Conclusion

As expected, the 480GB Optane SSD 900p performs about the same as the 280GB model. That makes it one of the overall fastest SSDs money can buy, but the Optane SSDs don't win in every test.

Higher performance is often an important selling point for higher capacity SSDs—and sub-par performance can be a major reason to avoid the smallest model in most product lines. This doesn't really apply to the Optane SSDs, so consumers are faced with the simpler question of how much fast storage they really want to pay for. As the most expensive "consumer" SSDs on a per-GB basis, the Optane SSDs force potential buyers to consider just how much blazing fast storage they actually need. I'm currently using an Optane SSD in one of my machines as a cache in front of a RAID array of hard drives. For this use case, even the 280GB model is larger than necessary. But as a primary storage device, the 480GB model would definitely feel less crowded.

Given the high price per GB of the Optane SSDs so far, the upcoming 960 GB and 1.5 TB models of the Optane SSD are going to be an even tougher sell: The market for $1200+ SSDs is pretty small, and very few users actually need a full TB of data within ten microsecond's reach.

Our first round of power measurements of the Optane SSD 900p showed what we expected: the Optane SSD 900p requires far more power than M.2 NVMe SSDs, and usually ends up being less efficient than a good M.2 SSD in spite of the great performance of the Optane SSD. It's hard to score well on efficiency with an idle power draw of over 3.5W. The Optane SSD 900p did score a clear efficiency win for random reads at low queue depths, where its performance advantage over flash-based SSDs is greatest.

Don't hold your breath for a M.2 version of the 900p, or anything with performance close to the 900p. Future Optane products will require different controllers in order to offer significantly different performance characteristics. Higher sequential performance to compete against the top flash-based SSDs will require a higher channel count, making for a more expensive drive with an even larger and more power-hungry controller. Lower power consumption will require serious performance compromises. In the near term, we're much more likely to see a new controller that's a step up from the Optane Memory M.2's single channel, but not large enough to rule out using the M.2 form factor. A three or four channel controller should be able to fit within a M.2 card's physical, electrical and thermal limits, but would offer much lower performance than this Optane SSD 900p.

  250-280 GB 480-512 GB 1TB 2TB
Samsung 960 EVO $127.99 (51¢/GB) $240.00 (48¢/GB) $449.99 (45¢/GB)  
Samsung 960 Pro   $289.99 (57¢/GB) $619.00 (60¢/GB) $1227.00 (60¢/GB)
Intel Optane SSD 900p AIC $389.99 (139¢/GB) $599.99 (125¢/GB)    
Intel Optane SSD 900p U.2 $369.99 (132¢/GB)      

For the most part, the Optane SSDs are holding to their MSRPs, leaving them more than twice as expensive per GB as the fastest NAND flash based SSDs. They're a niche product in the same vein as the extreme capacity models like Samsung's 2TB 960 PRO and 4TB 850 EVO. But where the benefits of expanded capacity are easy to assess, the performance benefits of the Optane SSD are more subtle. For most ordinary and even relatively heavy desktop workloads, high-end flash storage is fast enough that further improvements are barely noticeable.

Power Management
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  • nathanddrews - Friday, December 15, 2017 - link

    Is there any indication that performance would degrade with a lesser CPU or improve with a faster CPU? Just curious if we should expect CPU bottlenecks from these hyper-speed SSDs. Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Friday, December 15, 2017 - link

    Yes, CPU speed can definitely affect latency and consistency and maximum achievable IOPS. Some of those limits were hit with the P4800X testing on a server with lower per-core performance than this consumer testbed.

    At the moment, my inclination is to leave the consumer test suite single-threaded, because consumer workloads don't actually hit the queue depths necessary to go beyond the I/O capabilities of a single CPU core. I don't care too much if the high QD range on some of the graphs doesn't quite reach the theoretical limit of the drive, because that's not the part of the graph we should be paying attention to. (For consumer drives.)

    At low queue depths, interrupt servicing latency can be helped a bit by a faster CPU. But for most consumers, switching from Windows to Linux will do a lot more to help reduce their storage latency. And saving a few more microseconds only matters on Optane; mainstream products won't be this fast for quite a while.
    Reply
  • ddrіver - Friday, December 15, 2017 - link

    I think I'll have to reevaluate my position on Optane. Seems like a solid product. Guess I misread the signs. Reply
  • ddriver - Friday, December 15, 2017 - link

    How can you tell a fake "ddriver" apart? Well, the real one would never mislabel the product hypetane ;)

    It is what it is, and still nowhere nearly "1000x" better as intel claimed. It has its niche strengths, but those offer no tangible benefit to 99.9999% of the consumers out there. I don't recall ever claiming that it will suck, my claim has always been that it will epically fail to live up to the hype, which testing thoroughly confirms. It is not even 10% of "1000x better". So hypetane it is.

    SLC flash can easily match and even bet it in most performance metrics. Unfortunately the industry is not even trying, even mlc is now considered "ultra high end enterprise". Which is understandable, as the workloads that could actually benefit from higher performance are very few and far in between, and for 99% of them using ram is the more applicable and still tremendously better performing solution.

    It is definitely not a bad product on its own. And I would not refer to it as "hypetane" if only intel hadn't shamelessly lied about it on such a preposterous scale.
    Reply
  • tuxRoller - Friday, December 15, 2017 - link

    Interface speeds≠ media speeds

    When will you learn?

    Also, still need a reference for those SLC numbers.
    Reply
  • LordanSS - Saturday, December 16, 2017 - link

    Indeed, Interface speeds are not "media" speeds. I never expected it to work according to Intel's "1000x" claims, but was hoping for a more in-line 20x better from what we currently have, considering first generation product and all.

    And it doesn't even do that. Sorry, for this one time, I am (partially) siding with ddriver.
    Reply
  • lmcd - Saturday, December 16, 2017 - link

    20X better overall is entirely unrealistic. Certain attributes are 20X better. That is all you can really expect when so many things (form factor, power usage, interface protocols, physical interface, etc) are retained from the previous generation. Reply
  • LordanSS - Sunday, December 17, 2017 - link

    20x is 2% (TWO PERCENT) of what Intel claimed when they disclosed XPoint. It's not realistic?

    Intel shoul have kept their mouth shut back then, just like Micron has done so until now. If they can't even do 2% of what they claimed, they're the unrealistic ones.
    Reply
  • tuxRoller - Sunday, December 17, 2017 - link

    Were those claims that Intel made in reference to xpoint the tech, or optane the first gen product? Reply
  • tuxRoller - Saturday, December 16, 2017 - link

    I'm not sure why you are quoting media, but you are absolutely welcome to be disappointed.
    You'll notice I don't care whether anyone thinks Intel over hyped their product only that we still don't know what the actual xpoint (the media, or "tread + xfer + Misc" times, as Handy refers to it) response times look like.
    If AT doesn't allow the below link, search for "xpoint presence in slow lane explained" on the register, or Google "Why XPoint SSDs won't meet original speed claims: A guide"

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/09/29/xpoint_pr...
    Reply

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