When Toshiba gave us a taste of its 64-layer BiCS 3D flash a few months ago, the technology left a strong impression. The XG5 proved fast enough to compete on even footing with Samsung's NVMe products, bringing a sorely-needed challenge to the 800-pound gorilla of the market. But the XG5 is an OEM drive, not one that's readily available to home builders. At the time, Toshiba dropped tantalizing hints of an upcoming retail drive based on the XG5. Such a drive would be a fitting sequel to last year's excellent OCZ RD400.
It was to our mild surprise, then, that Toshiba decided to make its BiCS client drive debut in a device that's the polar opposite of the hypothetical RD500. Meet the budget-friendly Toshiba TR200 480GB.
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You may recall that during the great Toshiba rebadging last year, the low-end OCZ Trion 150 became the Toshiba OCZ TR150. Whatever you want to call it, that drive hit a sweet spot of good speeds for a moderate price. Toshiba followed up on the drive with another TLC drive called the OCZ TL100, which was a similar drive save for the absence of a DRAM cache, enabling even further cost reductions.
Going forward, Toshiba is unifying its budget offerings under this new, BiCS-powered TR200. The TR150 and TL100 are both officially retired. The TR200 will be the sole entry-level drive in the lineup, with the VX500 holding down the middle tier and the OCZ RD400 still chugging along at the top.
Inside the TR200, a Toshiba TC58 controller runs the show alongside eight BiCS TLC packages distributed evenly between both sides of the PCB. Like the TL100, the TR200 has no DRAM buffer, a common omission in today's most entry-level SSDs.
Perhaps BiCS and pseudo-SLC caching will cover for the lack of DRAM, but we're betting that this drive won't be any kind of speed demon. Toshiba's press materials pitch the drive as "value-oriented" and targeting "first time upgraders," so expectations are clear from the get-go.
The good news is that Toshiba's suggested prices are appropriately low. $150 might have bought you mainstream performance in a 500GB drive a year or two ago, but these days that much scratch only gets you into the value segment. As long as the TR200 delivers acceptable speeds, it should have no problem claiming a place in the market.
This is an entry-level drive, so don't expect to have any encryption-acceleration capabilities on tap. Toshiba warrants all three versions of the drive for three years. The 480GB drive is rated to endure 60TB written.
If the TR200 wants to rule the budget roost, it will have to prove that its speeds are competitive with other low-end drives that still offer a slice of DRAM cache to play with. Let's get down to testing.