm Toshiba TLC NAND ICs and a Toshiba TC58NC1010 controller – a similar but not the same controller used in the Trion 150 which utilizes a TC58NC1000. Unlike the Trion 150 / TR150 series, neither capacity has an external RAM buffer. However just like the TR150, the TL100 doesn’t have any onboard capacitors for data loss prevention in the event of an unexpected power loss.
These two omissions aren’t overly worrisome. Most consumers should be using an Uninterruptible Power Supply if they are truly worried about data loss from unexpected power problems and the controller does keep its data logs up to date (to reduce corruption errors) as well as makes use of a low density parity check to correct any errors upon the next POST.
As for lack of an external RAM buffer, this is not the first series to exclude it as the controller itself has enough internal memory for moderate usage scenarios. Of course this may handicap the TL100 in deeper queue depth situations like within workstation scenarios but as this series intended for entry level buyers rather than professionals who put continual stress upon their storage subsystems.
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