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.
|Capacity||Max sequential (MB/s)||Max random (IOps)||Price|
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.
IOMeter — Sequential and random performance
IOMeter fuels much of our latest storage test suite, including our sequential and random I/O tests. These tests are run across the full capacity of the drive at two queue depths. The QD1 tests simulate a single thread, while the QD4 results emulate a more demanding desktop workload. For perspective, 87% of the requests in our old DriveBench 2.0 trace of real-world desktop activity have a queue depth of four or less. Clicking the buttons below the graphs switches between results charted at the different queue depths.
Our sequential tests use a relatively large 128KB block size.
The TR200 reads very quickly. At both queue depths, it’s right up there alongside the fastest SATA drives that money can buy. Alas, if only write performance was half as good. The TR200 is one of the pokiest writers we’ve seen in a while, at least in these IOMeter synthetics. It can’t even match the speeds of the OCZ Trion 100, which was one of the most leisurely drives we tested in 2015.
Random read response times are middling on the chart, but in absolute terms they’re just fine. Random write times are actually pretty good, beating the Trion 150 and even some high-class Samsung drives.
The TR200 is off to a bit of a rocky start with sequential writes, but there’s plenty more testing to be done.
Sustained and scaling I/O rates
Our sustained IOMeter test hammers drives with 4KB random writes for 30 minutes straight. It uses a queue depth of 32, a setting that should result in higher speeds that saturate each drive’s overprovisioned area more quickly. This lengthy—and heavy—workload isn’t indicative of typical PC use, but it provides a sense of how the drives react when they’re pushed to the brink.
We’re reporting IOps rather than response times for these tests. Click the buttons below the graph to switch between SSDs.
The TR200’s peak is modest and brief. It doesn’t take very long to collapse down to a rather low steady-state speed.
Peak speeds exceed the Trion 150’s, so we’ll call that a win for the TR200. Steady-state speeds, however, are as low as they come. This could be the lack of DRAM rearing its ugly head, but without more implementation details than Toshiba’s willing to share, we can’t be sure.
Our final IOMeter test examines performance scaling across a broad range of queue depths. We ramp all the way up to a queue depth of 128. Don’t expect AHCI-based drives to scale past 32, though—that’s the maximum depth of their native command queues.
For this test, we use a database access pattern comprising 66% reads and 33% writes, all of which are random. The test runs after 30 minutes of continuous random writes that put the drives in a simulated used state. Click the buttons below the graph to switch between the different drives. And note that the P3700 plot uses a much larger scale.
The TR200’s scaling curves are a pile of uncooked spaghetti. Those lines are so close to straight that you may have to squint and zoom in to see that they aren’t. The TR200 doesn’t meaningfully scale beyond QD8. This is by no means a dealbreaker for a value drive, but let’s look at some other cheapish drives for context.
The Adata SU800’s 3D NAND puts on a better show here than the other contenders. The Trion 150 is a jagged mess, and the BX200 is only a little less flat than the TR200. This isn’t a drive meant for enterprise workloads like this, to be sure.
The TR200 has yet to impress us. But it’s too early to give up hope—a good number of drives do far better in our real-world tests than they do in IOMeter traces. Let’s see the drive does with some honest-to-goodness file transfers.
TR RoboBench — Real-world transfers
RoboBench trades synthetic tests with random data for real-world transfers with a range of file types. Developed by our in-house coder, Bruno “morphine” Ferreira, this benchmark relies on the multi-threaded robocopy command build into Windows. We copy files to and from a wicked-fast RAM disk to measure read and write performance. We also cut the RAM disk out of the loop for a copy test that transfers the files to a different location on the SSD.
Robocopy uses eight threads by default, and we’ve also run it with a single thread. Our results are split between two file sets, whose vital statistics are detailed below. The compressibility percentage is based on the size of the file set after it’s been crunched by 7-Zip.
|Number of files||Average file size||Total size||Compressibility|
The media set is made up of large movie files, high-bitrate MP3s, and 18-megapixel RAW and JPG images. There are only a few hundred files in total, and the data set isn’t amenable to compression. The work set comprises loads of TR files, including documents, spreadsheets, and web-optimized images. It also includes a stack of programming-related files associated with our old Mozilla compiling test and the Visual Studio test on the next page. The average file size is measured in kilobytes rather than megabytes, and the files are mostly compressible.
RoboBench’s write and copy tests run after the drives have been put into a simulated used state with 30 minutes of 4KB random writes. The pre-conditioning process is scripted, as is the rest of the test, ensuring that drives have the same amount of time to recover.
Let’s take a look at the media set first. The buttons switch between read, write, and copy results.
The TR200′ read speeds are just fine with either one or eight threads. While the TR200 falls low in the rankings, its raw speeds are perfectly reasonable within the relatively tight spread of results for our SATA contenders.
Again, writes are the problem. The TR200 is far outclassed by the Trion 150, and even falls behind the Trion 100 in the eight-threaded test. We’re edging dangerously close to hard-drive-class performance from this DRAM-less drive in our real-world workloads. Maybe the work set will be kinder to the TR200.
Then again, maybe not. The TR200 scrapes a victory over the Trion 150 in the 1T read test, but it lags behind in all the others.
RoboBench reaffirms what we learned via IOMeter. The TR200 is an acceptably fast reader, but it struggles when it comes to writing. The drive will get one last chance at performance redemption when we give it boot and load responsibilities on the next page.
Until now, all of our tests have been conducted with the SSDs connected as secondary storage. This next batch uses them as system drives.
We’ll start with boot times measured two ways. The bare test depicts the time between hitting the power button and reaching the Windows desktop, while the loaded test adds the time needed to load four applications—Avidemux, LibreOffice, GIMP, and Visual Studio Express—automatically from the startup folder. Our old boot tests focused on the time required to load the OS, but these new ones cover the entire process, including drive initialization.
Huzzah! No matter how rough a time they have with IOMeter and RoboBench, SSDs always come out of our boot and load tests looking good. The TR200 boots as fast as anything else.
Next, we’ll tackle load times with two sets of tests. The first group focuses on the time required to load larger files in a collection of desktop applications. We open a 790MB 4K video in Avidemux, a 30MB spreadsheet in LibreOffice, and a 523MB image file in the GIMP. In the Visual Studio Express test, we open a 159MB project containing source code for the LLVM toolchain. Thanks to Rui Figueira for providing the project code.
The TR200 falls to the bottom more regularly than the average drive does, but each deviation from the median is fairly small.
Batman and Tomb Raider load without incident. The TR200 is now the slowest drive yet to load Shadow of Mordor, but the 960 EVO wasn’t all that much faster.
The TR200 managed to regain some ground in this last page of tests. Skip ahead to the conclusion to see what the overall picture looks like, or hit the next page to read about our test methods.
Test notes and methods
Here are the essential details for all the drives we tested:
|Adata Premier SP550 480GB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2256||16-nm SK Hynix TLC|
|Adata Ultimate SU800 512GB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2258||32-layer Micron 3D TLC|
|Adata Ultimate SU900 256GB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2258||Micron 3D MLC|
|Adata XPG SX930 240GB||SATA 6Gbps||JMicron JMF670H||16-nm Micron MLC|
|Corsair MP500 240GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Phison 5007-E7||15-nm Toshiba MLC|
|Crucial BX100 500GB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2246EN||16-nm Micron MLC|
|Crucial BX200 480GB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2256||16-nm Micron TLC|
|Crucial MX200 500GB||SATA 6Gbps||Marvell 88SS9189||16-nm Micron MLC|
|Crucial MX300 750GB||SATA 6Gbps||Marvell 88SS1074||32-layer Micron 3D TLC|
|Intel X25-M G2 160GB||SATA 3Gbps||Intel PC29AS21BA0||34-nm Intel MLC|
|Intel 335 Series 240GB||SATA 6Gbps||SandForce SF-2281||20-nm Intel MLC|
|Intel 730 Series 480GB||SATA 6Gbps||Intel PC29AS21CA0||20-nm Intel MLC|
|Intel 750 Series 1.2TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Intel CH29AE41AB0||20-nm Intel MLC|
|Intel DC P3700 800GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Intel CH29AE41AB0||20-nm Intel MLC|
|Mushkin Reactor 1TB||SATA 6Gbps||Silicon Motion SM2246EN||16-nm Micron MLC|
|OCZ Arc 100 240GB||SATA 6Gbps||Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10||A19-nm Toshiba MLC|
|OCZ Trion 100 480GB||SATA 6Gbps||Toshiba TC58||A19-nm Toshiba TLC|
|OCZ Trion 150 480GB||SATA 6Gbps||Toshiba TC58||15-nm Toshiba TLC|
|OCZ Vector 180 240GB||SATA 6Gbps||Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10||A19-nm Toshiba MLC|
|OCZ Vector 180 960GB||SATA 6Gbps||Indilinx Barefoot 3 M10||A19-nm Toshiba MLC|
|Patriot Hellfire 480GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Phison 5007-E7||15-nm Toshiba MLC|
|Plextor M6e 256GB||PCIe Gen2 x2||Marvell 88SS9183||19-nm Toshiba MLC|
|Samsung 850 EV0 250GB||SATA 6Gbps||Samsung MGX||32-layer Samsung TLC|
|Samsung 850 EV0 1TB||SATA 6Gbps||Samsung MEX||32-layer Samsung TLC|
|Samsung 850 Pro 500GB||SATA 6Gbps||Samsung MEX||32-layer Samsung MLC|
|Samsung 950 Pro 512GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung UBX||32-layer Samsung MLC|
|Samsung 960 EVO 250GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung Polaris||32-layer Samsung TLC|
|Samsung 960 EVO 1TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung Polaris||48-layer Samsung TLC|
|Samsung 960 Pro 2TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung Polaris||48-layer Samsung MLC|
|Samsung SM951 512GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Samsung S4LN058A01X01||16-nm Samsung MLC|
|Samsung XP941 256GB||PCIe Gen2 x4||Samsung S4LN053X01||19-nm Samsung MLC|
|Toshiba OCZ RD400 512GB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Toshiba TC58||15-nm Toshiba MLC|
|Toshiba OCZ VX500 512GB||SATA 6Gbps||Toshiba TC358790XBG||15-nm Toshiba MLC|
|Toshiba TR200 480GB||SATA 6Gbps||Toshiba TC58||64-layer Toshiba BiCS TLC|
|Toshiba XG5 1TB||PCIe Gen3 x4||Toshiba TC58||64-layer Toshiba BiCS TLC|
|Transcend SSD370 256GB||SATA 6Gbps||Transcend TS6500||Micron or SanDisk MLC|
|Transcend SSD370 1TB||SATA 6Gbps||Transcend TS6500||Micron or SanDisk MLC|
All the SATA SSDs were connected to the motherboard’s Z97 chipset. The M6e was connected to the Z97 via the motherboard’s M.2 slot, which is how we’d expect most folks to run that drive. Since the XP941, 950 Pro, RD400, and 960 Pro require more lanes, they were connected to the CPU via a PCIe adapter card. The 750 Series and DC P3700 were hooked up to the CPU via the same full-sized PCIe slot.
We used the following system for testing:
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz|
|Platform hub||Intel Z97|
|Platform drivers||Chipset: 10.0.0.13
|Memory size||16GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||Adata XPG V3 DDR3 at 1600 MT/s|
|Audio||Realtek ALC1150 with 126.96.36.19944 drivers|
|System drive||Corsair Force LS 240GB with S8FM07.9 firmware|
|Storage||Crucial BX100 500GB with MU01 firmware
Crucial BX200 480GB with MU01.4 firmware
Crucial MX200 500GB with MU01 firmware
Intel 335 Series 240GB with 335u firmware
Intel 730 Series 480GB with L2010400 firmware
Intel 750 Series 1.2GB with 8EV10171 firmware
Intel DC P3700 800GB with 8DV10043 firmware
Intel X25-M G2 160GB with 8820 firmware
Plextor M6e 256GB with 1.04 firmware
OCZ Trion 100 480GB with 11.2 firmware
OCZ Trion 150 480GB with 12.2 firmware
OCZ Vector 180 240GB with 1.0 firmware
OCZ Vector 180 960GB with 1.0 firmware
Samsung 850 EVO 250GB with EMT01B6Q firmware
Samsung 850 EVO 1TB with EMT01B6Q firmware
Samsung 850 Pro 500GB with EMXM01B6Q firmware
Samsung 950 Pro 512GB with 1B0QBXX7 firmware
Samsung XP941 256GB with UXM6501Q firmware
Transcend SSD370 256GB with O0918B firmware
Transcend SSD370 1TB with O0919A firmware
|Power supply||Corsair AX650 650W|
|Case||Fractal Design Define R5|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 Pro x64|
Thanks to Asus for providing the systems’ motherboards, to Intel for the CPUs, to Adata for the memory, to Fractal Design for the cases, and to Corsair for the system drives and PSUs. And thanks to the drive makers for supplying the rest of the SSDs.
We used the following versions of our test applications:
- IOMeter 1.1.0 x64
- TR RoboBench 0.2a
- Avidemux 2.6.8 x64
- LibreOffice 4.3.2
- GIMP 2.8.14
- Visual Studio Express 2013
- Batman: Arkham Origins
- Tomb Raider
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Some further notes on our test methods:
- To ensure consistent and repeatable results, the SSDs were secure-erased before every component of our test suite. For the IOMeter database, RoboBench write, and RoboBench copy tests, the drives were put in a simulated used state that better exposes long-term performance characteristics. Those tests are all scripted, ensuring an even playing field that gives the drives the same amount of time to recover from the initial used state.
- We run virtually all our tests three times and report the median of the results. Our sustained IOMeter test is run a second time to verify the results of the first test and additional times only if necessary. The sustained test runs for 30 minutes continuously, so it already samples performance over a long period.
- Steps have been taken to ensure the CPU’s power-saving features don’t taint any of our results. All of the CPU’s low-power states have been disabled, effectively pegging the frequency at 3.5GHz. Transitioning between power states can affect the performance of storage benchmarks, especially when dealing with short burst transfers.
The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1920×1080 at 60Hz. Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.
Toshiba’s TR200 took a leisurely stroll through our IOMeter and RoboBench write tests, but largely kept up with the pack in our read tests. Our boot and load tests were the only ones it sailed through without a hitch. Let’s see what the outlook is for this drive once you take all the results and shake ’em up together. We distill the overall performance rating using an older SATA SSD as a baseline. To compare each drive, we then take the geometric mean of a basket of results from our test suite. Only drives which have been through the entire current test suite on our current rig are represented.
Well, that’s that. The TR200 is the pokiest SSD (aside from our baseline X25) we’ve yet tested on this rig. That distinction used to be held by the Trion 100, but the new guy slid under it by just a few points. Perhaps the one positive for the TR200 is that it’s about as fast as the Trion 100 without even having a DRAM cache on board.
It’s worth noting that our geometric mean conceals the drive’s pokey write performance and fine read performance, and if your workload primarily involves reading data, the TR200 may prove tolerable. That’s still not a ringing endorsement, but it may be the way the cookie crumbles for the budget systems in which this SSD might find a home.
In fairness, Toshiba made clear from the outset who the target audience is for this drive. The TR200 will feel mind-bogglingly quick to anyone who is only now upgrading from a traditional hard drive. The chief problem that I have is that Toshiba’s suggested prices, while low, are well within striking distance of faster drives that frequently go on sale. But let’s back that up with data, as is the Tech Report way. In the plots below, the most compelling position is toward the upper left corner, where the price per gigabyte is low and performance is high. Use the buttons to switch between views of all drives, only SATA drives, or only PCIe drives.
Not many drives are as cheap per-gigabyte as the TR200 right now, but the few that are offer substantially more performance. Toshiba’s own OCZ TR150 is still available at Newegg for $158. Crucial’s MX300 525GB is also just $150 right now, and it offers quite a bit more performance. Newegg is also practically giving away the Mushkin Reactor at $255, and it’s one of the fastest SATA SSDs in our result set.
Fundamentally, the TR200 succeeds in its mission. It’s a cheap ticket into the world of solid-state speeds, intended for those who are still living the spinning-platter life. But unless retailers end up knocking a few bucks off the drive’s suggested price, the TR200 offers little to grab the interest of more seasoned enthusiasts. For the drive’s current price, we’d have to recommend any of a range of more capable SSDs available for the same money.