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OCZ's Trion 100 and Crucial's BX200 SSDs reviewed

New TLC drives promise entry-level value

Budget solid-state drives make up a big chunk of the storage market, but cheaper products mean smaller margins. As a result, drive makers are constantly on the prowl for ways to cut costs and eke out a little more profit. One of the most straightforward ways to trim the fat is simply to store a third bit per flash cell, making triple-level-cell, or TLC, flash.

Samsung first introduced the world to triple-level cell NAND flash in 2012 with its 840 Series solid-state drives. TLC’s debut was met with skepticism from enthusiasts, since many folks expected the increased data density would lead to poorer performance and endurance than single- and multi-level-cell-based drives. As it turned out, TLC flash offered solid performance for the mass market, and we proved that concerns about endurance were largely unfounded.

After Samsung’s widespread success with the new technology, other drive makers started producing TLC offerings of their own. This year, both OCZ and Crucial brought new low-cost SSDs to market. OCZ’s Trion 100 and Crucial’s BX200 SSDs occupy the lowest-end slots in these firms' solid-state storage lineups. These two drives represent their makers' first forays into TLC flash, and both companies happen to offer a 480GB model. Since these SSDs are so similar on so many levels, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to perform a shootout-style review. Let’s get up close and personal with the contenders.

The Trion 100 slots in beneath our budget-favorite Arc 100 as OCZ's cheapest solid-state drive. Like the Arc 100, the Trion 100 is built on Toshiba’s 128Gb A19 19-nm NAND. This time around, the A19 flash is TLC, as opposed to the Arc 100's MLC. The Trion 100 is also powered by a Toshiba-branded TC58 controller instead of the Arc 100's Barefoot 3. The NAND in the 480GB model is distributed into four packages on a single-sided board.

OCZ Trion 100
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max Random (IOps)
Read Write Read Write
120GB 550 450 79k 25k
240GB 550 520 90k 43k
480GB 550 530 90k 54k
960GB 550 530 90k 64k

OCZ also offers 120GB, 240GB, and 960GB versions of the Trion 100. The two lower-capacity versions have lower sequential and random write specs, likely because they lack enough NAND dies to fully saturate the controller's channels.

Toshiba hasn’t released much technical detail about the controller in the Trion drives, but we know this chip includes proprietary error-correction technology and a pseudo-SLC caching system (like Samsung's TurboWrite or SanDisk's nCache).

In Crucial’s corner, we have the BX200 480GB. Unlike the Trion series, Crucial hasn't introduced a new product line and naming convention for its TLC drive. Instead, the BX200 is being presented as a successor to last year’s well-received BX100.

Crucial BX200
Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max Random (IOps)
Read Write Read Write
240GB 540 490 66k 78k
480GB 540 490 66k 78k
960GB 540 490 66k 78k

Crucial's BX200 lineup is rounded out with 240GB and 960GB variants. Crucial claims the same performance numbers across the three versions, unlike OCZ's specifications for the Trion 100. We'd expect the 240GB version to fall a bit short of the others, but we don't have one on hand to confirm that suspicion.

The now-discontinued BX100 was built with Micron’s 16-nm MLC flash and Silicon Motion’s SM2246EN controller, but the BX200 uses Micron’s new 16-nm 128Gb TLC flash and a newer Silicon Motion SM2256 controller. The BX200's NAND is bundled into eight packages alongside the controller and memory. This newcomer has learned a couple new tricks that the outgoing BX100 doesn’t know: a pseudo-SLC caching scheme and a new TLC-targeted error-correction scheme that Silicon Motion calls “NANDXtend.”

We've already noted that both the Trion and the BX200 use TLC NAND, but we can get even more specific. Both drives use 128 Gbit TLC in a 32-die configuration. That's a sufficient number of dies to saturate each controller's I/O channels, so performance differences we uncover between the drives should come down to the controllers' capabilites and the quality of the NAND itself.

Both drives come with a three-year warranty, but their endurance specs differ substantially. The Trion 100 claims to be good for 120TB of writes, while the BX200 offers a more cautious 72TB. The first point goes to OCZ, but there are a lot of points to be tallied yet. Let's run the drives through our benchmark suite and see how they do.