Introduction, Design Features
With an ongoing accounting scandal, reports of multi-billion-dollar losses from its Westinghouse nuclear power arm, and a tumultuous recent sale of its flash-memory chip business to Bain Capital (involving investors including Apple and Dell), Toshiba is a company living in…shall, we say, interesting times.
But, as with any company whose operating revenue is substantial enough to be compared to the budget of a small nation (or two), business must continue at Toshiba, and new products launched. And given the recent sale of the chip arm, it’s clear that this division will be pumping out flash memory and related devices for a long time to come.
The latest drive to land on our test bench from Toshiba is the TR200, which is first notable for the downplaying of the OCZ branding. (OCZ Technology was an SSD maker that Toshiba acquired some years back, and which was co-branded on many of its earlier SSDs.) Toshiba keeps the OCZ styling on the drive’s metal top but nixes that brand from its product name, though you will find “OCZ” printed in a couple spots on the box.
At first, we thought that the minimizing of the OCZ brand (one traditionally associated with performance-minded SSDs) might have been related to the target audience for this drive. In fact, though, Toshiba says rather vaguely, “retail SSDs will ship under the Toshiba brand name, while OCZ will be a sub-series” going forward. Nomenclature aside, the TR200 is aimed at budget system builders and users upgrading from a hard drive for the first time. As such, the drive sticks to the traditional Serial ATA (SATA) interface, and it’s available only in the traditional 2.5-inch format first popularized by hard drives meant for laptops. (Like almost all 2.5-inch SSDs these days, it’s 7mm thick.)
The capacity options are also limited. In line with its budget-buyer aims, the Toshiba TR200 will be offered in 240GB, 480GB (the one we tested), and 960GB models. While those increments will make sense for most potential buyers in this category, those on a very tight budget will find no lower-capacity option, as opposed to the recent Crucial BX300Crucial MX300 drive is available in slightly higher capacities (275GB, 525GB, and 1TB) for the same price or a little less.
So, whether the Toshiba TR200 makes sense in the always-crowded budget-SSD market may come down to performance and where pricing eventually settles for Toshiba’s drive. Ultimate pricing is always tough to gauge before a product launches, but we can see clearly how the drive shakes out against the competition, including similarly priced offerings from Western Digital, HP, and others, in our benchmark testing below.
First, though, let’s take a closer look at the TR200’s feature set.
The Toshiba TR200 is the company’s first retail drive to feature Toshiba’s BiCS flash, which is the company’s name for its 3D-stacked triple-level-cell (TLC) storage technology. In this iteration, it’s 64-layer flash, rather than the newer 96-layer flash. But since more layers primarily means greater capacity, and Toshiba is topping out at 960GB with this drive, there’s no real downside with sticking to 64-layer flash. Here’s how Toshiba describes the flavor of BiCS used in the TR200, directly from its press materials…
As for the drive’s rated specs, here they are, direct from Toshiba as well…
The 3D TLC NAND that Toshiba uses here gives the drive a slight edge in terms of endurance, at least against some budget-priced alternatives. The company says you should get between 60 and 240 total terabytes written (TBW) with this drive. The MLC-based Crucial BX300, meanwhile, is rated to a little less (55 to 160 TBW), though it should be noted that those numbers include a lower-capacity 120GB model (which Toshiba doesn’t offer in the TR200 line), and tops out at 480GB, as the BX300 isn’t offered in a higher capacity.
However, other drives that use similar 3D TLC flash memory, such as the recently updated WD Blue 3D SSDSamsung’s SSD 850 EVO drive, which costs about $20 more than the TR200 but ships with a five-year warranty, and also includes some extra usable capacity. (The similar-capacity Samsung drive is listed at 500GB, while the TR200 is 480GB in our tested capacity.)
A Look at the Software
Toshiba doesn’t ship any drive-migration software with the TR200. (Often spotted with SATA SSDs is Acronis’ solution; with some of the company’s older, higher-end OCZ-branded drives, you get an activation key for it.) All that Toshiba supplied here at launch supporting the TR200 is an OCZ-branded SSD Utility.
OCZ SSD Utility is a slickly designed piece of software that lets you monitor the drive and, should you need to, update the firmware.
The utility can also be used to monitor the drive in the background and send you alerts about drive health and available updates, among other parameters.
Given that this drive is aimed at budget buyers and upgraders, the OCZ SSD Utility isn’t exactly a necessity. And we wouldn’t suggest attempting a firmware upgrade unless there’s a serious issue with your drive. But it’s nice that Toshiba provides the software all the same, and budget-strapped enthusiasts who like keeping close tabs on their components will appreciate it.
With the pricing, specs, and software out of the way, there’s not much left to discuss about the TR200 aside from performance. So let’s get to that to see where Toshiba’s TR200 lands compared to the many competing budget SSDs currently on the market.