Intel Optane Memory Review – 1.4GB/s Speed & 300K IOPS for $44

THE IMPORTANCE OF 4K READ PERFORMANCE

Take a look at these two performance tests. They are simple data transfer speed results that relate to how fast they move data of different types and sizes.  The one on the left is from the Kingston DCP1000 NVMe Data Center SSD (arguable the worlds fastest available right now) while the one on the right is our Intel Optane Memory Test Bench result after the Western Digital Black 1TB hard drive is cached with Optane Memory.  We have both in hand and that Kingston SSD moves movies at over 2GB per second.  Look at the low 4K Read results though.  Do you notice how the Intel Optane 4K Read transfer (204MB/s) is 5 times faster than that of the Kingston DCP1000 (41MB/s)?

Intel Optane CDM With Kingston DCP 1000

This is where Intel just might disrupt the industry and where you will see such a drastic improvement in any hard drive based PC.  When you start your PC, and in fact, when you pretty much do anything on your PC, this requires the loading (or reading) of a significant amount of very small files, 4K or smaller files in fact.  This is why your PC takes over a minute to load typically, if you use a hard drive and the system has been in use for some time.  The beauty of SSDs is that they are faster, silent, cooler, provide a longer battery life to laptops, but their cost is not conducive to that of the hard drive where capacity is significantly higher.  Traditionally, an SSD gives you performance where a hard drive provides capacity.  Intel Optane Memory bridges that divide, at a very cheap price.  Knowing this, we can believe that the $77 Intel Optane Memory on the right will perform faster at typical PC use than the Kingston DCP1000 on the left, price ranging several thousand dollars more.

No other manufacturer in the flash industry has been able to provide such high 4K read performance in their SSDs (err modules) just yet, although Micron may be close behind having developed the 3D Xpoint memory with Intel. We have never seen low 4K read performance anywhere near 100MB/s in fact, much less twice that; not in a consumer or enterprise SSD.  This is what makes the Intel Optane Memory module so special, and why it also makes it such an ideal solution as a hard drive caching SSD. Performance…and capacity.

ARE THERE ANY CONCERNS?

An understanding that the Intel Optane Memory Module is a disk cache brings forward a few thoughts that need to be identified, the first being data transfer.  As this is a disk cache, it stores frequently used files (or ‘hot’ data) and not large data files.  For those that rely on the large transfers of files on a regular basis, an SSD would be more appropriate.. or maybe an Intel Optane SSD in the future as we just may see them become available to the consumer some time in the future. We don’t have one in hand, nor do we have any information whatsoever as of yet so don’t think too soon.

Similarly, when considering game play, Intel Optane Memory will speed up common loading and level change scenarios, but your game play will not see an improvement as it is loaded into DRAM, not the Intel Optane module.  With respect to endurance and size choice, Intel 3D XPoint will ensure the life span of the Intel Optane as XPoint Memory improves memory endurance significantly but you might want to consider size choice carefully.  The size of Intel Optane Memory purchased will have a definite impact on how much activity and the number of programs that can be sped up. Higher capacity equals more data stored in the cache.

WILL IT RUN ON MY PC?

Intel Optane Memory will only work on a newer Z200 series motherboard that is designated ‘Intel Optane’ memory ready.  The board has to contain this designation as the M.2 connector on the board is remapped to accept the Intel Optane Memory, as well as other M.2 SSDs.  This board must also be using the latest Intel 7th Gen CPU and be using Windows 10.  Intel Optane Memory will only work on a hard drive, SATA SSD or SSHD and this chart will assist:

Intel Optane memory Requirements (Intel briefing)

A Test System was provided with the Intel Optane module and a 1TB WD Black SSD installed with Windows 10.  After ripping it apart, we elected to test ease of installation on our own Test Bench and learned first hand that Intel Optane will not work with a Samsung 960 Pro NVMe SSD, and also, that our motherboard (Asus Z270 Rog Maximus IX APEX) would not work, although its exterior identified it as ‘Optane Ready’  It turns out that only the latest ASUS BIOS update (#0906 released 24 Mar 17) provided full compatibility, so we upgraded the BIOS and migrated to a SATA 3 SSD… and we were off.

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Pabst BR
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Pabst BR

Would you consider testing these with the built in Windows 10 Ready Boost alongside the plain HDD?

Les@TheSSDReview
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Are you asking for a comparison of Ready Boost using a USB to that of Optane. You do realize that the USB has a much lower low 4k read speed than the Optane dont you… to the tune of 150-200 times. We are an SSD site but I have tested Ready Boost on my own in Windows. IMO it is more gimmic than worth the trouble. With Optane… in this case, the startup system files are readily available in the cache to equal the startup of an SSD. I might think that alone would dissuade any thought of comparison. Thanks… Read more »

Pabst BR
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Pabst BR

My apologies, I thought it was possible to dedicate a SSD 32 GB or smaller as a Ready Boost drive. If that is not the case then disregard. Thanks for the review. I hope Micron releases a more hardware agnostic version in the future (for AMD boards with NVMe).

Les@TheSSDReview
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No need to apologize.. stuff like this makes us think outside the box. This actually let me in another direction to confirm something i wasn’t sure of with respect to new Optane.

citrix13
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citrix13

Les, I would have like to have seen the Intel DC P3700 in the Real World File Transfer Tests, having said that the Kingston DCP1000 is beyond insane at File Transfers, the Intel Optane excels at 4K low queue depth Reads and the Lowest Latencies i’ve seen to date

Mark
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Mark

“on a green PCB”
Interesting. If the PCB is environment friendly then it is bigger news to me then optane memory.

Mark
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Mark

I wonder how reliable Optane is. Anandtech.com reported that when it failed it took some data with it. I have no issue recommending SSHD over plain HDD but what is worrying me is required software component.

Bnet
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Bnet

So it performs admirably as a read cache, but what about as a write cache? Would the low latency be good enough to overcome the limited sequential write speeds if faced with continuous cache eviction?