Intel’s 32GB Optane Memory storage accelerator reviewed

Intel’s Optane SSD DC P4800X looks like a performance revolution for certain data-center workloads, but the company’s Optane plans for plain old PCs are a bit more modest. A couple weeks ago, Intel let loose the details of its Optane Memory cache, a small slice of 3D Xpoint storage that sits on an M.2 gumstick. If you’re not already familiar with Optane Memory, you should go read my introductory article now—I won’t be rehashing much of that content here.

As a brief refresher, Optane Memory is meant to give a shot of SSD-like speed to systems that rely on hard drives alone for storage when used with its companion software. The underlying 3D Xpoint tech seems ideally suited for that purpose, given its high performance and responsiveness at the low queue depths typical of desktop workloads. About 80% of desktop PCs will ship with nothing but a hard drive in 2017, at least if you believe Intel’s numbers. At first glance, that would appear to give Optane Memory a broad potential market.

However, Optane Memory’s platform requirements and pricing seem to pose some hurdles for the product. The $44 16GB module and the $77 32GB module that will be available at launch only work with PCs with 200-series motherboards and Kaby Lake Core CPUs. Budget builders and system integrators who might have wanted to pair Optane Memory with Intel’s Kaby Lake Pentiums are out of luck.

That’s a shame, because Optane Memory only seems to make sense for a narrow set of systems right now given those restrictions. To start off, I went looking for the price range one needs to pay a major system integrator to get a PC with a reasonably-sized SSD as a system drive. (128GB SSDs don’t count these days.) I found that $1000 buys a Dell XPS Special Edition tower with a Radeon RX 480, a 256GB M.2 SSD, a 1TB hard drive, and a Windows 10 license. Pretty dear, all things considered, but it’s what’s on offer.

The most expensive Dell desktop PC I could find without an SSD on board is a “New Inspiron Desktop” with a Core i5-7400, integrated graphics, and a 1TB hard drive inside for $630. Given that spec, I expect Optane Memory will probably show up most often in prebuilt PCs selling for $700 or less. Dell’s cheapest seventh-gen Core system with a hard drive as its only storage device runs $429, so I’d guess $500 is about the price floor for an Optane Memory-equipped system. Potentially tight window of opportunity, like I said.

PC DIYers face a different set of choices around Optane. Using our Budget Box as a starting point, one has to factor in at least an extra $27 or so for the Core i3-7100 CPU one will need at a minimum, $44 to $77 for the Optane Memory device itself, and at least $50 for the WD Blue 1TB 7200-RPM hard drive we like. If a builder were to spring for the $77 32GB Optane Memory module, that would take the total platform cost to about $150, or the same as a 480GB-class SSD these days. Even the 16GB module at $44 keeps the total platform cost tantalizingly close to that of a 480GB drive.

As just one upgrade recipe for our Budget Box parts list, one could step down to a Pentium G4560 to save $27 over the Pentium G4620. Scratch the WD Blue 1TB off the parts list, add in the virtual $44 or $77 from the Optane Memory modules, and we end up close to getting a 480GB SSD for the same price as the Optane Memory upgrade would have cost, slightly lower CPU performance and lower total storage capacity aside. Point is, builders have choices in this market, and Optane will need to perform well to justify its platform price tag.

Now that we have Optane Memory in the lab, I’m going to find out just what offers to a hard-drive-only system, and whether the performance it offers is worth the extra cost and strict platform requirements it brings with it. Given the cost breakdown I outlined above, I’ll also be comparing Optane Memory’s performance to that of a comparably-priced 480GB SSD. Let’s dive in.

The testbed and our testing methods

To let me take Optane Memory for a test drive, Intel sent over not just an Optane Memory module, but an entire PC to go with it. The company put together a rough equivalent of the New Inspiron Desktop I just described for me to test with. Here are its full specs as it turned up in the TR labs:

Processor Intel Core i5-7500
Motherboard Asus B250-Plus
Chipset Intel B250
Memory size 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-2400
Hard drive WD Black 1TB + Optane Memory 32GB

OCZ Trion 150 480GB

Power supply Cooler Master G550M
OS Windows 10 Pro

Our thanks to Intel for providing the PC to make this review possible. Here’s a glimpse of this box and its innards:

Being the gamer that I am, I couldn’t rely on Intel’s integrated graphics for my testing. To remedy this system’s weak gaming performance, I installed EVGA’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Superclocked graphics card.

This $140 card doesn’t need external power to deliver high-quality gaming performance, so it was a natural fit for this PC. Our thanks to EVGA for letting us get our grubby paws on this budget-friendly pixel pusher.

We also needed a budget-friendly SSD to represent the upgrade option in our tests. Say hello to OCZ’s Trion 150 480GB SSD, a budget favorite of ours for some time. Our thanks to OCZ for this drive, as well.

Here’s a bonus image of the Optane Memory module itself, if you were curious. It looks like just about every other M.2 gumstick on the market. It’s what’s inside that counts, though.

As always, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Each test was run three times, and we took the median result of the three. We used Windows’ Balanced power profile for our tests. To ensure similar test conditions at the start of each benchmarking run, we restarted the PC after every measurement. We connected the PC to a 3840×2160 monitor running at 60 Hz. With those introductions out of the way, let’s get to testing.

 

Some quick synthetic performance tests

Since Optane Memory uses NVMe as its underlying protocol, an Optane Memory module will first appear as a small SSD in Windows’ Disk Management utility. Although this is absolutely not the way most people will or should use Optane Memory, I was able to format the drive as a 27GB NTFS volume so that we could run some basic synthetic storage benchmarks on the stuff. CrystalDiskMark is admittedly not the most in-depth storage benchmark around, but it at least gives us a basic idea of a storage device’s performance.

Starting with one thread at QD1, Optane has pretty spectacular low-QD performance for both sequential and random reads. The media configuration or firmware of the device seems much less speedy with writes, however.

Get away from typical desktop workloads by upping the queue depths to four and eight, and the Optane Memory module still enjoys some read performance scaling. Write performance seems to run into a wall far quicker, though.

Finally, at four threads and a queue depth of 32 for maximum parallelism, we can see that the device’s sequential read performance tops out at about QD8, in accordance with Intel’s claims for Optane in general. Random read performance still had plenty of room to scale, however.

Playing by the rules

With my basic curiosity about the Optane Memory module’s performance satisfied, I ran the setup process baked into Intel’s Optane Memory driver. After a couple of reboots, the app indicated that Optane Memory was up and running, so I got to testing. The natural first test of Optane Memory’s performance was boot times.

Windows 10 adds a small wrinkle to shutdown and startup behavior with a feature called Fast Startup that’s on by default. As Microsoft explains it, fast startup “simply loads the hibernation file (Hiberfil.sys) into memory to restore the previously saved image of the Windows kernel and loaded drivers” after a shutdown. The net result is a much faster boot than starting from scratch, and we can see that Fast Startup delivers on its promise even with no help from Optane. Strangely, Optane Memory seems to perform better with Fast Startup disabled than it does with the feature enabled. Worth noting, we suppose.

Oddly enough, the Optane Memory setup also outperforms our SSD for getting to the Windows desktop quickly. Maybe there’s more to 3D Xpoint’s low-QD performance than we figured.

The first pure productivity app in our suite is Adobe’s evergreen Photoshop CC 2017. The hard drive alone is unsurprisingly the worst performer of the bunch. The real surprise is how the Optane cache outperforms even the OCZ Trion 150 by a couple seconds here. The SSD may launch the app four times faster than a hard drive alone, but Optane Memory can apparently halve the launch time again for a roughly eight-times-faster improvement. Not too shabby.

I also tested Optane Memory with Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC 2017 non-linear video editing software. We tested this app two ways. The first involved a cold load time, as we performed with Photoshop. Once again, Optane Memory won out, albeit not quite as widely as it did with Photoshop. The cache layer lets Premiere launch more than 3.5 times as fast as it can on a hard drive alone. Launching Premiere from the Trion 150 offers nearly a 3x speedup.

Our second test involved loading an Intel-provided Premiere project file comprising a couple hundred megs of files. In this test, both solid-state storage devices are still impressively fast, but the hard drive is able to close the gap for some reason. Still, both Optane Memory and the Trion 150 are preferable to spinning rust alone by a wide margin.

What about common productivity applications like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel? We tried timing launches of those applications, but we ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Even trying to open multiple large documents at once from a hard drive, Word launches in less than five seconds, and the other Office apps aren’t far behind. (We also had trouble determining when these applications were finished launching, since some of them don’t stagger multiple document windows.) Optane makes launching those apps take just a couple seconds at worst.

Our guess is that Microsoft already optimizes the heck out of these apps so they can perform well even on resource-constrained systems, and Optane just speeds them up more. In short, if Office is your thing, you’ll likely experience a boost from Optane Memory—just don’t expect Photoshop or Premiere levels of boost.

Gaming tests with Doom and GTA V

With productivity apps out of the way, we further tested load times using id Software’s hit Doom remake and Grand Theft Auto V. As we did with Premiere Pro, we tested Doom‘s load times two ways: one for the application startup time, and once while loading the game’s Foundry level.

Doom seems most I/O-bound in its initial load, where Optane Memory and the Trion 150 both cleave off more than half the time versus the hard drive alone. Once it’s loaded, Doom performs much more consistently among storage devices, at least as far as load times are concerned. Once again, having either Optane Memory or an SSD in one’s system is far more preferable than plain old spinning rust.

Firing up Grand Theft Auto V lets our WD Black 1TB hard drive close the gap with solid-state storage a bit in our intial application load test. The hard drive can’t keep up when we actually go to load the game’s story mode, however. With Optane Memory enabled, the 3D XPoint cache lets the game load over 11 seconds faster than it can from the mechanical drive, and the OCZ SSD isn’t far behind.

We’d have to test more games to be sure, but it seems that in the three-way race between Optane Memory, no Optane Memory, and an SSD, it’s far preferable to have Optane Memory in a gaming system than it is not to. As far as system responsiveness goes, Optane Memory is actually even slightly faster than our budget SSD representative. Not bad, given its modest cost.

 

Conclusions

Intel’s Optane Memory tech unquestionably improves the responsiveness of a PC that relies on a hard drive for its primary storage, and by no small margin. Going by the metrics I tested, Optane Memory can even help a hard-drive-powered system outpace an affordable 480GB SSD in some scenarios. That’s great performance, and the outstanding speed of 3D Xpoint at low queue depths seems to make it ideal for serving as a cache layer.

Optane Memory significantly reduces the time spent loading games over a hard drive alone. The Optane cache cut the start-up time for Doom in half versus a hard drive alone. That’s a huge speed boost, and it suggests Optane Memory can blend a hard drive’s capacity and an SSD’s responsiveness for gamers on a budget. Grand Theft Auto V‘s startup and level-loading times also benefited from having a slice of Optane installed, though not quite as much as Doom‘s did.

Power users will also enjoy benefits from having a stick of Optane Memory installed. Adobe’s Photoshop launched an incredible eight times faster with the support of Optane Memory than it did without, and Premiere Pro launched in about a third of the time with Optane enabled as it did without. If your time is money, Optane Memory will definitely let you spend more time working and less time waiting around, even more so than with our affordable SSD.

Other commonly-used applications like Word and PowerPoint already start pretty darn fast even on a mechanical hard drive, so Optane takes things from “pretty darn fast” to “really fast” for those widely-used apps. Windows 10’s default fast boot mode lets it start up as quickly from a hard drive as it does with Optane Memory enabled, as well, which might explain why Intel is no longer touting improved boot times as an Optane advantage.

For casual PC users, Optane’s biggest advantage might be that it seems to handle heavy simultaneous I/O (like launching apps right at startup) about as well as an SSD does, while asking the same of a hard drive feels like wading through mud. My testbed system felt ready to go more or less right away after booting with Optane Memory enabled, while the first minute or so of using the PC with the hard drive alone felt distinctly unresponsive. That sluggishness is why anyone with the means switched to an SSD for a boot device as soon as they could ages ago, and Optane could help bridge the gap.

I tried to hash out Optane Memory’s platform cost out at the beginning of this article, and even after seeing its impressive performance, I think Intel has limited the appeal of Optane Memory a bit by making a Kaby Lake Core CPU a requirement. Had Optane Memory worked with Intel’s entire range of Kaby Lake chips, the $44 price tag for the 16 GB module might have been an impulse buy for many budget builders. As matters stand, I imagine that the budget-conscious will only grudgingly step up to the $120 Core i3-7100 over the $65 Pentium G4560 or $93 Pentium G4620 on the way to Optane compatibility, assuming they step up at all. It’s hard not to feel nickel-and-dimed by this requirement when one is already spending $44 to $77 on the Optane Memory module itself.

That said, nitpicky DIYers probably aren’t the bullseye of Optane Memory’s target market. Intel claims PC buyers put storage capacity in their top three priorities for a new PC, and SSDs can’t offer large capacities at affordable prices yet. PC makers like Dell seem reluctant even to give buyers a solid-state option in their lower-end desktop PCs. Considering that SSD prices seem likely to rise this year, the relatively low price of Optane Memory modules could make these gumsticks a compelling add-in for folks who want some of an SSD’s performance without giving up a big disk in their midrange systems.

Comments closed
    • freebird
    • 2 years ago

    Buyer beware… Intel failed to disclose all the “gotchas” on what this can be used for and with when this article was written.

    Here are several MAJOR problems listed in Intel Optane FAQ:
    [url<]https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/support/memory-and-storage/intel-optane-memory/000024018.html[/url<] IT ONLY SUPPORTS a SATA boot HD and no secondary drives. NO SSD or NVMe support. ---- The SATA boot drive you're accelerating must contain: GPT partition 512B Sector format Windows® 10 64-bit operating system with at least 5 MB of continuous unallocated space at the end of the boot volume Note PCIe NVMe* drives not supported for system acceleration Secondary drives are not supported for system acceleration -------- All of these are from the FAQ link above. No Linux support. Must remove Optane caching prior to HD upgrade. If you make a Windows Recovery Disk you must also load the Intel RST 15.5 drivers on it yourself to be able to support reading of the boot drive with Optane support All of these and it only support Sky & Kaby Lake CPUs and motherboards, so why wouldn't people just buy an SSD for their boot drive? It also doesn't talk about whether it can use 512Byte sector emulation on 4K drives, most 4TB and up drives are now using 4K sector sizes; even my 3 year old 3TB Seagate is a 4K drive. My 5+ year old 1 & 2TB HDs were 512Byte sector drives, but now I don't know. So, this Optane Storage Accelerator has a VERY limiting usage criteria...

    • Lana Cohen
    • 2 years ago
    • joselillo_25
    • 2 years ago

    the cache thing is not going to work.

    Is only usefull if you use the same software everyday… what is going to happen when you load several games, several apps, web browsing cache etc… in the Optane Memory?? the drive will need to re-cache everytime you launch several different programs, so your perception of the help of this drive will be anecdotical.

    With the actual prices of RAM it will be much better to try to build and office, web browsing or media player computer around Optane WITH NO RAM, using the OPTANE as the only memory in the system. a 128GB computer that can be build with just a OPTANE disk and a CPU.

    But well… this is Intel… this is not going to happen anytime soon. And these so called “gamers” that only find usefull the hardware that gives them 2 sec load times or 2 fps are not going to help on this.

    • christos_thski
    • 2 years ago

    The “primary boot drive caching only” is a huge dealbreaker, and a silly one at that, too. Why is it so difficult caching secondary drives? Speed is not the only consideration making people avoid platters for boot drives. There are reliability issues, too. Spinning rust simply fails – catastrophically, at that- too often.

    Optane as a cache implementation for secondary hard drives, where most people are comfortable with mechanical drives, would be ideal. I simply can’t get why intel wants us to backtrack to hard drives as primary storage in order to utilize this tech.

      • DoomGuy64
      • 2 years ago

      Laptop SSHD alternative. Gives you the storage of a hdd, with cache performance of a ssd, works better than 8GB cache SSHDs. That’s the sole market Optane cache is intended for. Desktop is better served using it as a swap drive, which can be done on any system.

      You’re right, mechanical drives do suck, but this is meant as a cost cutting performance enhancement to allow hdds to continue selling in laptops.

      Optane cache will likely disappear when SSD’s are cheaper than HDDs, and it’ll become it’s own drive. Right now, it’s usefulness is extremely limited.

        • Takeshi7
        • 2 years ago

        Intel obviously doesn’t intend for these Optane drives to be used in laptops. The power usage is absolutely abysmal for that case.

        [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/11210/the-intel-optane-memory-ssd-review-32gb-of-kaby-lake-caching/7[/url<]

    • AnotherReader
    • 2 years ago

    Great technology, but a puzzling product for the same reasons that the article and the gerbils have gone over. I think most of us would prefer to wait until we can get at least 128 GB for less than $150.

      • thx1138r
      • 2 years ago

      I don’t know about that, if they can scale this up to a 128GB drive (which should iron out some of the read/write kinks), I think a lot of people would be willing to pay more for the particular performance profile of this technology. In particular, certain types of databases would work really well on an optane drive.

    • spiritwalker2222
    • 2 years ago

    I’d be curios to see how it stack up against a fast SSD. Like a Samsung 950 or 960 pro.

    • GrimDanfango
    • 2 years ago

    Is there any way this could be paired up with a mapped network drive instead of a local mechanical drive? I’ve already got an NVMe main drive, so local storage is no concern, but I’ve long thought that what would *really* help for my heavy sim-content-generation workloads would be a way to locally cache huge-file-creation writes to my server.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 2 years ago

      Hah, sweet idea, but network drives have the issue of writes coming from other places than the machine with the cache attached. You would need to either accept that your cache can return stale data to you, or you need to suffer the penalty of asking the remote server each time you do a read.

        • GrimDanfango
        • 2 years ago

        Yeah, it clearly wouldn’t work as a literal direct cache of the network drive itself from the perspective of all other clients…
        I more envision a system where the local cache drive was only presented as such to that one local machine itself – and acted as a sort of “waiting room” for network writes… so the local application performing the writes saw the write as completed, and could happily move on with other tasks/queuing up more writes, while the cache drive itself completed the real write back to the network which would be the only “true” network write performed, and the only one other clients would see.

      • failquail
      • 2 years ago

      As far as i’ve seen so far*, Optane caches the boot drive exclusively.
      Which seems an incredible waste really, this would help a lot on the whole ‘small windows SSD + HDD’ setup that is a decent budget config.

      No chance of it working on network drives.

      *please correct me if wrong.

    • chuckula
    • 2 years ago

    While the usual suspects want to downplay Optane as useless, anybody who actually understands how to measure I/O performance would recognize that this little Optane stick is putting up performance numbers that would be akin to a dual-core RyZen tooling along at 3 GHZ literally doubling the performance of an i7 7700K overclocked at 5 GHz.

    But then again, there appear to be far different standards for what is considered to be “innovative” when it comes to AMD and Intel.

      • raddude9
      • 2 years ago

      There is a big difference between a technology and it’s implementation. If you learned that maybe you wouldn’t be so easily offended. The technology behind Optane is innovative and has plenty of potential, but this implementation is almost useless. For the same money you can get a proper 128GB SSD which would be plenty of space for windows and some games/applications and you wouldn’t have to wait until things were cached to get a speed-up.

      • DoomGuy64
      • 2 years ago

      Compared to what? A Hard Drive? Any m.2 SSD would do the same.

      Amazon is selling the ADATA m.2 SU800 for $60. 128GB. 500mb/s
      [url<]https://www.amazon.com/ADATA-SU800-M-2-128GB-ASU800NS38-128GT-C/dp/B01M9K0N8I[/url<] The only innovation is the memory durability, which is cool and all, but useless for regular consumers. You also have the value equation, which is terrible for 32gb. Feature wise, SRT already existed, same with ready boost and hyperduo. Where's the "innovation"? I don't see it. Durability is the only innovative function of this product, which is geared more towards a prosumer, especially with the price factor. Of course, anyone spending money is going to be using a big SSD instead of a HDD, which then negates the point of Optane. Optane is a solution in search of a problem. Intel needs to sell these starting @ 128GB/$60, not 16GB. Otherwise, why bother? Just calling it "innovative" without any explanation to back it up is nothing more than propaganda. Listen and Believe. Like Optane is some new magical Apple product and Steve Jobs is still alive working at Intel.

        • Waco
        • 2 years ago

        Yeah, QD1 reads being a few times faster than NVMe is worthless. Writes being page aligned versus 256+ pages don’t matter. Latency being nearly an order of magnitude faster means nothing.

        But what do I know…

          • Anonymous Coward
          • 2 years ago

          Its hard to beat good enough when all you’ve got is a more expensive alternative.

          • Andrew Lauritzen
          • 2 years ago

          Yeah in terms of the underlying memory technology just show people this graph:
          [url<]https://www.pcper.com/image/view/81097?return=node%2F67578[/url<] If they don't understand why it's a game changer after that then just shrug and move on. For the rest of us, bring on the DIMM versions! We need to get this off of the slow OS storage paths!

            • Krogoth
            • 2 years ago

            It is only a game changer in the enterprise and number-crunching market where is a constant demand for more I/O throughput and lower random access latency on non-volatile media storage.

            The mainstream market hasn’t been I/O limited since the move to 2/5″ SATA SSDs.

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 2 years ago

            But even talking about “I/O” limited is slightly missing the point of viewing the cache hierarchy as a *whole*, and getting it as smooth a ramp as possible with persistence pushing up as far as possible too.

            Persistent memory is absolutely a game changer for everyone once it is fully grokked and integrated throughout operating systems and applications. It’s just hard for people to change their think from classic notions about “storage vs RAM”, “loading/streaming things”, “swap files” and the like.

            You can *always* make the argument that client has just hit “good enough” in the performance category in general for most cases, but how is that a useful discussion on the Tech Report of all places? If you care about performance at all, you do care about the memory hierarchy, and if you don’t I’m not sure why you’re here 🙂

            • DoomGuy64
            • 2 years ago

            It’s 10+ times slower than dram. Actually using it as ram would be suicide for performance. HDD cache is the sole purpose it excels at.

            Reasons why Optane is useless regardless of tech:
            * It’s a cache. How many people are not getting that using Optane as a cache, limits performance to just being a cache? There is processing of mirrored data overhead.
            * 32 GB. lol. Anyone who doesn’t see the problem with the size is blind.
            * Speed vs SSD? Not noticeably better in real world usage. Optane only excels in synthetics, while real world workloads would show very little difference, and cache misses would be disastrous.

            Optane does not increase CPU processing speed, is worthless as dram, and it’s sole useful function is a CACHE.

            Why do you need a CACHE for a SSD? Do people not know most SSD’s ALREADY USE CACHING? SSDs have like 256mb of actual DRAM, and slower TLC drives use a SLC cache on top of that. Optane is only useful for caching a HDD.

            There’s no way Optane is a “game changer”. It changes nothing, except raising platform costs for a GIMMICK feature. How does Optane compete against current SSDs or proper dram? LOL. Intel needs to raise the capacity to match a normal drive for it to have any actual use in reality.

            • synthtel2
            • 2 years ago

            The RAM-stressing use case I’ve been running into lately is editing very large images. Swapping to an SSD (Sandisk X300 512GB) is predictably terrible, but LZ4 compression in-place actually isn’t, even on a 2C2T CPU (G3258 at 4.2, DDR3-2133 CL9). Optane as swap should have performance in the same ballpark (since I only have one spare thread to throw at the compression).

            • DoomGuy64
            • 2 years ago

            Linux? Of course LZ4 swap is gonna work great, because you’re being efficient with your bandwidth and eliminating a bottleneck. Using Optane as a swap drive instead of cache would make far more sense than it’s current implementation, and doesn’t require a new motherboard. A straight drive cache has has the mandatory cache miss, and doesn’t optimize swap unless you dual partition the drive, which then cuts down on available space.

            Your system has more bottlenecks than just the swap though, from what you’ve said.

            • synthtel2
            • 2 years ago

            Why not all of the above? Use Optane swap and a prefetcher for repurposable caching. If there are threads to spare, LZ4 everything that swaps out too (with more threads it’ll be a net speed boost, since the Optane’s bandwidth will be the limiting factor).

            2C2T is everything that’s wrong with my system. I’ll be multiplying my thread count by six or eight in the not-too-distant future, but honestly just dropping another 4[6|7]90K into this rig would be the right value proposition.

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 2 years ago

            I hate to be an ass, but you’re precisely putting yourself in the category of people that don’t really understand computers and memory hierarchies at a fundamental level…

            Again, we’re talking about the underlying technology here; from your reply I’m not sure if you’re separating that from this one product. You need to think beyond this individual implementation, which I certain won’t argue makes a lot of economic sense.

            • DoomGuy64
            • 2 years ago

            lol. Optane as a technology is fine. Optane as a hdd cache is stupid and worthless, and you’re better served with a real SSD.

            Optane works best when you use it as a dedicated drive. Except it’s 32GB. Swap drive. That’s pretty much it’s sole functional use on the desktop, and I wouldn’t bother with it because I don’t need a high speed swap drive. Optane’s actual usefulness as it stands is extremely limited to a few edge case scenarios where you would be working with large files that benefit from a dedicated high speed swap drive. Even that is limited though, because once you need over 32GB, it doesn’t work. It would have been so much better if it started out with higher capacities, because 32GB can only do so much.

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 2 years ago

            So you were just ignoring the entire “in terms of the underlying technology” part in your reply?

            Anyways I agree that this implementation (the 32GB stick + software) is pretty pointless outside of very niche uses, but as usual that’s hardly the interesting architectural discussion here 🙂

            Ultimately the technology does sit in an important place between DRAM and NAND, and in a lot of serious applications you’ll want all of the above in your memory hierarchy (and a unified memory hierarchy that understands persistence rather than “RAM” vs “Storage”).

            For now, the economics of it don’t make sense for client, although they certainly do for many server applications.

            • RAGEPRO
            • 2 years ago

            That’s pretty cool, but man I wish it was a linear scale with breaks. Log scale is hard to parse visually. I can read it, and understand the data, but it’s not intuitive.

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 2 years ago

            It pretty much has to be log scale by the nature of the problem 🙂 Linear scale would have everything except the last item on the graph basically all as one line. Having equally spaced bars on a log scale is pretty much the optimal memory hierarchy, i.e. an order of magnitude increase in latency/capacity at each level.

          • Krogoth
          • 2 years ago

          They only matter to HPC environments and datacenters.

          Optane is hardly useless. However, I think the customer-type stuff is just Intel beta-testing the platform before making it available to the markets where it does make a difference.

            • Waco
            • 2 years ago

            It matters to anything that needs low latency reads/writes where NVMe and SATA are too slow…but that basically counts out most desktop uses.

            • Krogoth
            • 2 years ago

            It it more like it is overkill for ~98-99% of desktop users. The overwhelming majority of load-times for applications are limited by CPU under a modest 2.5″ SATA SSD. NVMe only makes sense if you multi-tasking between several demanding I/O applications at the same time. Optane requires a massive workload in order to make a meaningful difference over a M.2 NVMe device.

            • Waco
            • 2 years ago

            I disagree on your last point. Loading games is clearly improved by Optane. Granted, it’s not like the HDD->SSD transition, but there is a real difference.

            • Krogoth
            • 2 years ago

            It is only for games that are I/O-bound which are far and few at this time. The majority of games out there are CPU-bound with a modest 2.5″ SATA SSD.

            This will not change until the next generation of gaming consoles comes out and sets solid-state media as the baseline.

            • Waco
            • 2 years ago

            Citation needed.

            • Krogoth
            • 2 years ago

            Just look at any of the detailed HDD/SSD reviews out in the web in the past decade or so.

            The data makes it fairly obvious.

            • Waco
            • 2 years ago

            I don’t think that’s true. Faster QD1 reads almost always translate to faster loading in every review I’ve seen.

            • Krogoth
            • 2 years ago

            That’s assuming the game load-time isn’t [b<]CPU-bound[/b<] (Single-threaded performance). If you still doubt this then here is a fairly recent TR review showcasing the difference between SSD SATA media versus SSD NVMe media in load-times under some mainstream applications powered by an i5-4690K. [url<]https://techreport.com/review/30993/samsung-960-evo-ssd-reviewed/5[/url<]

            • Waco
            • 2 years ago

            I’m not assuming anything. The results from certain games obviously point to a different limitation than IO (and a scaling study with clock rates would be interesting).

            If your claim was true, there would be different results for Optane than are being reported even here at TR. Is it a huge jump? Not always, but it is absolutely noticable, and some things benefit quite heavily. I’m not saying it’s worthwhile for everyone and everything, but it’s pretty clear that the problem isn’t purely CPU limited IMO.

    • DavidC1
    • 2 years ago

    I’ve seen some first run tests, and it does benefit a little. So it’s different from SRT. Tomshardware review also has a comparison against SSD 600p paired with Optane but using RST caching. The Optane with HDD is higher in some scenarios probably because the algorithm is different. The total should be same, not different. I think it also does some pre-OS load optimizations based on some screenshots.

    To be faster on the 1st run means it’s probably caching some small Metadata or common system file used by many applications just after the required first reboot. Some review also say 200 series chipset has optimizations. Though I agree it would have been nice to include 100 series chipsets too.

    • jihadjoe
    • 2 years ago

    What happens if you Optane a ReadyCache’d drive?

      • Klimax
      • 2 years ago

      You waste cycles and resources.

      • NTMBK
      • 2 years ago

      Cacheception

    • Ryhadar
    • 2 years ago

    The last Intel platform I built was for haswell and that still had their smart response technology (up to 64GB of SSD + a HDD in a cached arrangement). Did they drop support for that after haswell?

    Consumer optane seems pretty unimpressive vs that. From both a price, performance, and compatibility standpoint. Only way I could see this being beneficial is if internal system volume is a scarce resource.

      • jessterman21
      • 2 years ago

      I agree – I still have an older MLC drive using SRT to accelerate my data HDD. Works surprisingly well, and I doubt it would be much slower than this Optane cache.

      EDIT – would love to see some benchies JK!

    • evilpaul
    • 2 years ago

    So these can’t even be used with a big secondary storage drive? Super disappointing.

    • Klimax
    • 2 years ago

    Few comments for parts in review:
    “In this test, both solid-state storage devices are still impressively fast, but the hard drive is able to close the gap for some reason.” That “some reason” is very simple: HDDs have very good sequential access and thus performance penalty is smaller then random access. (150-200 MB/s even for cheap ones)

    As for games, one ahs to be aware how game is distributed. If game uses large number of small files then SSDs and caches will have large impact. But if game uses few very large file then HDDs will work quite well too.

    And lastly, one has to remember that Windows will use fairly aggressive prefetcher when run on regular HDD.

    • jihadjoe
    • 2 years ago

    LOL @ the Windows 10 boot times

    What I got from there is that fastboot doesn’t help at all. It was slower than a normal boot on both Optane and the regular SSD.

    So why not just go for a regular boot and not have the cruft from your previous session get re-loaded back into RAM?

      • Klimax
      • 2 years ago

      Fastboot is for HDDs and slow SSDs like those using eMMC. That’s why it can be turned off. (Also there can be some variation depending on platform)

      And there si no cruft from previous session. Only kernel-mode gets loaded from hibernation file. user-mode is fully reinitialized.

    • DrDominodog51
    • 2 years ago

    Meh. I don’t see this having any benefit worth the price to consumer workloads.

    10/10 times I would recommend a regular SSD over this.

    • synthtel2
    • 2 years ago

    On Linux, you could put swap on it (possibly with compression involved too), crank swappiness way up, and use a prefetcher of some sort. That’ll work with any hardware, and it should be easy enough to do something similar on Windows, right? ReadyBoost sounds like the key word. I wonder how the performance of that kind of setup (on Haswell/Win7 for the hell of it?) would compare to Intel’s special stuff.

      • Klimax
      • 2 years ago

      Regular swapfile can be put anywhere that is not marked as removable drive. (So Optane can be sued as well) Readyboost is also an option and is very similar to Intel’s solution.

    • DavidC1
    • 2 years ago

    I must have read close to 10 reviews by now.

    Tomshardware has results that compare it not only against HDDs and SSDs, but also against solo Optane, and Optane + SSD.

    The reason it should work better than NAND caching is two fold:
    -High low queue depth performance
    -Performance that’s not dependent on preconditioning(http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/intel-optane-3d-xpoint-p4800x,5030-5.html) and is stable regardless the drive is “dirty” or not

    The latter probably wreaks havoc in certain scenarios as the caching algorithm is having to deal not only with caching the HDD but with wear levelling and varying levels of performance on the SSD cache.

    • Wonders
    • 2 years ago

    Cool stuff, which left me hungering for follow-up benchmarks focused on Optane’s performance/potentials as basic storage tech, rather than on Optane Memory, the current (mildly lame) productization of the tech.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 2 years ago

    Anyone else find it odd that Fast Boot was slower than “normal” booting with both Optane and the SSD? The only place it helped was booting from the mechanical drive.

      • Klimax
      • 2 years ago

      Likely because of overhead of Optane SW. (Sequential access to hibernation file)

    • Ninjitsu
    • 2 years ago

    Would highly, [i<]highly[/i<] recommend testing this Optane cache with Arma 3. It's your one stop shop for CPU/Memory/Storage benchmarks w.r.t. games. Either run YAAB or just play one of the showcases involving planes/helicopters in a repeatable fashion, or just fly around the map at low altitude. Analyse frame times, loading times, subjectively judge the experience.

    • DoomGuy64
    • 2 years ago

    *Cough*Ready Boost*Cough*
    *Cough*SSHD*Cough*
    *Cough*Hyperduo*Cough*
    Asus also offers a RAMCache program that uses system memory to cache a hard drive. Or just get a real SSD.

    So many options, so little need for Optane. It’s just better than nothing, and better longevity than a ready boost flash drive, that’s all. Pure hype for a proprietary system that has plenty of alternatives. lol.

      • nexxcat
      • 2 years ago

      This is probably a fantastic little drive, perfect for my next NAS build, or so I thought. Then I see that, for example, Plextor has a 128 GB NVMe drive for $80, or Intel themselves have something similar to the Plextor drive at $71. Yeah, so much nope.

        • juampa_valve_rde
        • 2 years ago

        Sure? The software requirements are quite a constraint.

      • NTMBK
      • 2 years ago

      You should really get something for that cough.

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    Can you clarify something for me, Jeff?

    Optane’s software merges the Optane gumstick and your drive into a single volume visible to the OS and then scours your mechanical drive to find what it should cache. I presume that means that the performance is very variable depending on what software you have on your mechanical drive, and also that stuff not yet cached is as slow as it always was on the mechanical.

    Did you do any consistency tests between runs or is Intel’s software stack good enough to cache all of everything required to prevent application and OS bottlenecks on a mechanical drive?

      • Froz
      • 2 years ago

      This is something I didn’t understand in the review, at all. How did the system knew it has to prepare and move Doom data to the Optane memory, before the game was even started? It can’t be faster than HDD if it wasn’t in there already…

      And what if someone would be switching between different applications or games?

      I know operating systems got very good at predicting what the user will need next (and so I assume is the Optane software), but it’s still just a prediction, it is bound to fail from time to time. And when it fails here, the difference would be devastating.

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 2 years ago

      I should have outlined this in our testing methods, but there is a mandatory cache miss for the first launch of every application you want Optane Memory to notice. Thereafter, it’s very quick to cache stuff, and every subsequent launch of whatever app will benefit.

      For example, after activating Optane Memory, Doom launched as slowly as it did with the hard drive alone the first time out. The second launch demonstrated the improved performance, as did every launch thereafter. To test OMem, I incurred that mandatory cache miss for every app tested before recording results (not that it would show up anyway, since we take the median of three test runs).

        • nexxcat
        • 2 years ago

        Thanks for the clarification – I was wondering why there was only one set of numbers for Optane-enabled sets. When evaluating caching efficacy, it’s often useful to have 2 sets of numbers: one for cache-miss scenarios and one for cache-hits.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 2 years ago

          The HDD is basically going to be your cache-miss scenarios. Going to cache and not finding what you need should be minimal.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 2 years ago

        Let’s say I like variety. I’m playing GTA 5, Doom, Titanfall 2, and Witcher 3 depending on my mood. It doesn’t take long for one of those games to expunge all of the others from the Optane drive and I’m back to HDD speeds. That’s something the graphs don’t capture, unless you also remember that the HDD speed is the first launch (and probably first re-launch if you’ve been doing other things) on the drive.

        It would have been nice to have a “first load” time (which will probably be right around the HDD-only speed) and then what you reported. I mean, this isn’t exclusive to Optane to be sure. None of the big caching services can predict the future. ReadyBoost, the older Intel RST caching, and even Apple’s Fusion Drives all have to deal with this sort of thing, and that’s why I disagree with the opening of the conclusion:

        [quote<] Intel's Optane Memory tech unquestionably improves the responsiveness of a PC that relies on a hard drive for its primary storage, and by no small margin. [/quote<] Well, sometimes.

          • LostCat
          • 2 years ago

          Caching algorithms won’t cache the whole game, they load the smaller things that would impact load times the most (executables, DLLS, shaders, what have you) so they can improve many games without dropping the others. There’s no point to caching larger files that hard drives are fine with already.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            That’s a fine hypothesis, I guess, but that very normal-sounding use case wasn’t tested so we don’t know how much is actually cached and how variety impacts performance.

            • Rza79
            • 2 years ago

            It’s not a hypothesis. That’s how SRT works. Look up old SRT articles for more info.
            It will only cache small files, not big files.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            Come on. It’s caching something for those games or the difference wouldn’t be night and day. So at what point is the cache full? When does an app get evicted? No review on this thing is complete without answering those questions. Not just TR, but the other two reviews I read don’t answer that question.

            • Rza79
            • 2 years ago

            [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/4329/intel-z68-chipset-smart-response-technology-ssd-caching-review/5[/url<] Keep it mind, first gen SRT and 20GB cache.

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 2 years ago

            Small files have a big IO overhead on a spinning disk, though it does seem to cache an awful lot to hit those loading times.

            Also there would not necessarily be any point where a particular application would be un-cached, potentially it keeps the most attractive files without concern for which bit of software they belong to. (Speculation.)

            Agreed that more tests would be interesting, I would like to see a round-robin of loading times with maybe 5 big games. Go around a few times and see how things change.

            • Andrew Lauritzen
            • 2 years ago

            To add another bullet to the fact that it seems to do better than one might imagine, see the bottom of PCPer’s page here where they did do some similar targeted testing:
            [url<]https://www.pcper.com/reviews/Storage/Intel-Optane-Memory-32GB-Review-Faster-Lightning/Installation-Timed-Tests-and-Observ[/url<] Of course more tests of this nature would be great, but it's not implausible that some basic heuristics could do really well here. It's also worth nothing that games only touch a *tiny* fraction of their total data set even during hours of playing. Load times are not so much bound by the bandwidth of conventional hard drives in games as their poor latency and random access behavior (which compounds with largely serial CPU loading code).

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 2 years ago

        Thats a very important implementation detail.

        I would prefer that software with this ability was just integrated into Windows/Linux and you could pick whatever devices you wanted to be caches for whatever other devices. No technical reason to tie it to a particular set of hardware that they want to sell at the moment.

        • Voldenuit
        • 2 years ago

        [quote<] I should have outlined this in our testing methods, but there is a mandatory cache miss for the first launch of every application you want Optane Memory to notice.[/quote<] I can't count the number of times I've needed to launch DOOM a second time within 5 minutes of launching it. Oh, wait, I can. Good thing the Arabs invented the concept of zero.

          • Jeff Kampman
          • 2 years ago

          You’ll almost certainly play the game more than once in your lifetime, though, right?

            • Voldenuit
            • 2 years ago

            Maybe, but I do play more than 1 game exclusively in any given period, and even within the same game, how likely is it that the same level will be loaded twice in a row? A single player game would probably feature level progressions, and multiplayer games tend to rotate levels (although something like Overwatch might load the same level twice for attack/defend rounds).

            So if it’s always a cache miss the first time, it’s essentially no better than just having a hard drive, right? Especially in Windows, a lot of the benefits of having a SSD are the low mean service times which translate to a smoother and more responsive user experience.

            Wouldn’t a regular SSD be a consistently better performer 99% of the time than an Optane cache? Especially at current (and future) SSD prices, and considering the rather strict platform requirements of the Optane cache. Is there some nuance in the review of the cache that I’m missing? Is sequentially launching an application or accessing the same files a really common usage scenario, or is it an artificial use-case that makes their benchmark look good? I’m sure MS and intel would have a lot of data and statistics on that, and I’d like to have a peek at the data when evaluating how relevant the technology they’re trying to sell people is.

    • brucethemoose
    • 2 years ago

    This is just an M.2 PCIe drive, right?

    When they say incompatible…

    Does that mean the software is incompatible, or the drive itself is? If you, say, plugged this into an M.2 slot on a Skylake board, could one format the drive and use a separate cache program with it?

      • Takeshi7
      • 2 years ago

      You should be able to do that. It works just like a normal NVMe SSD.

        • DoomGuy64
        • 2 years ago

        I’ve never tried it, but can you use a SSD as a readyboost drive? If so, lol @ intel.

          • Klimax
          • 2 years ago

          Readyboost or regular swapfile. Both might work…

          • Chz
          • 2 years ago

          I had an old Intel 40GB SSD that I used as a ReadyBoost drive in a Sandy system for a while, until I upgraded my own SSD and passed the old 256GB unit along to that PC. Worked really well, to be honest. There was some jiggery-pokery to get it to be both RB *and* swap, but it was a very happy experience once it was up and running. At least compared to the pure spinning rust experience that it was before.

          • K-L-Waster
          • 2 years ago

          I’m not sure if that’s supported, but the usual recommendation is if you have an SSD as your OS drive you don’t need ReadyBoost (i.e. it’s pointless since the swap file is already on the SSD).

          I agree with the other posters, this seems to be a solution in search of a problem.

            • DoomGuy64
            • 2 years ago

            It does have a decent use as a hdd cache, but 32GB is too small for an OS drive, and the cost is too uncompetitive to bother with under most conditions. Those windows Atom tablets with 16-32GB of flash have been known to have problems updating the OS, because they don’t have enough spare space to run the installer. Optane is more useful as a cache, not a drive, because of it’s durability. Cost-wise, you can buy a larger SSD for the same price as Optane, so a cache really is the sole function it excels at. Albeit not cost-effective, or too innovative in that regard.

            We already know that a good SSD is preferable to a caching system, but in cases where you would use caching, there are alternatives to Optane, or alternate ways of using the drive by itself.

            If Ready Boost does work with an SSD, which apparently it does, you can install an Optane drive on a non Kaby Lake board, and enable Ready Boost for a cache. It’s just funny that Intel hyped this up to be some special product when Optane installs as a standard SSD, and hdd caching is nothing that hasn’t been done before. The memory itself is the innovation, not the Kaby lake caching feature, which can easily be substituted with any number of alternatives.

            Maybe it is a solution in search of a problem, but the memory tech is sound, and performance should be better with higher longevity than a 8GB SSHD. It’s just overhyped, overpriced, and unnecessary, atm. I think Ready Boost also works with multiple drives, while Optane only works with the C drive. Optane ultimately is early adopter tech that isn’t as functional as the alternatives, and cost more to implement. Since I use a SSD for windows and a HDD for games, I could be interested, except for the fact I’m already using a 120 GB SSD with Hyperduo there. Optane’s gonna have to mature a bit further before I consider it, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t have potential. I might buy a usb3 m2 converter to use Optane with ready boost on a hdd laptop, for instance. Who knows. I don’t want to completely disregard the tech, but the current implementation is indeed mostly pointless and overpriced. Worth keeping an eye on though.

        • brucethemoose
        • 2 years ago

        Sweet. I could use one of these as a FancyCache drive for my HDD. It isn’t my main drive, so that more useful to me than the Kaby Lake cache program anyway.

    • willmore
    • 2 years ago

    Jeff, if you have time later (I know, I know), could you test a budget NVME SSD without Optane vs this SATA SSD + Optane setup that you did here?

    Of does Optane not work with SSDs as the primary system drive? I.E. are they only for mechanical drives.

    Edited: Looks like they can be ‘bound’ to SSDs just as well as HDs, so that would make a good comparison.

    Which is the better choice:
    1) SATA SSD + Optane
    2) NVME SSD of same price as above combo

      • Wonders
      • 2 years ago

      Seconded – I would also really love to see this test. I could scarcely be more bored with the intended use case for the current product, but am very interested in sizing up finer details of the technology’s future potential.

    • Convert
    • 2 years ago

    That’s definitely an Equus machine.

      • Shobai
      • 2 years ago

      As in, it looks like a horse/ass?

        • Convert
        • 2 years ago

        They are a large white-box PC builder. We use them for certain customers. The case is generic of course so it could be anyone’s PC but I know their signature cable management anywhere and they do have that case in their lineup.

          • Shobai
          • 2 years ago

          My apologies, I was going for a pun on the name Equus (as that’s also the genus that includes horses, zebras, donkeys and onagers) while trying to tie in the phrase

          [quote<]looks like ass[/quote<] I don't hear that phrase often over here (I thought it was more a US thing) so I might have muffed the delivery. Sorry for the confusion!

    • Choralone42
    • 2 years ago

    This looks a whole like the SanDisk ReadyCache I own. It’s a 32 GB SSD that along with software lets it operate as an SSD cache along with a regular spinner HDD. Much like this device it only caches your Windows boot drive but it did make my machine MUCH more responsive while I was using it. I bought it years ago but only paid $50 for it.

    I stopped using it because it was only supported under Windows 7, 8 & 8.1 and when I moved to Win 10 I bought a Sandisk X400 512 GB SSD for my boot drive.

    The ReadyCache worked great with one big exception. Whenever I used VM software it would try to cache the entire disk image of the VM I had open. Not a big deal for a small test VM but I had one that I worked with that had a disk image that was over 20 GB in size. Shortly after loading the VM my machine would almost hard lock until it cached the entire VM disk image off my HDD and of course purge most of the contents of the SSD cache while it was at it. I wonder if the Optane would do anything like that.

      • Choralone42
      • 2 years ago

      The 32 GB SSD has now been re purposed as a boot drive for my home NAS. Since in the end it really is just a 32 GB SSD if you don’t use the ReadyCache software.

    • srg86
    • 2 years ago

    Meh, I’d rather have a normal SSD using this technology, rather than one of these small, caching drives. They always seem to me to be transition technologies, like the old DDOs.

    Plus these things seem to rely on special os drivers, I just want something standard.

      • TwoEars
      • 2 years ago

      I agree, this is a stepping stone. A SSD with this tech and a decent price would be genuinely exciting but until then it will only make sense for a very, very small percentage of power users.

    • Unknown-Error
    • 2 years ago

    So this like having a turbo charged version of hybrid drive ( HDD with some flash memory for caching?)?

    • DPete27
    • 2 years ago

    [quote<]Intel claims PC buyers put storage capacity in their top three priorities for a new PC[/quote<] Probably because it's one of the few numbers that the non-techie comprehends. What most of those people fail to understand is how little storage space they actually use. Just another reminder to why we have "spec races". Because the average person is trained to see a larger number as better, even if they don't have any idea what's best for their needs. I watched a Best Buy sales person sell a guy a $1200 i7 laptop the other day that had said he needed something good for browsing the internet and checking his email.....

    • llisandro
    • 2 years ago

    Intel blew most of its profit margins on these while shipping those giant towers to reviewers 🙂

    Why not demonstrate the utility in something moderately interesting, say a NUC, where drive numbers are constrained, so you could use this to accelerate a 2TB spinner? That’s at least a form factor where a balance of capacity and speed to have “one large, pretty fast drive” in a minimal footprint might be compelling, right?

      • ImSpartacus
      • 2 years ago

      If you’re form factor constrained but have an m.2 slot, then you could install a 2TB SSD in addition to whatever you can add in the aforementioned 2.5″ bay.

      This implementation of Optane isn’t for those wanting storage density. It’s purely for low-cost machines.

    • Welch
    • 2 years ago

    Dell being reluctant to offer SSDs is an understatement. They were downright hiding and or not offering those options at all. How stupid when you give customers the option to pay for an upgrade (of which Dell overpriced upgrades anyhow!).

    Even with the review, I don’t see the appeal. But then again you did say us enthusiast probably wouldn’t. Remove the stupid CPU limitation, lower the price by about 1/2 and then it becomes a viable priced option. 32gb for $50 and 16gb for 25.

    • Takeshi7
    • 2 years ago

    No latency or QoS measurements, nor any 4K random write steady state IOPs? That’s what I’m interested and it’s nowhere to be found.

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 2 years ago

      This isn’t a traditional SSD; it’s a thing you put in an M.2 slot, click the “on” button for in the accompanying utility, and forget. If you want those detailed measurements from an Optane device, a number of other sites got a crack at the DC P4800X recently.

        • Takeshi7
        • 2 years ago

        I plan to use one as a traditional SSD, and I would have preferred to get those measurements for this drive, not the $1800 Enterprise one.

          • DPete27
          • 2 years ago

          But why? It’s only 32GB.

            • Takeshi7
            • 2 years ago

            That’s plenty for the Windows swapfile or for some games. Or I can get a motherboard with multiple M.2 slots and RAID them together.

            • morphine
            • 2 years ago

            You’ve left the practical use case for these things waaaay behind when you’re talking about things like RAIDing multiple M.2 devices.

            • DPete27
            • 2 years ago

            Windows on a 32GB drive will be VERY restrictive. Far past the point of annoyance. Spend your $77 on a 256GB SSD or just use the Optane stick as intended to compliment a hdd.

            • Takeshi7
            • 2 years ago

            Except that would require me to buy an entirely new motherboard and CPU, just to use it with an HDD because of Intel’s stupid product segmentation, so no. I’d prefer to use it as a normal SSD/scratchdisk.

            • Chrispy_
            • 2 years ago

            Why would you want to do that? It’s not even a particularly good SSD for use as a scratch disk. Those sequential figures for large scratch/swap operations are abysmal. You’d be almost an order of magnitude better off buying a 128GB Samsung 960 Evo or SM951 NVMe drive and the price would be in the same ballpark.

            • deruberhanyok
            • 2 years ago

            [duped, oops]

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            It’s not the whole Windows install, though. It’s the swap file. Which in that case just add another $30 to that $77 and get another 16GB of RAM, which will undoubtedly perform better.

            • Takeshi7
            • 2 years ago

            $100 for 16GB, or $77 for 32GB. It seems like a decent tradeoff.

            Also I already maxed out the RAM for my motherboard, but not the NVMe storage, so that’s a possible case.

            • deruberhanyok
            • 2 years ago

            This is the second or third time I’ve seen someone ask about this, not just here but on other sites.

            Why would you use a $80 32GB NVMe drive for that purpose instead of a $65 128GB NVMe drive?

            (Toshiba / OCZ RD400 and Samsung PM951 128GB NVME models are on ebay for $65).

            What about Optane appeals to you in such a way that you’d want to spend more for 1/4 of the capacity?

            • Takeshi7
            • 2 years ago

            order of magnitude lower latency, more consistent and higher performance, higher endurance. No write amplification or having to shuffling flash pages around after many 4K writes.

            There’s plenty of attributes of this technology that are appealing.

            • deruberhanyok
            • 2 years ago

            But, do those benefits outweigh the fact that you’re looking at only 32GB of storage, at a price of over $2/GB?

            Are you concerned that you’d write enough data to a “regular” NVMe drive that it would fail within the lifetime of your system?

            Or are you running software that is so sensitive to latency that the higher performance would actually make a difference? If so, what sort of data sets are you working with?

            I’m not trying to be difficult here, I’m genuinely curious as to when a 32GB SSD would be useful as something other than accelerator cache on a regular Windows system.

            You mentioned putting the pagefile on it, which, sure, I guess you could do that, but would you really see a bit benefit in doing that vs. putting it on a cheaper NVMe drive? If you’re running software that sensitive, wouldn’t you want the entire system to be sitting on an NVMe SSD anyways? If it’s cost that is the issue, wouldn’t a 256GB PM951 at $95 vs. a 32GB optane drive for $80 provide better cost-benefit for your software?

            (I mean, if your software is that sensitive to latency and queue depths you really should have a much larger budget for your storage anyways, but if you don’t, why wouldn’t you want to get more space and high performance vs. 1/8 the space and somewhat higher performance?)

            You also mentioned putting “some games” on it, which, going by game install sizes these days, it’s probably enough room for maybe 3 new-ish games? Or about 2/3 of a World of Warcraft install. In that case a larger, cheaper drive would be a much better deal. I don’t think game load times are going to be noticeably different between a 32GB optane drive for $80 and a 256GB PM951 for $15 more, and you can store a lot more on the Samsung.

            I could see using it as a whole-system OS drive on a small embedded system, but only if prices were lower. For instance, an embedded linux system would be just fine with 32GB of total space for the OS and a ton of applications, but even then I’d question the price for the performance vs. amount of storage! You could use it in a tablet-type device (a lot of the low end surface tablets, for instance, had 32GB of storage for a while) if you’re doing embedded systems and you want a small drive, why pay $80 for 32GB when you can pay [url=http://www.microcenter.com/product/476063/M510_128GB_SATA_III_M2_Internal_Solid_State_Drive_(Bulk-OEM)<]$40 for 128GB[/url<]? Now that particular drive is SATA type, but that's a price at a retail store for four times the amount of storage. I imagine bulk pricing on drives half that size would be under $20 (that same shop used to have 64GB mSATA drives for $20) and there'd be a big question in my mind of the efficacy of that higher performance SSD for most typical uses vs. saving a lot of money. That's before you even get into doing on-board storage like a lot of tablets and other computing "appliances" do. Just seems like an extremely niche use-case scenario where using an expensive small drive in this manner would provide any tangible benefit (especially given that most systems only have a single m.2 slot anyways). The only reason I can come up with - and to be fair, I think it's a pretty good one - is, "I'm curious!" and I've used that plenty of times myself to justify an oddball purchase. But I can't figure a legit use for what you're talking about doing where the tradeoff of space and price makes it worthwhile. Sort of related: since what you're talking about doing is really hugely out of the way of the intended use/market for these drives, why would you expect in-depth testing of the device in a manner contrary to the intended use? It's like asking for gaming benchmarks on a Tesla card.

            • Takeshi7
            • 2 years ago

            Yes. And because this is the fastest available consumer non-volatile storage, I expected a much more thorough and enthusiast-centric review.

            • deruberhanyok
            • 2 years ago

            But what data sets are you working with where the tradeoffs make a 32GB Optane drive more useful than a (slightly cheaper) 128GB or (slightly more expensive) 256GB NVMe drive?

            You say “yes” but I’m asking what’s the actual use where you’d see benefit to using the drive in a manner other than as an accelerator cache. Without knowing that, you’re asking them to review the device to see how it performs in a manner in which no one would actually use it.

            You said you’d install “a few games” on it – how many gamers do you know would buy a 32GB SSD to install less than half of Doom (2016) or only 2/3 of World of Warcraft or 3/4 of Battlefield 1? What games would you put on a 32GB Optane SSD that would see a noticeable performance increase over a larger NVMe drive? What modern games would even FIT on it?

            You would put your swapfile on it – how many graphic designers do you know who would prefer to put their swapfile on a 32GB SSD vs. having the entire system on SSD? What about data scientists?

            I could see what you’re asking about being relevant info if the drive was available in a useful size for something other than accelerator cache. That’s why the few reviews we’ve seen of the big Optane drive have some of that data. Otherwise, your claims that you’d see benefit to such a small drive being used as swapfile or to host a few game installs vs. a larger drive with a useful capacity and still high performance are questionable at best.

            (Again, if you just want to see the numbers because you’re curious, it’s okay to say so. We’re all nerds here. I’m curious too! But claiming you have a legit use for what you’re talking about without explaining what it is, and taking TR to task for not running in-depth benchmarks to reflect a completely unrealistic use-case scenario is disingenuous).

            • Takeshi7
            • 2 years ago

            As a swapfile or scratchdisk. If i only need 32 GB it is much better than a budget NVMe flash SSD for those tasks. The low qd IOPs make it better for most things than flash.

            • Voldenuit
            • 2 years ago

            Can you configure that behavior with the intel drivers/software?

            Also, what happens to the write queue if you unexpectedly lose power?

            • Klimax
            • 2 years ago

            Because those drives are not available at that price point. (Ebay won’t change that – VAT!)

            For me they are perfect for my minicomputers. (Artemis Station clients and sometimes as a backup or test PCs) Pretty sure far faster then what’s available here at that price point.

            • deruberhanyok
            • 2 years ago

            But they ARE available for those prices. If you have to deal with VAT, well, I can’t take the entire world into account when I ask questions about comparative price/performance analysis.

            Here in the US we’re talking about buying a 32GB drive for $80 or a 128GB drive for $65 or a 256GB drive for $95. And since we’re talking about US dollars in prices, VAT doesn’t factor in.

            If you want to go with higher prices, though, let’s ask the same question. SCAN has [url=https://www.scan.co.uk/products/256gb-scanfx-sm961-polaris-m2-nvme-mlc-v-nand-ssd-pcie-30-x4-read-3100-mb-sec-write-1400-mb-sec-330k<]256GB Samsung SM961 NVMe drives[/url<] listed for a little under £120, or a [url=https://www.scan.co.uk/products/128gb-scanfx-sm961-polaris-m2-nvme-mlc-v-nand-m2-ssd-pcie-30-x4-read-3100mb-sec-write-700mb-sec-330k<]128GB SM961[/url<] for just shy of £70. And they have the [url=https://www.scan.co.uk/products/32gb-intel-optane-memory-m2-(2280)-pcie-30-(x2)-nvme-3d-xpoint-read-1350mb-s-write-290mb-s-240k-65k<]32GB Optane drive[/url<] listed at.... £84. So then, same question to you: would you pay 15 quid more for 1/4 the storage space? If so, what is the use-case scenario where you would see benefit from the smaller drive?

            • Klimax
            • 2 years ago

            In my case, those drives that are cheaper then Optane are slower. So I’d be trading speed for unused space. Admittedly my use case is bit unusual because 32GB is sufficient yet I can use very fast storage, but don’t want to spend much extra for it. Optane fits well. (It’s for computers running Artemis Station in public on conventions)

            • freebird
            • 2 years ago

            not supported.

      • jihadjoe
      • 2 years ago

      Allyn over @ PCPer did all that and more.

      [url<]https://www.pcper.com/reviews/Storage/Intel-Optane-Memory-32GB-Review-Faster-Lightning[/url<]

        • Takeshi7
        • 2 years ago

        Thank you. I’ll check it out. I’m still sad Tech Report didn’t do this kind of testing.

    • Neutronbeam
    • 2 years ago

    Thanks for a memorable review Jeff!

    • Magic Hate Ball
    • 2 years ago

    Interesting tests.

    I don’t think it was in the article, but how does the Optane work with a mixed SSD/HDD environment?

    Say SSD with OS/core programs and HDD with data/games?

    Shouldn’t see a difference but I was just curious.

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 2 years ago

      Optane can only accelerate your primary Windows system drive.

        • DPete27
        • 2 years ago

        Will it speed up my SSD too!?!?!?

          • derFunkenstein
          • 2 years ago

          That’s what I was wondering when I was looking at the graphs. Not that buying one of these would do me any good considering the limited market.

            • DPete27
            • 2 years ago

            Yeah, but these are things that geeks wonder about. I don’t think I could go through benchmarking without at least trying Optane with the SSD for one test.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 2 years ago

            Oh I definitely want to see how it does. I just can’t do it for myself.

            • the
            • 2 years ago

            I’ll second this out of mere curiosity.

        • techguy
        • 2 years ago

        That’s incredibly disappointing. I have a 512GB SSD for OS and specific apps and a 3TB 7200 RPM drive for my Steam library, all on a Z270 board with a 7700k @ 5.2GHz. Would be nice to reduce load times with a cheap Optane memory upgrade but if I have to move games from my spinner to my SSD then I’m already getting 90% of the performance increase and having to move the games manually anyway, thus almost entirely negating the benefits of such a product. Hopefully this can (and will) be resolved by future software updates.

    • sophisticles
    • 2 years ago

    I only skimmed through the article, but there is one question I have had since first hearing about Optane, namely is this drive bootable? In other words, if I was to start not with a complete system but the parts, and I was going to install the OS myself, would the BIOS/UEFI see this as a separate and distinct bootable drive and if so, would the installer allow me to install the OS on it? My guess is that Linux would but I don’t know about Windows.

    To me, that is the smart play with Optane, use it to install the OS or as a swap partition, you can test this out very easily, if you still have the test pc, without altering anything, download a copy of Ubuntu, make a bootable usb drive, and start the install procedure up until it asks you to partition the drves and where you want it to install the OS, if it sees the Optane drive as a formattable and bootable drive then you can install the Os on it and even if the BIOS wouldn’t allow it to be bootable maybe installing grub somewhere else would allow you to bypass that limitation.

    How about giving it a shot?

      • TwistedKestrel
      • 2 years ago

      [s<]I think this was tested offsite, and that they didn't get to retain the module[/s<] Nope, I'm wrong

      • Nickd76
      • 2 years ago

      It was such a b***h getting this thing enabled you have no idea. It took me 4 days of banging my head against the wall between Intel and Asus tech support each finger pointing. I’m running a home lab for Vmware vcenter and bought this thing just to get some speed out of my 2TB sata drive. I have 2 other 500GB Samsung m.2s but wanted to use them for storage DRS and VSAN so I said what the heck I bought the 32gb drive. First I was told this thing will not work with optimizing a secondary sata drive, fine.. Then I was told it wouldn’t work with any other OS but windows 10 which I found out was totally wrong.. I finally got the drive enabled with the actual optane software not the RST driver and I have to admit I was pretty impressed. The thing that annoys me is both Intel support and Asus weren’t on the same page with this thing… I literally had to use trial and error which was disable CSM in the bios, run a disk part and clean all on the optane drive and make sure Windows UEFI was selected in boot manager. I was jumping for joy when it finally worked but then I noticed a TON of disk IO and my machine was crawling. Sure enough I made the mistake of enabling fast boot back in the bios. Once I disabled that I got the performance back… It really is just a cache drive that turns your rotational disk into a hybrid. Nevertheless I’m pretty happy with the performance with the exception of all the head scratching and misguided support. I got mine for about 60 bucks with the MB as a package so it was worth it. Just remember disable CSM and fastboot. If that fails to enable, disk part and clean all.. OH I am running Windows 2016 server also 64b

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