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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  • Shadow7037932 - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    It's a first gen release. Do you remember the issues the first gen SSDs had? Do you remember the JMicron stuttering issues? Reply
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    The birth of a new meme. Reply
  • halcyon - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    Looks like almost a completely useless interim memory device for almost all workloads (non-server). combine that with a size of 32GB on Kaby Lake, it begs the question : what is the point? Why not release a ready product that has a market niche, and not a slimmed-down beta that is looking for a solution it can't fit? Reply
  • ddriver - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    The point is they burned through a mountain of cash to RD this flop and now they are desperately trying to get some of it back. It is a product that doesn't fit in 99% of the market. Thus the solution is to try and shove it anywhere else possible, regardless of how little sense it makes. Reply
  • menting - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    you might have forgotten the 1st gen SSDs were about the same, but look at SSDs now. Reply
  • fallaha56 - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    exactly! so with everyone having learnt that lesson (and having amazing SSDs) Intel has to do better

    this is a pointless product that offers no real advantages and many disadvantages
    Reply
  • carewolf - Friday, June 02, 2017 - link

    I wonder if they still got paid by Intel after revealing that :D Reply
  • tech6 - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    The test that I would be interested in is if this technology could be an effective cache is speeding up mainstream SSDs. Reply
  • Sarah Terra - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    Perhaps, but better to just wait for pricing to come in line and have the entire disk made from optane or similar. Still can't believe the random writes, this is the biggest jump since the original intel X-25. Basically on any file larger than 4kb you are starting at 4x performance and going waaaaaay up. Reply
  • Twingo - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    True, since a SATA based SSD is much cheaper than a NVME drive. I'd like to see the comparison of Optane + 1TB SATA SSD vs 1TB NVME SSD. The 1TB SATA SSD + Optane would be cheaper solution than a 1TB NVME. Reply

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