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
POST A COMMENT

110 Comments

View All Comments

  • romrunning - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    Speaking of real-world tests, I am waiting for SQL Server tests on an Optane SSD - like on that DC P4800X. The "enterprise" review of the 4800 was all synthetic benchmarks with some disclaimer that they can't simulate all enterprise loads. Sure, you can't simulate everything, but I'm very disappointed that -nothing- enterprise level was even tested. Reply
  • ddriver - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    I am sure it is just an unfortunate coincidence, and it is not like intel is trying to hide the actuality of real world performance :) Reply
  • darkfalz - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    SSD cache / Hybrid SSD drives work okay on certain workloads, mainly productivity stuff, but if you have a lot of games/media they tend to fill up really quickly and I don't think any of the companies that write the algorithms, Intel included, can really figure out how reliably and over long usage periods decide what should be in the cache and what shouldn't.

    I have a 24GB SSD cache (ExpressCache) in my Notebook and I partitioned the OS/Programmes for to one partition, and put all the media on the second partition, and set it to only cache the first partition. This setup works pretty well.

    I also have a Hybrid SSHD in another laptop (only 8GB I think) that I mostly use as a background downloading PC, and after a few days of doing this any useful boot / OS / Chrome stuff that was in the cache has been evicted and it's back to booting at the same speed as a regular HDD.

    Nice in theory, highly variable in practice. I never tried the Intel SRT out because larger SSD affordability improved a lot after it was released.
    Reply
  • satai - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    Can I just put it into a PCIe slot (via a reduction), boot linux from an other SSD drive and use it as any other block device? Reply
  • romrunning - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    Per the article: "However, the Optane Memory can also be treated as a small and fast NVMe SSD, because all of the work to enable its caching role is performed in software or by the PCH on the motherboard. 32GB is even (barely) enough to be used as a Windows boot drive, though doing so would not be useful for most consumers." Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    Are you also going to test Intel SRT with a ~$77 SATA SSD and the same WD HDD? I bet it would perform about the same, and SRT works with non-boot drives. Reply
  • eddieobscurant - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    How about using the same test setup as with the other ssds and run the same benchmarks for comparison?

    I get you wanna please intel for giving you access to optane (which should be named remote preview by the way) , but come on !!!

    Also the new graphs ( probably suggested from intel , since tomshardware has something like these ) are not easy to understand with a quick look.
    Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    These two Optane reviews interrupted my work on putting together a new 2017 consumer SSD test suite to replace our aging 2015 suite. When the new test suite is ready, you'll get comparisons against the broad range of SSDs that you're used to seeing and more polished presentation of the data. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    Can this be used as a boot drive? Reply
  • romrunning - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    Per the article: "However, the Optane Memory can also be treated as a small and fast NVMe SSD, because all of the work to enable its caching role is performed in software or by the PCH on the motherboard. 32GB is even (barely) enough to be used as a Windows boot drive, though doing so would not be useful for most consumers." Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now