Intel's first Optane products hit the market almost a year ago, putting the much-awaited 3D XPoint memory in the hands of consumers. Today, Intel broadens that family with the Optane SSD 800p, pushing the Optane brand closer to the mainstream.

The new Optane SSD 800p is an M.2 NVMe SSD using Intel's 3D XPoint memory instead of flash memory. The 800p is based on the same hardware platform as last year's Optane Memory M.2 drive, which was intended primarily for caching purposes (but could also be used as a boot drive with a sufficiently small operating system). That means the 800p uses a PCIe 3 x2 link and Intel's first-generation 3D XPoint memory—but more of it, with usable capacities of 58GB and 118GB compared to just 16GB and 32GB from last year's Optane Memory. The PCB layout has been tweaked and the sticker on the drive no longer has a foil layer to act as a heatspreader, but the most significant design changes are to the drive firmware, which now supports power management including a low power idle state.

The low capacities of the Optane Memory product forced Intel to position it as a drive specifically for caching in front of a much larger hard drive, but the Optane SSD 800p has enough space to serve as primary storage. While 64GB-class drives have disappeared from current flash-based SSD product lines, there are still plenty of 128GB-class drives around. These drive capacities certainly aren't roomy, but they are sufficient to install an operating system and several applications. For users that don't install huge AAA video games or deal with large collections of videos and photos, the 118GB 800p might not even feel too confining.

For flash-based SSDs, tiny capacities should often be avoided because they have much worse performance than larger models. The relatively small 128Gbit (16GB) capacity of a single 3D XPoint die means the Optane SSD avoids the limited parallelism that small flash-based drives suffer from, and the performance of a single 3D XPoint die is high enough that not much parallelism is needed to begin with.

Intel Optane SSD Specifications
Model Optane SSD 800p Optane Memory
Capacity 118 GB 58 GB 32 GB 16 GB
Form Factor M.2 2280 B+M key M.2 2280 B+M key
Interface PCIe 3.0 x2 PCIe 3.0 x2
Protocol NVMe 1.1 NVMe 1.1
Controller Intel Intel
Memory 128Gb 20nm Intel 3D XPoint 128Gb 20nm Intel 3D XPoint
Sequential Read 1450 MB/s 1350 MB/s 900 MB/s
Sequential Write 640 MB/s 290 MB/s 145 MB/s
Random Read 250k IOPS 240k IOPS 190k IOPS
Random Write 140k IOPS 65k IOPS 35k IOPS
Read Latency 6.75 µs 7 µs 8 µs
Write Latency 18µs 18µs 30 µs
Active Power 3.75 W 3.5 W 3.5 W
Idle Power 8 mW 8 mW 1 W 1 W
Endurance 365 TB 365 TB 182.5 TB 182.5 TB
Warranty 5 years 5 years
Launch Date March 2018 April 2017
Launch MSRP $199 $129 $77 $44

The higher capacities that the Optane SSD 800p offers over the Optane Memory also allow for much higher write performance, which was the biggest weakness of Optane Memory. Still, this only brings the 800p up to performance levels slightly faster than SATA, with sequential write performance rated at 640 MB/s and 4kB random write at 140k IOPS. Read speeds are slightly faster than the 32GB Optane Memory and also look poor compared to flash-based SSDs, but Intel is specifying this performance at a queue depth of four, which is far lower than what most flash-based SSDs need to hit their peak throughput.

The addition of a low-power sleep state brings the idle power rating of the 800p down to just 8mW, compared to the 1W rating on the smaller Optane Memory modules. The endurance rating for both capacities is 200 GB/day for the five-year warranty period. Given the small capacity of the drives, this works out to 1.7 or 3.4 drive writes per day, which is considerably higher than normal for consumer SSDs.

The capacities of 58GB and 118GB look odd compared to the more usual amounts like 120GB or 128GB commonly seen for flash-based SSDs. The reason the 800p has slightly reduced capacity is that a 3D XPoint die's actual capacity really matches the nominal 128Gb, whereas NAND flash incorporates extra space above the nominal capacity to allow for error correction and wear leveling. For the Optane Memory, the difference between the power of two definition of 32GB and the traditional drive manufacturer's definition of 32GB provided sufficient space, but the 800p's metadata and error correction requires a bit more usable space be taken.

Pricing for the Intel Optane SSD 800p is similar on a $/GB basis to the Optane Memory, which is now significantly cheaper than the launch prices from last year. However, this still leaves the 800p as the most expensive consumer SSD on the market on both a capacity and per GB basis, with the 58GB model exceeding $2/GB. Even the ultra-high-end 900p is cheaper per GB than the 800p.

The Competition:

There aren't any close competitors to the Optane SSD 800p. Intel's Optane SSD 900p is a consumer-focused derivative of their enterprise Optane SSD DC P4800X and inherits its high power consumption and the large PCIe add-in card or U.2 form factors. The existing Optane Memory M.2 modules are closely related to the Optane SSD 800p, but their low capacities prevent them from being used for the same purposes.

Among flash-based SSDs, there are some current-generation 128GB-class NVMe SSDs but no 64GB-class drives. The small flash-based SSDs are all relatively low-end and far cheaper per GB than the Optane SSDs. The high-end NVMe SSDs that roughly match the 800p on price tend to have four times the capacity.

For this review, we are comparing the 800p against Intel's other Optane products and against a variety of flash-based NVMe SSDs ranging from entry-level drives to the premium Samsung 960 PRO.

Intel also sent us four of the 118GB model, so for the curious we have some benchmark results from using them in RAID. For those tests, the Optane 800p M.2 modules were installed in an ASRock Ultra Quad M.2 card and tested in our enterprise SSD test system, using Windows 10 and Intel's Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC) drivers. That enterprise test system includes all the latest firmware and OS patches for the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, so those test results reflect the overhead of those mitigations in addition to the overhead of the NVMe RAID software. The single-drive test results were all recorded on our usual consumer SSD test system that has not received any firmware or OS patches for the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.

AnandTech Enterprise SSD Test System
System Model Intel Server R2208WFTZS
CPU 2x Intel Xeon Gold 6154 (18C, 3.0GHz)
Motherboard Intel S2600WFT
Chipset Intel C624
Memory 192GB total, Micron DDR4-2666 16GB modules
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
AnandTech 2017/2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.1

Caveat: Many of our current SSD tests were not designed with tiny drives in mind. The results for the 32GB Optane Memory and the 58GB Optane SSD 800p do not represent exactly the same workload performed by the larger drives. Several of our synthetic benchmarks of sustained performance default to using a 64GB span of the drive, and in the case of the smaller drives, the test simply uses the entire drive. Likewise, the workloads represented by the ATSB Destroyer and Heavy tests don't actually fit on such small drives. The small drives still perform the same volume of reads and writes, but the block addresses in the I/O trace that are beyond the capacity of the drive are wrapped around to fit. The ATSB Destroyer and Heavy results for those two drives could be viewed as representative of the drive's performance as a cache device, but they do not include the effect of cache misses that would be present in a real tiered storage configuration.

AnandTech Storage Bench - The Destroyer
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  • Reflex - Saturday, March 10, 2018 - link

    I also think people forget how crappy & expensive gen1 and 2 SSD's were. Reply
  • Drazick - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    We really need those in U2 / SATA Express form.
    Desktop users shouldn't use M2 with all its thermal limitations.
    Reply
  • jabber - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    Whichever connector you use or whatever the thermals, once you go above 600MBps the real world performance difference is very hard to tell in most cases. We just need SATA4 and we can dump all these U2/SATA Express sockets. M.2 for compactness and SATA4 for everything else non Enterprise. Done. Reply
  • Reflex - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    U2 essentially is next gen SATA. There is no SATA4 on the way. SATA is at this point an 18 year old specification ripe for retirement. There is also nothing wrong with M.2 even in desktops. Heat spreaders aren't a big deal in that scenario. All that's inside a SATA drive is the same board you'd see in M.2 form factor more or less. Reply
  • leexgx - Saturday, March 10, 2018 - link

    apart from that your limited to 0-2 slots per board (most come with 6 SATA ports)

    i agree that a newer SATA that support NVME over it be nice but U2 be nice if anyone would adopt it and make the ports become standard and have U2 SSDs
    Reply
  • jabber - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    I am amazed that no one has decided to just do the logical thing and slap a 64GB Flash cache in a 4TB+ HDD and be done with it. One unit and done. Reply
  • iter - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    They have, seagate has a hybrid drive, not all that great really.

    The reason is that caching algorithms suck. They are usually FIFO - first in first out, and don't take into account actual usage patterns. Meaning you get good performance only if your work is confined to a data set that doesn't exceed the cache. If you exceed it, it starts bringing in garbage, wearing down the flash over nothing. Go watch a movie, that you are only gonna watch once - it will cache that, because you accessed it. And now you have gigabytes of pointless writes to the cache, displacing data that actually made sense to be cached.

    Which is why I personally prefer to have separate drives rather than cache. Because I know what can benefit from flash and what makes no sense there. Automatic tiering is pathetic, even in crazy expensive enterprise software.
    Reply
  • jabber - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    Yeah I was using SSHD drives when they first came out but 8GB of flash doesn't really cut it. I'm sure after all this time 64GB costs the same as 8GB did back then (plus it would be space enough for several apps and data sets to be retained) and the algorithms will have improved. If Intel thinks caches for HDDs have legs then why not just combine them in one simple package? Reply
  • wumpus - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    Presumably, there's no market. People who buy spinning rust are either buying capacity (for media, and using SSD for the rest) or cheaping out and not buying SSDs.

    What surprises me is that drives still include 64MB of DRAM, you would think that companies who bothered to make these drives would have switched to TLC (and pseudo-SLC) for their buffer/caches (writing on power off must be a pain). Good luck finding someone who would pay for the difference.

    Intel managed to shove this tech into the chipsets (presumably a software driver that looked for the hardware flag, similar to RAID) in 2011-2012, but apparently dropped that soon afterward. Too bad, reserving 64GB of flash to cache a harddrive (no idea if you could do this with a RAID array) sounds like something that is still usefull (not that you need the performance, just that the flash is so cheap). Just make sure the cache is set to "write through" [if this kills performance it shouldn't be on rust] to avoid doubling your chances of drive loss. Apparently the support costs weren't worth the bother.
    Reply
  • leexgx - Saturday, March 10, 2018 - link

    8GB should be plenty for SSHD and there currant generation have cache evic protection (witch i think is 3rd gen) so say a LBA block is read 10 times it will assume that is something you open often or its a system file or a startup item, so 2-3GB of data will not get removed easily (so windows, office, browsers and other startup items will always be in the nand cache) the rest of the caching is dynamic if its had more then 2-4 reads it caches it to the nand

    the current generation SSHDs by seagate (don't know how others do it) its split into 3 sections so has a easy, bit harder and very hard to evict from read cache, as the first gen SSHDs from seagate just defragmenting the drive would end evicting your normal used stuff as any 2 reads would be cached right away that does not happen any more

    if you expect it to make your games load faster you need to look elsewhere, as they are meant to boost commonly used applications and OS and on startup programs but still have the space for storage

    that said i really dislike HDDs as boot drives if they did not cost £55 for a 250gb SSD i put them in for free
    Reply

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