Intel's Optane SSD 800P breaks new ground in our storage test results. Never before have we seen such breathtaking random response times. Nor have we seen a drive stubbornly cling to its peak random-write speeds while writing its entire capacity. The 800P fulfills all the claims Intel makes for it in its marketing materials. Sadly, being unable to boot the drive on our aging test platform means we don't have enough results to compare it to the rest of our crew in overall performance rankings. And we can't graph its price-to-performance ratio on our scatter plots, either. But we'll soldier on and conduct our final analysis even without visual aids.
Even with this Optane duo's world-class performance in certain workloads, $129 and $199 are incredibly dear prices for 58-GB and 118-GB SSDs. $129 can easily buy a 500-GB-class SATA drive, and $199 is enough to move up to a 500-GB-class NVMe stick or get most of the way to a terabyte of NAND. PC gamers and demanding users don't just need speed, they need capacity, and the Optane SSD 800P can only fulfill one of those demands.
For the curious, 58 GB might be enough room for a Windows installation and some applications, but it won't leave a lot of breathing room. The 118-GB drive might offer room for a small music collection or one or two older AAA games. No matter how you slice it, allocating the money to good old NAND instead of 3D Xpoint gets builders a lot more space to stretch their legs, and we imagine cost-per-gigabyte will remain the primary roadblock to Optane adoption.
DIY builders' wallets are already strained by the ongoing price insanity for graphics cards and RAM, and the 800P duo's prices are too high too squeeze into prebuilts the way Optane Memory might. The 800P is a non-starter as an upgrade path for older systems that might not boot from an NVMe SSD, too. The drives' low-queue-depth performance is nice, to be sure, but it's certainly not worth the price of admission as secondary storage. Cost and capacity are more important considerations in that use case, as we see it.
Intel suggests that RAIDing the larger 800P could be a route to higher capacities and even higher performance from Optane, but we see little point to that exercise when the 280-GB Optane SSD 900P lists for less money than a pair of 118-GB 800Ps, offers even more space, and doesn't have to contend with any potential headaches of a RAID.
Nonetheless, it's hard not to get excited for the possibilities that 3D Xpoint opens up. Despite our inability to put it to the test this time around, we've seen how Optane's blistering response times translate into less time waiting around for stuff to load. And the fact that the drives suffer no performance loss as they fill up alleviates a pain point we've all had to deal with over the years. NAND is great tech, to be sure, but being forced to treat a portion of a drive's capacity as unusable to preserve its performance can get frustrating.
Overall, the high price tag and limited capacity of this duo makes it difficult to recommend the Optane 800Ps for all but those curious about the potential of this technology. Intel has got a good thing going here, but it will take some sticker-slashing before we can start heaping the awards on Optane. Since 3D Xpoint is Intel and Micron's proprietary tech, though, it's highly unlikely any Optane competitors will surface any time soon to exert price pressure. Micron's QuantX might eventually burst forth from the shadows, but QuantX products will likely be for the data center when they do appear. For the time being, moving beyond NAND in the hobbyist market will remain a rich man's game.