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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  • Billy Tallis - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    I've been considering interactive graphs. I'm not sure how easily our current CMS would let me include external scripts like D3.js, and I definitely want to make sure it provides a usable fallback to a pre-rendered image if the scripts can't load. If you have suggestions for something that might be easy to integrate into my python/matplotlib workflow, shoot me an email.

    And once I get the new 2017 consumer SSD test suite finished, I'll go back to having labeled bar charts for the primary scores, because that's the only easy to compare across a large number of drives.
    Reply
  • watzupken - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    I echo the conclusion that the cache is too little and too late. In a time where SSDs are becoming affordable as compared to the perhaps 5 years back, it makes little sense to fork out so much money for a puny 32gb cache along with other hardware requirements. It's fast, but it is not a full SSD. Reply
  • menting - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    It's not aimed at replacing a SSD. Reply
  • Morawka - Monday, April 24, 2017 - link

    has chipworks or anyone else figured out the material science behind this technology? Reply
  • zeeBomb - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    Damn you guys killed the optane in a day Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    As is tradition.

    The manufacturers work hard, but SSD firmware development and validation is hard. There are a lot of drives out there that are better off today because we broke them first.
    Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/9470/intel-and-micro...

    I think people need to re-read this article. Going over it makes much of the disappointment seem a bit overdone. Intel spoke to the potential of the technology, they didn't promise it all in the first version. They also spoke to its long term potential, including being able to stack the die and potentially move higher bit levels. I think its fair to say this isn't a consumer level product yet, but to ship a brand new memory tech at production level that is significantly faster and higher endurance than alternatives, is a significant accomplishment. We have been suck for more than a decade with a '3-5 year' timetable on new memory technologies, perhaps this will get other players to actually ship something (I'm looking at you HP and your promise of memristers two years ago).
    Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    Also, apparently typing comments at 11PM after a long day at the office isn't the best idea. Ignore my typos please. ;) Reply
  • testbug00 - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    problem is Intel did not make this clear. Intel has now had multiple chance to clearly seperate the potential of the technology from the first generation implementation. They choose not to take it.

    This is slimey and disgusting.

    The technology as a whole long term does indeed seem very promising, however.
    Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - link

    Couldn't you say that about any company that talks about an upcoming technology and its potential then restricts its launch to specific niches? Which is almost everyone when it comes to new technologies... Reply

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