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
POST A COMMENT

116 Comments

View All Comments

  • name99 - Friday, March 09, 2018 - link

    Not QUITE true.
    Apple has done it (IMHO very successfully) in part because
    - they understand something of the data patterns and
    - already had tech in the file system to move hot data (hot file system data AND hot files) to the fastest part of the medium and
    - they were willing to include ENOUGH flash (128GB) and fast flash; they didn't cheap out.

    But yeah, the solutions sold by Seagate were not (in my experience) very impressive, especially considering the ridiculous premium Seagate charged for them.

    What you CAN do on Apple systems (and I have done, very successfully, multiple times) is to fuse external SSDs with other drives (either other external or an internal HD) and this behaves just like a native fusion drive, you can even boot off it. This means you can retrofit fusion even to old macs (eg I have a 2007 iMac running a fusion system based on an SSD in an external FW-800 enclosure, fused with the internal 320GB drive).
    Reply
  • zepi - Friday, March 09, 2018 - link

    Sounds like Apple Fusion drive. Very difficult to do well on drive-level, much easier to do well with some OS support and filesystem level.

    Afaik people have been relatively happy with their Fusion drives, though personally I find them horribly expensive. Then again, that applies to all Apple storage options, they always feel insanely expensive.
    Reply
  • PeachNCream - Friday, March 09, 2018 - link

    Optane performance is good in some ways and disappointing in others. I'd like to see the technology improve since NAND endurance is a problem that warrants a solution. Maybe Optane isn't that solution. Reply
  • Reflex - Friday, March 09, 2018 - link

    Optane basically is a variation of Phase-Change Memory. It's been around a long time, but Micron/Intel have finally managed to make it in large enough capacities to productize it out of niche markets. There are other contenders for next gen memory &storage, ranging from MRAM (magnetic memory) to ReRAM to racetrack memory (HP has claimed to be on the edge of productizing that for about four years now).

    I am just happy one finally got out there, an it is in pretty good shape for a first gen product. Hoping this gets others to get serious about bringing alternative storage methods to market soon.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Saturday, March 10, 2018 - link

    At least the 860 EVO and Pro improved endurance a lot for consumer.

    600TB 860 EVO 1TB
    1.2PB 860 Pro 1TB
    Reply
  • leexgx - Sunday, March 11, 2018 - link

    they can easy do 4x that especially the Pro drive (they was been Really conservative before, mainly so it did not affect the sales of there enterprise drives)

    heck the 840 Pro did was 2PB before it died suddenly (but it did all that with 0 read errors)
    Reply
  • Araemo - Friday, March 09, 2018 - link

    Can we get the consistency scatter plots for this drive? Those are an awesome tool to gauge the real world 'feel' of the drive. Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Friday, March 09, 2018 - link

    They're an awesome tool to exaggerate the impact of garbage collection pauses on flash-based SSDs. Real-world usage doesn't involve constant writes to a full drive. Those random write consistency graphs often show interesting things about how drives handle GC, but they're a horrible way of ranking real-world performance of SSDs. Reply
  • Zinabas - Saturday, March 10, 2018 - link

    As a thought the best case to use these in... would be an AMD Ryzen system with (Fuzedrive) the new software that manages all the drives as one volume. The small capacity would be automanaged by software and would be swapped to fit whatever you're playing at the time. Reply
  • emvonline - Monday, March 12, 2018 - link

    so there doesnt seen to be a clear difference in real world applications. its faster with lower latency but does not always show up. could you cleary pick the optane drive vs samsung 960 in a blind test everytime running games and office apps? Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now