Intel is introducing their second generation of Optane Memory products: these are low-capacity M.2 NVMe SSDs with 3D XPoint memory that are intended for use as cache devices to improve performance of systems using hard drives. The new Optane Memory M10 brings a 64GB capacity to the product line that launched a year ago with 16GB and 32GB options.

The complete Optane Memory caching solution consists of an M.2 SSD plus Intel's drivers for caching on Windows, and firmware support on recent motherboards for booting from a cached volume. Intel launched Optane Memory with its Kaby Lake generation of processors and chipsets, and this generation is intended to complement Coffee Lake systems. However, all of the new functionality works just as well on existing Kaby Lake systems as with Coffee Lake.

The major new user-visible feature for this generation of Optane Memory caching is the addition of the ability to cache a secondary data drive, whereas previously only boot drives were possible. Intel refers to this mode as "data drive acceleration", compared to the system acceleration (boot drive) that was the only mode supported by the first generation of Optane Memory. Data drive acceleration has been added solely through changes to the Optane Memory drivers for Windows, and this feature was actually quietly rolled out with version 16 of Intel's RST drivers back in February.

Also earlier this year, Intel launched the Optane SSD 800P family as the low-end alternative to the flagship Optane SSD 900P. The 800P and the new Optane Memory M10 are based on the same hardware and an updated revision of the original Optane Memory M.2 modules. The M10 and the 800P use the same controller and the same firmware. The 800P is usable as a cache device with the Optane Memory software, and the Optane Memory M10 and its predecessor are usable as plain NVMe SSDs without caching software. The 800P and the M10 differ only in branding and intended use; the drive branded as the 58GB 800P is functionally identical to the 64GB M10 and both have the exact same usable capacity of 58,977,157,120 bytes.

Everything said about the 58GB Optane SSD 800P in our review of the 800P family applies equally to the 64GB Optane Memory M10. Intel hasn't actually posted official specs for the M10, so we'll just repeat the 800P specs here:

Intel Optane SSD Specifications
Model Optane SSD 800P Optane Memory
Capacity 118 GB 58 GB
M10 (64 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 800P: $129
M10: $144
$77 $44

Rather than cover exactly the same territory as our review of the 800P, this review is specifically focused on use of the Optane Memory M10 as a cache drive in front of a mechanical hard drive. Thanks to the addition of the data drive acceleration functionality, we can use much more of our usual benchmark suite for this than we could with last year's Optane Memory review. The data drive acceleration mode also broadens the potential market for Optane Memory, to include users who want to use a NAND flash-based SSD as their primary storage device but also need a more affordable bulk storage drive. The combination of a 64GB Optane Memory M10 (at MSRP) and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive is about the same price as a 1TB SATA SSD with 3D TLC NAND, and at higher capacities the combination of a hard drive plus Optane Memory is much cheaper than a SATA SSD.

Intel's Optane Memory system works as an inclusive cache: adding an Optane Memory cache to a system does not increase the usable storage capacity, it just improves performance. Data written to the cache will also be written to the backing device, but applications don't have to wait for the data to land on both devices.

Once enabled, there is no need or option for manual tuning of cache behavior. The operation of the cache system is almost entirely opaque to the user. After an unclean shutdown, there is a bit of diagnostic information visible as the cache state is reconstructed, but this process usually seems to only take a second or two before the OS continues to load.

Test Systems

Intel's Optane Memory caching drivers require a Kaby Lake or newer processor and chipset, but our primary consumer SSD testbed is still a Skylake-based machine. For last year's Optane Memory review, Intel delivered the 32GB module pre-installed in a Kaby Lake desktop. This time around, Intel provided a Coffee Lake system. Both of those systems have been used for tests in this review, and a few benchmarks of drives in a non-caching role have been performed on our usual SSD testbed.

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
Test Procedures
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  • Flunk - Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - link

    For $144 you can get a 256GB M.2 SSD, big enough to use as a boot drive. Even as a cache for a slow hard-drive (which means you also need to buy a hard drive, possibly bumping the cost up to 512GB SSD prices) means this product doesn't make any sense at all. Maybe it made sense when they started development, but it doesn't now. Reply
  • binary visions - Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - link

    I'm not sure I understand your comment.

    This product isn't designed for people whose data fits on a boot drive. It's designed to accelerate disk speeds for people who require large data drives.

    E.g. my photos do not even remotely fit on an affordable SSD. I have a 6tb drive I work off of, but I'm frequently working in sets of photos that are <100gb. I suspect an Optane drive would significantly improve my workflow (I don't have a compatible system, but it's something I'm looking into in the future).

    Copying photos back and forth between an SSD for working on them, and back to the spinning platters for storage, is an ugly process at best.
    Reply
  • qlum - Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - link

    However at this point a conventional ssd of a larger size could also be used gor caching and may require less swaoping to the slower hdd. Reply
  • ZaraBryant - Thursday, May 17, 2018 - link

    My last pay check was 9k Bucks working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out. Follow me.... http://bit.do/egCxk Reply
  • bobhumplick - Saturday, October 20, 2018 - link

    ah i only made 8k working 14 hours a week. please tell me more Reply
  • lmcd - Thursday, May 17, 2018 - link

    No. The idea of caching means that the device used as the cache will almost always be close to capacity. Nearly-full MLC and TLC SSD devices perform very poorly compared to their empty numbers. MLC and TLC devices would have 1/2 and 1/3 the size they're listed at when used as caches, which makes the comparison much less favorable. Reply
  • frenchy_2001 - Friday, May 18, 2018 - link

    I have used SSD caching for HDD for longer than intel has offered it.
    I bought a OCZ Synapse and I've used it for years. It was a 64GB SSD, with 32GB usable
    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N...
    (overprovisionning allowed better performances while full), supplied with a custom caching software.
    The software did not work great, but I transitioned to intel SMART response SSD caching when I upgraded from an AMD system to a Z68 (and beyond) and this has helped a lot.
    It is fully transparent and I hardly realize it's there, but the few time I had to remove it (I changed to a bigger SSD as cache, maxed to 80GB, or changed the HDD and had to redo the cache system), how slow the HDD alone was surprised me.
    Boot time is less than a minute, game load times are short enough... Basically, even with with caching alone, it gave me most of the benefits of SSD for everyday tasks.

    I fully expects this product to behave similarly, benefits increasing with size.

    This is not really for people building a new computer, this is for people that want to speed up a current one with a big HDD.
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - link

    Maybe optimize your workflow, you would be better buying a 500GB SSD and MOVING your frequent data to that drive. It's the same thing, for the same price and 10x more storage. Reply
  • GTVic - Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - link

    He just said that transferring photos to an SSD is not feasible. Reply
  • joenathan - Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - link

    His plan still doesn't make sense, what he's just gonna have to hope the Intel software magically knows which of the 6TB of photos he is going to use today? If it's can't cache everything then it's just a gamble. It would be better for him to get a larger SSD and modify his work flow so that it would be feasible to transfer the photos. Reply

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