MSI lets loose a trio of Optane motherboard bundles

The results that Jeff got from one of those Optane cache drives are pretty promising, don't you think? MSI also seems to think so, as it's launching three motherboard bundles with pre-installed 16GB Optane Memory devices. The Z270 Tomahawk, B250M Bazooka, and B250M Pro are all getting models with "Opt Boost" appended their names to let buyers know they include an Optane cache.

We've seen the Z270 Tomahawk before. In case you haven't, it's an ATX motherboard that marks the top end of MSI's Arsenal Gaming series. Fittingly, it includes the sort of niceties that you expect from a quality mainboard, like reinforced power delivery, support for extremely high-speed memory, USB 3.1 ports, and dual M.2 sockets. The Opt Boost version is unchanged aside from the inclusion of a 16GB Optane Memory device in the second M.2 socket.

The B250M Bazooka is also part of the Arsenal Gaming family. This micro-ATX motherboard cuts a few features from the Z270 Tomahawk, as it uses an Intel B250 chipset. That means there's no support for overclocking (including memory overclocking), and it also means there are fewer PCIe lanes to spread around. As a result, the Optane Memory device included with the Opt Boost version takes up the board's single M.2 socket. The Opt Boost version of this board also has a more subdued color scheme than its predecessor.

Finally, MSI's press release mentions the B250M Pro Opt Boost, but there's no product page up for it yet. Oddly enough, MSI doesn't sell a motherboard simply titled "B250M Pro," so it's not clear exactly which model the Opt Boost version is based on. We're fans of the B250M Pro-VDH as a low-cost value board thanks to its M.2 socket and USB 3.1 ports, both fairly uncommon at the $90 price point. Hopefully the B250M Pro Opt Boost bundle is based on a similar board.

Of course, the little cache drive won't be that much use if you're already booting from an SSD, since Optane Memory only caches the system disk. An Optane cache can make an otherwise hard-drive-only system feel an awful lot like an SSD-equipped machine, though, and in that scenario, having just the one M.2 socket isn't a big problem.  MSI's announcement didn't include pricing or availability for the bundles.

Comments closed
    • Wonders
    • 2 years ago

    This tech looks extremely promising, but I have a question I haven’t been able to answer:
    [quote=”Anandtech”<] The Samsung 960 EVO starts out about ten times slower than the Optane Memory but narrows the gap in the second half of the test. The Crucial MX300 is behind the Optane memory by more than a factor of ten through most of the test.[/quote<] [url=<]Source[/url<] My question is, given these results (up to 10x improvement over SSD with HDD+Optane caching), it would seem obvious that Optane can also cover some of the inherent performance gaps of SSDs. But I'm having trouble finding a review that uses Optane Memory caching paired with an SSD. Can anyone link to benchmarks for the SSD+Optane scenario? I'm not much a of a "price/perf" guy, just more interested in raw performance for diverse workloads.

      • PBCrunch
      • 2 years ago

      LinusTechTips is pretty much insufferable, but his crew did test Optane with an SSD. The cache accelerates some things and doesn’t help much on others. Basically take the charts from Jeff’s review and whatever the fastest thing on the chart is, that is what you get from Optane paired with an SSD.

      Take note: if you have a small SSD and a large hard drive for something like a Steam library, the cache device can not (or does not) accelerate anything on the non-boot drive.

        • Wonders
        • 2 years ago

        [quote=”PBCrunch”<]Basically take the charts from Jeff's review and whatever the fastest thing on the chart is, that is what you get from Optane paired with an SSD.[/quote<] The surprising thing is, the fastest thing on 100% of Jeff's charts is the HDD+Optane cache. That's the starting point of my question.

      • psuedonymous
      • 2 years ago

      [quote<]But I'm having trouble finding a review that uses Optane Memory caching paired with an SSD. Can anyone link to benchmarks for the SSD+Optane scenario?[/quote<] [url=<]PCPer[/url<]. also testing with two Optane m.2 modules in RAID0, just because.

      • frenchy2k1
      • 2 years ago

      Caching works.
      I’ve been using intel’s caching since their z68 and It’s remarcably efficient.
      I had a 2TB HDD and did not want to dump it, so I bought a 32GB SSD for caching.
      The speed increase on a day to day workload is purely ridiculous.
      When I upgraded from win7 to win10, I had to recreate the caching configuration and it was painful. I had forgotten how slow that hdd was by itself.

      Optane is a just the latest iteration of this. It’s faster than a SSD for caching with better durability. No surprise it works so well.

      If hdd manufacturers had integrated 32/64GB of flash on their drives, they would have had a winner (current SSHD have 8GB flash, which is just too little).

    • Mad_Dane
    • 2 years ago

    It really suits the color scheme with that blue PCB.

    • Yan
    • 2 years ago

    Other reviews (such as [url=<]Ars Technica[/url<]'s) suggest that a SSD is a better choice than Optane, and I'm inclined to agree.

    • albundy
    • 2 years ago

    wouldnt the premium that you pay for that optane stick and premium for msi naming the board as such be better spent on an nvme ssd instead? i’d think a 960 pro or sm961 would demolish optane’s offering. not sure why it’s not DOA since a new build using a standard hdd as boot is highly unlikely.

      • Wonders
      • 2 years ago

      Check this out, the WD Black 1TB + Optane cache totally crushes the random read performance of the NVMe 960 Evo:
      [url=<]PCPer[/url<] So yes, an NVMe SSD is awesome if you can only have one thing. But if you can afford the Optane cache, it will fill in inherent gaps in SSD performance.

      • drkarasheed
      • 2 years ago

      Is ‘Optane’ any faster than a RAM ?
      Or is a RAM socket any slower than a M.2 socket ?
      An adequately sized ‘RAM Disk’ should give a better alternative.

    • tsk
    • 2 years ago

    Optane feels DOA, but I might be wrong.

      • 223 Fan
      • 2 years ago

      Optane as a disk accelerator on select Intel configurations is DOA. The technology itself has a lot of promise, if they can work out the bugs and quit trying to use it to sell other product.

      • PBCrunch
      • 2 years ago

      For now I think Intel will sell as much of the stuff to datacenters as it wants at pretty much any price it chooses. This is just a first stab into the consumer desktop market.

      NAND flash has substantial challenges ahead, given the way that smaller processes seem to decrease the lifespan with every node shrink. Maybe some combination of 3D XPoint and NAND will be the solution.

      The stuff could also be really neat in mobile devices if Intel can get the power draw while active under control. The sleep potential for a device using non-volatile memory as system memory is pretty amazing.

      When I was in school I worked on a bioinformatics project that was limited almost exclusively by available system memory. When the program started paging things to disk, all you could really do was reboot the system. Something like this (in much larger capacity) might have helped quite a bit.

      There is a lot of promise in this technology. From the sounds of it, Intel’s caching scheme for this stuff works a lot better than previous attempts, including Intel’s SRT and Seagate’s SSHD devices.

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