If budget solid-state drives (SSDs) were pinatas—and that’s hardly a stretch of an analogy, considering the battering that SSD makers are taking on price these days—OCZ is taking a from-the-heels swing at them with the Trion 150.
The Trion 150 is its second-generation SSD based on TLC (triple-layer-cell) memory modules. If you recall, the now-Toshiba-owned OCZ released its first TLC drive, the Trion 100, back in July of 2015. (For more on TLC and other memory types, see our primer Buying an Solid-State Drive: 20 Terms You Need to Know.) The drive was an overall solid effort, earning three-and-a-half stars from us, though we noted that the SanDisk Ultra II was a slightly better deal. This time around, OCZ, under its new ownership, is largely sticking to the same formula from the first drive. The drive’s performance specs are mostly unchanged from the last generation’s, with the only shift being that the company has upgraded the drive’s flash memory.
Review SSD Drive OCZ Trion 150 (480GB)
The previous drive sported Toshiba’s 19nm TLC flash, and the new drive has slightly higher-density modules, at 15nm (also made by Toshiba, of course). Though the specs are unchanged, OCZ claims the drive is capable of realizing performance gains up to 50 percent in “real world” tasks. How that is possible when the specs are unchanged is unknown, but that’s what OCZ indicates in its marketing materials.
OCZ also has the same advantages of rival company Samsung now that it’s owned by Toshiba. Toshiba, like Samsung, makes its own NAND flash, and has the controller technology under its umbrella, as well, allowing it to fine-tune the combo in a way that’s not possible when purchasing the parts separately and combining them. Most smaller companies without a silicon fab at their disposal are forced to do that.
The Trion 150 will be offered in four capacities ranging from 120GB to 960GB. And like all TLC-based SSDs, it’s extremely competitive when it comes to pricing.
On Newegg.com at this writing in mid-February 2016, the 120GB version of the Trion 150 was selling for $50, the 240GB for $70, the 480GB for just $140, and the 960GB at an aggressive $269. These prices are some of the lowest we’ve seen, as even the reigning TLC-drive champion Samsung SSD 850 EVO is more expensive across the board, if only by $10 to $20 depending on capacity.
Still, most manufacturers have been unable to match, much less beat, Samsung on pricing, so OCZ is clearly positioning the Trion 150 quite aggressively. The Trion 150 is still more expensive than the SanDisk Ultra II, however, which is SanDisk’s entry-level TLC SSD.
Since the Trion 150 is a TLC drive, it needs to compete on price more than performance, as these “entry level” SSDs are not quite as fast as their MLC-based counterparts, and they also don’t have the same level of durability, making them excellent alternatives for those who want an SSD but don’t need extreme performance and won’t run their drive nonstop for years.
TLC drives, for those not in the know, are less expensive to manufacture, and offer a higher density than MLC drives, as they contain one extra bit per cell. This allows more capacity for the same wafer size, which makes them less expensive to produce and therefore sell. The drawbacks are reduced performance and endurance, but both fall well within the realm of what is suitable for home users. Indeed, even advanced users can appreciate TLC-based SSDs’ excellent blend of performance and price.
In terms of specs, the Trion 150 is a SATA-based drive, so we’re still dealing with the same limitations as all of the previous drives, namely a ceiling on performance dictated by the interface. Since the connection affords up to 600MB per second of bandwidth (with 50MB per second or so tied up in overhead), all SATA-based drives are capped at that level of performance. This allows for maximum real-world bandwidth in the neighborhood of 550MB per second for any drive using the SATA interface.
For the Trion 150 specifically, OCZ says it’s capable of performing sequential-read operations up to 550MB per second for all capacities, but its write speed varies according to capacity, which is typical. Drives that have more flash memory can write faster due to parallelism, writing across more NAND modules. So, for example, the 120GB drive can write up to 450MB per second, and the 240GB drive can write at speeds up to 520MB per second, and the two highest capacities are capable of writing at 530MB per second.
The higher capacities also come with longer endurance ratings, simply because there’s more flash memory to be written to before the cells begin to wear out; it’s easier to load-balance and tax the same memory less frequently at the higher capacities. The 120GB drive is rated for 30TB of writes in its lifetime, with each higher capacity growing by the same increment (60TB, 120TB, and so on). To put those numbers into some anecdotal real-world perspective, one of our own personal 480GB SSDs, which has been in use since November of 2014, has so far had 17TB written to it. So, if you use your drive every day and you want it to last more than a few years before some of the cells start getting decommissioned, you probably should consider at least a 240GB model.
The Trion 150 drive itself is a standard 2.5-inch model designed to fit into notebooks or desktops, and includes a metal shell with a blue and white color scheme that we think is quite striking. Most SSDs look extremely plain, and some have plastic shells, so we’re quite impressed by OCZ’s ability to make this drive stand out aesthetically. This is more impressive given the drive’s rock-bottom pricing.
Unfortunately, there’s no drive spacer included in the box, which you’ll want if you’re installing the SSD in a laptop that has a 9.5mm-high drive bay. (This drive is a 7mm-thick one.) You could probably install the drive into a 9.5mm bay nonetheless, or add your own ad-hoc spacer from a piece of plastic, but it might rattle around a bit. OCZ has also left drive-cloning software out of the package in an effort to reach the lowest price point possible. This is a fairly significant omission, especially since this drive is marketed at people buying an SSD for the first time.
Third-party cloning software options abound out there, but finding the right program, and one that’s both intuitive and free, can be more frought than doing a clean installation of the OS for those who aren’t tech savvy or veterans of drive upgrades. Of the good free options out there, our favorite is EaseUS’s Disk Copy Home Edition. For what it’s worth, the Samsung SSD 850 EVO also does not include a 7mm-to-9.5mm spacer, but it does include drive-cloning software. The SanDisk Ultra II also includes drive-cloning software. SanDisk also offers a live, video-assisted SSD Concierge Service for those unfamiliar with the drive-installation process (you get personalized help with your upgrade via another computer). But the $40 price for Concierge is pretty steep if you’re installing a budget drive that could cost just $50 to $100 on its own.
When it comes to warranties, the OCZ Trion 150 includes a standard (for this class of drives) three-year plan. Almost every other drive in this class offers the same terms, with the only standout being the Samsung SSD 850 EVO, which ships with a five-year warranty.
That said, OCZ has a different spin on the coverage that is designed to improve the warranty experience, and is worth consideration. It’s called ShieldPlus, and it’s an attempt to ease the hassle of in-warranty replacement of a dead drive. That laborious process typically involves paying to ship the drive back to the manufacturer, then waiting a few weeks for the support people to determine if the drive is covered under warranty or not. If it is, then a week later you might receive another drive, but the whole process is time-consuming and frustrating.
With ShieldPlus, you just need to provide OCZ with the drive’s serial number, with no receipt required. It then will ship you a new drive immediately if the company determines the drive’s state is covered under warranty, and will also send you a prepaid return label for the dead drive. So, despite the warranty being “just” three years, the replacement process should be simpler than dealing with the coverage plans from other manufacturers. Hopefully you won’t need it, though.
Most SSDs include a software utility that can be used to perform maintenance on the drive, monitor its health, or both. Software packages vary wildly in their level of usefulness from manufacturer to manufacturer. And though most consumers don’t really need to use software with an SSD, it can be a nice little bonus.
As an example, we recently reviewed PNY’s new SSDs and found its software package was only able to update the drive’s firmware—a feature that’s handy to have if there’s an important fix. But most users aren’t likely to flash their firmware unless it’s absolutely necessary, considering an error could result in a bricked drive and a loss of your data.
On the other end of the spectrum is the software included with Samsung and Intel SSDs, which comprise full-featured suites of tools that let you examine several aspects of the drive and fine-tune your system to make sure it’s running at optimal settings at all times.
To its credit, OCZ offers an SSD utility with its drive, called SSD Guru, that inhabits the middle ground between “barely useful” and “really useful.” In other words, it’s polished and lets you do a few important things, but it’s not as full-featured as the software we’ve seen from Samsung and Intel. What OCZ has basically done is wrap the ability to perform some rudimentary drive tasks in a slick software shell, which makes the software look and feel more functional than it actually is.
For starters, the Overview screen shows the drive’s basic health, including how much data and free space are on the drive, drive health (measured in terabytes written), temperature, firmware version, and whether or not it’s connected to a SATA 6Gbps port. The last one is important, as many older motherboards only have a few of these ports, with the rest of them operating at half that speed, so it’s crucial that you connect the drive to the right port.
The software also lets you know if AHCI is enabled (rather than the older IDE mode meant for hard drives), which can also have a major impact on drive performance. Overall, the Overview window provides excellent information, and is quite attractive. The other windows were much less useful.
We started running into diminishing returns in the very next tab, which is labeled “Tuner.” As you can see by the screenshot, all this does is allow you to manually run the TRIM command on the drive, which you don’t need to unless you’re running Windows XP, because more modern operating systems do this automatically. The software even says this right in the description. Samsung’s Magician software, on the other hand, allows you to “tune your OS” with just one click, which affects how the OS caches files, indexes search results, and more. Samsung’s software also lets you benchmark-test the drive, which is useful as a quick check that your drive is operating at an optimum state.
The Maintenance tab lets you update the firmware of the drive, which is something that should never be necessary, but we do appreciate that OCZ has made the process easy, should you need to roll out an update. You can also secure-erase the drive here, which again, should happen extremely infrequently, unless you’re going to sell the drive, or you want to perform a fresh OS install.
The Settings tab will mostly be used to tell the software to either start or not start when your PC boots, and whether or not it should keep running in the background.
Finally we have the Help tab, which provides useful links to support forums, FAQs, and other useful links.
OCZ seems to have very active support forums, so this tab could actually be helpful should something go wrong. Hopefully, this is another feature users won’t have to look to very often.