Test Setup

Our primary system for consumer SSD testing is a Skylake desktop. This is equipped with a Quarch XLC Power Module for detailed SSD power measurements and is used for our ATSB IO trace tests and synthetic benchmarks using FIO. This system predates all of the Optane Memory products, and Intel and their motherboard partners did not want to roll out firmware updates to provide Optane Memory caching support on Skylake generation systems. Using this testbed, we can only access the QLC NAND half of the Optane Memory H10.

As usual for new Optane Memory releases, Intel sent us an entire system with the new Optane Memory H10 pre-installed and configured. This year's review system is an HP Spectre x360 13t notebook with an Intel Core i7-8565U Whiskey Lake processor and 16GB of DDR4. In previous years Intel has provided desktop systems for testing Optane Memory products, but the H10's biggest selling point is that it is a single M.2 module that fits in small systems, so the choice of a 13" notebook this year makes sense. Intel has confirmed that the Spectre x360 will soon be available for purchase with the Optane Memory H10 as one of the storage options.

The HP Spectre x360 13t has only one M.2 type-M slot, so in order to test multi-drive caching configurations or anything involving SATA, we made use of the Coffee Lake and Kaby Lake systems Intel provided for previous Optane Memory releases. For application benchmarks like SYSmark and PCMark, the scores are heavily influenced by the differences in CPU power and RAM between these machines so we have to list three sets of scores for each storage configuration tested. However, our AnandTech Storage Bench IO trace tests and our synthetic benchmarks using FIO produce nearly identical results across all three of these systems, so we can make direct comparisons and each test only needs to list one set of scores for each storage configuration.

Intel-provided Optane Memory Review Systems
Platforn Kaby Lake Coffee Lake Whiskey Lake
CPU Intel Core i5-7400 Intel Core i7-8700K Intel Core i7-8565U
Motherboard ASUS PRIME Z270-A Gigabyte Aorus H370 Gaming 3 WiFi HP Spectre x360 13t
Chipset Intel Z270 Intel H370  
Memory 2x 4GB DDR4-2666 2x 8GB DDR4-2666 16GB DDR4-2400
Case In Win C583 In Win C583  
Power Supply Cooler Master G550M Cooler Master G550M HP 65W USB-C
Display
Resolution
1920x1200 (SYSmark)
1920x1080 (PCMark)
1920x1080 1920x1080
OS Windows 10 64-bit, version 1803

Intel's Optane Memory caching software is Windows-only, so our usual Linux-based synthetic testing with FIO had to be adapted to run on Windows. The configuration and test procedure is as close as practical to our usual methodology, but a few important differences mean the results in this review are not directly comparable to those from our usual SSD reviews or the results posted in Bench. In particular, it is impossible to perform a secure erase or NVMe format from within Windows except in the rare instance where a vendor provides a tool that only works with their drives. Our testing usually involves erasing the drive between major phases in order to restore performance without waiting for the SSD's background garbage collection to finish cleaning up and freeing up SLC cache. For this review's Windows-based synthetic benchmarks, the tests that write the least amount of data were run first, and those that require filling the entire drive were saved for last.

Optane Memory caching also requires using Intel's storage drivers. Our usual procedure for Windows-based tests is to use Microsoft's own NVMe driver rather than bother with vendor-specific drivers. The tests of Optane caching configurations in this review were conducted with Intel's drivers, but all single-drive tests (including tests of just one side of the Optane Memory H10) use the Windows default driver.

Our usual Skylake testbed is setup to test NVMe SSDs in the primary PCIe x16 slot connected to the CPU. Optane Memory caching requires that the drives be connected through the chipset, so there's a small possibility that congestion on the x4 DMI link could have an effect on the fastest drives, but the H10 is unlikely to come close to saturating this connection.

We try to include detailed power measurements alongside almost all of our performance tests, but this review is missing most of those. Our current power measurement equipment is unable to supply power to a M.2 slot in a notebook and requires a regular PCIe x4 slot for the power injection fixture. We have new equipment on the way from Quarch to remedy this limitation and will post an article about the upgrade after taking the time to re-test the drives in this review with power measurement on the HP notebook.

Introduction Application Benchmarks: SYSmark 2018 & PCMark 10
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  • yankeeDDL - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    Is it me or, generally speaking, it is noticeably slower than the 970 Evo? Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    The 970 can make use of 4 lanes, with only 2 effective lanes in most scenarios any good x4 drive is going to be able to smoke the H10. Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    I still remember that Optane should be 1000x faster and 1000x cheaper. It seems that it is faster, albeit by a much lower factor ... then why hamper it with a slower bus? I mean, I came to read the review thinking that it could be a nice upgrade, and then I see it beaten handily by the 970 Evo. What's the point of such device? It is clearly more complex, so I doubt it'll be cheaper than the 970 Evo... Reply
  • Alexvrb - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    Wait, did they say it would be cheaper? I don't remember that. I know they thought it would be a lot faster than it is... to be fair they seemed to be making projections like NAND based solutions wouldn't speed up at all in years LOL.

    It can be a lot faster in certain configs (the high end PCIe add-on cards, for example) but it's insanely expensive. Even then it's mainly faster for low QDs...
    Reply
  • kgardas - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    Yes, but just in comparison with DRAM prices. E.g. NVDIMM of big size cheaper than DIMM of big size. Reply
  • Irata - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    It was supposed to be 1000x faster and have 1000x the endurance of NAND as per Intel's official 2016 slides.

    It may be slightly off on those promises - would have loved for the article to include the slide with Intel's original claims.

    Price wasn't mentioned.
    Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    You're right. They said 1000x faster, 1000x endurance and 10x denser, but they did not say cheaper, although, the 10x denser somewhat implies it (https://www.micron.com/~/media/documents/products/... Still, this drive is not faster, nor it has significantly higher endurance. Let's see if it is any cheaper. Reply
  • Valantar - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    Denser than DRAM, not NAND. Speed claims are against NAND, price/density claims against DRAM - where they might not be 1/10th the price, but definitely cheaper. The entire argument for 3D Xpoint is "faster than NAND, cheaper than DRAM (while persistent and closer to the former than the latter in capacity)", after all. Reply
  • CheapSushi - Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - link

    I think this is why there's still negative impressions around 3D Xpoint. Too many people still don't understand it or confuse the information given. Reply
  • cb88 - Friday, May 17, 2019 - link

    Optane itself is *vastly* faster than this... on an NVDIMM it rivals DDR4 with latencies in hundreds of ns instead of micro or milliseconds. And bandwidth basically on par with DDR4.

    I think it's some marketing BS that they don't use 4x PCIe on thier M.2 cards .... perhaps trying to avoid server guys buying them up cheap and putting them on quad m.2 to PCIe adapters.
    Reply

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