Testing Optane Memory

For this review, Intel provided a fully-assembled desktop system with Windows 10 pre-installed and Optane Memory caching configured and enabled. The system was assembled by Intel's Demo Depot Build Center as the equivalent of a typical low to mid-range retail desktop with an i5-7400 processor, a B250 motherboard and 16GB of RAM. Storage is a 1TB 7200RPM WD Black hard drive plus the Optane Memory 32GB module.

Intel Optane Memory Review System
CPU Intel Core i5-7400
Motherboard ASUS B250-PLUS
Chipset Intel B250
Memory 2x 8GB Kingston DDR4-2400 CL17
Case In Win C583
Power Supply Cooler Master G550M
OS Windows 10 64-bit, version 1607
Drivers Intel Optane Memory version 15.5.0.1051

In addition, we tested the Optane Memory's performance and power consumption as a standalone SSD using our own testbed. This allowed us to compare against the Optane SSD DC P4800X and to verify Intel's performance specifications for the Optane Memory.

Unfortunately, this review includes only an abbreviated set of benchmarks, for two reasons: the Optane Memory review system arrived less than a week ago, as I was trying to finish up the P4800X review, and the Optane Memory module did not survive testing. After about a day of benchmarking the Optane Memory review system locked up, and after rebooting the Optane Memory module was not detected and the OS installation was corrupted beyond repair. The drive is not completely dead: Linux can detect it as a NVMe device but cannot use it for storage or even retrieve the drive's error log. In communicating with Intel over the weekend, we were not able to figure out what went wrong, and the replacement module could not be delivered before the publication of this review.

The fact that the Optane Memory module died should not be taken as any serious evidence against the product's reliability. I kill review units once every few months during the course of ordinary testing, and I was due for another failure (ed: it's a bona fide AnandTech tradition). What we call ordinary testing is of course not something that anybody would mistake for just the intended use of the product, and no SSD brand has been entirely free from this kind of problem. However, the fact remains that we don't have as much data to present as we wish, and we don't have enough experience with the product to make final conclusions about it.

For comparison with the Optane Memory caching configuration, we selected the Crucial MX300 525GB and the Samsung 960 EVO 250GB. Both of these are available at retail for slightly less than the price of the Optane Memory 32GB module and the 1TB hard drive. They represent different capacity/performance tradeoffs within the same overall storage budget and are reasonable alternatives to consider when building a system like this Optane Memory review system.

For testing of the Optane Memory caching performance and power consumption, we have SYSmark 2014 SE results. Our synthetic tests of the Optane Memory as a standalone SSD are abbreviated forms of the tests we used for the Optane SSD DC P4800X, with only queue depths up to 16 considered here. Since those tests were originally for an enterprise review, the drives are preconditioned to steady state by filling them twice over with random writes. Our follow-up testing will consider the consumer drives in more ordinary workloads consisting of short bursts of I/O on drives that are not full.

Intel's Caching History SYSmark 2014 SE
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  • ddriver - Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - link

    It is only natural to have negative sentiments about greedy, lousy corporations because of what they do. It is nothing personal though, I do it because I am a conscious human being. Not cattle. You can throw crapple and moogle into the mix. There is no single good reason to be fond of any corporation. The bigger they are the more damage they do to humanity and the planet as a whole.

    In other news, water is wet!
    Reply
  • eddman - Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - link

    You are not fooling anyone. Reply
  • eddman - Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - link

    ...and you are so blind by your hatred that you dismiss every single thing that these companies do. You are not rational in the slightest but do like to boast about how great you are. Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    Nailed it eddman. Because it does not personally solve ddriver's problems, or because it comes from the wrong brand, its an epic disaster. The funny thing here is I agree this is not a revolution, at least not yet, but the incessant bashing and inability to acknowledge that it has its uses and those use cases are likely to only grow demonstrates the bias involved. Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    To the insinuation that Optane may somehow be relabeled SLC NAND, I went and did a little research/consultation. All NAND requires writing to blocks, Optane can support bit level writes (expected in DIMM configurations), which is a major advantage over NAND and not technically possible with NAND. It was also pointed out that if Optane was simply disguised SLC, despite the technical impossibility, it would mean that Intel had engaged in financial fraud by materially misrepresenting its technology, capabilities and long-term expectations to investors.

    Thanks to Joel Hruska for looking into it for me.

    More info here: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2017/04/intel-opta...

    More from Joel here: https://www.extremetech.com/author/jhruska
    Reply
  • Reflex - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    OMG it's the fastest product on the market in its class but because I choose to interpret the early marketing as applying to the first gen product it totally sucks! I refuse to benefit from drastically better performance because Intel *dared* to speak to its potential performance and didn't deliver that in the first product!

    In fact, I am so enraged I'm ripping out all my existing SSD's and replacing them with Quantum Bigfoot drives in protest.
    Reply
  • Drumsticks - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    It's probably because Intel dared to do something innovative again, and we can't possibly give credit where it's due, can we? If it was Samsung, I bet it would just be Samsung being Samsung. Slap the blue name on top, and it's cool to criticize whatever you can, even in the face of hard numbers. Make sure you also include an edgy name like "Hypetane" to really drive your point home. Reply
  • Reflex - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    To be fair if it were Samsung we'd get a lecture on the oppression of North Korea mixed in there somewhere along with a conspiracy theory about the south being a puppet state not permitted to succeed in the face of America. Reply
  • jabbadap - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    Well I don't want to degrade intel's efforts on this. But it's intel/micron co-operation who have engineered this and I would even guess a bit further that science behind this is more micron tech than intels. Reply
  • Drumsticks - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    That's fair, and Micron definitely deserves credit as well. I'm sure they'll get their own when QuantX comes out, hopefully sometime this year. I suspect that the R&D was split very evenly, though; Intel has always been good at doing things "well" in the fab; Micron had excelled at doing them "cheaply" which is one reason the venture was reasonably successful. Plus, I feel it would be hard to collaborate on R&D together for 10 years and successfully say "we did this together" to the public, if one side (Micron or Intel) did most of the work. I guess we'll never know, though. Reply

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