Toshiba wants to be a serious player on the SSD market. The Japanese giant has been doing quite well the past few years as OEM supplier, by selling its SSDs to laptop and server manufacturers. Probably inspired by the success Samsung has been having with its 830 and 840 SSDs, Toshiba also wants a piece of that retail pie. For the first time, Toshiba has released a series of SSDs with consumer-friendly names. In this review we will take a closer look at the 128, 256 and 512 GB versions of Toshiba's new Q series.
Toshiba is definitely a heavy-weight in the world of SSDs. After Intel/Micro and Samsung, Toshiba is the largest manufacturer of flash memory for SSDs. Toshiba chips have been used in countless SSDs of the past few years, often referred to as 'premium flash' by the SSD manufacturers. That's because, like Samsung, Toshiba employs the ToggleFlash standard, where Micron/Intel makes flash according to the ONFI standard. Nowadays, the latest versions of both standards (ONFI 3.0 and ToggleFlash 2.0) are equally fast (in theory up to 400 MB/s) and they're both asynchronous. We therefore see no reason to choose one type of flash over the other. Toshiba has the advantage that it also manufactures its own chips, which in theory gives the company a little more freedom in the pricing of SSDs.
The flash chips in the Q series of SSDs have 19nm transistors of the 2-bit MLC variety, but Toshiba doesn't want to say whether it's 64 Gigabit per die or 128 Gigabit per die. That's fine, but what's more frustrating is that Toshiba also doesn't make any claims about the expected lifespan of the chip, or the minimum number of p/e cycles. There has never been an issue with the quality of Toshiba NAND chips, and there's a reason for why so many SSD manufacturers use the chips in their premium products. So we're not worried about the quality, but we do appreciate transparency.
The controller used in the Q series SSDs is the Toshiba TC58NC5HA9GST. Toshiba has also been mum about the controller, even if you can see in the printed text on it that it's originally from Marvell. We can't say whether it's identical to other Marvell controllers, but it's clear that Toshiba has developed the firmware. There's support for TRIM and it of course has a SATA 600 interface.
The Q series SSDs have a maximum read speed of 552 MB/s and a maximum write speed of 501 MB/s. The SSDs are 9.5 mm thin, and come packaged as a retail product. If you spend a little more, Toshiba has upgrade kits which contain a SATA cable, a 3.5-inch bracket, a USB-to-SATA-cable, along with data migration software. While you will likely never see the SSD again once it's been installed, it's too bad the Q series still looks like an OEM product. Toshiba should follow the example of companies like Plextor and Samsung in this department, they have SSDs that actually look good.
Then the pricing. Toshiba, like Crucial and Samsung, produces the flash memory in-house. This translates to cheaper than average prices for the consumer. However, SSDs such as the Plextor M5S, Samsung 840 Evo, Crucial M500 and Kingston V300 are even more affordable, so Toshiba will have to set down some good performance scores for the Q series in order to make it interesting.