Teton Glacier. We can probably all agree that this is one of the coolest product code names to date. This code name applies to the subject of our report today which is the 512GB version of the Intel Optane Memory H10 with Solid State Storage. To look at, this SSD is unique in that, although its mechanism of operation is not so new, fitting the entire machine into a single device the size of a stick of gum and under 10 grams is. To anyone with a bit of time in the industry, it’s ancestry brings us all the way back to the NVELO Dataplex, OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid and more recently, Intel Optane Memory which has been marketed to significantly speed up your hard drive.
Make no mistake, the Intel H10 is a caching SSD which saves (or caches) your most frequently used data, and accelerates applications significantly. In very simple terms, think of a builder keeping all of his tools in a room of the new house he is building for quick retrieval, rather than in his truck. Where it is just a bit ahead of the game with respect to the older iterations of same, however, is that it does a very good job of saving most frequently used data for retrieval after long periods of time with your system being in an off state. We will demonstrate all of this, of course. For now, let’s take a look at how things are laid out…
Normally, when we think about Intel Optane memory, or even the older NVELO and OCZ disk caching solutions, we would be speaking of a SSD being used to store and move frequently used data, or applications, rather than retrieval from the medieval hard disk. If we look above, Intel has combined all of that into a M.2 SSD using Intel Optane Memory and its own controller as the cache, and Intel’s newest QLC 3D NAND memory and controller on the right for long-term storage of most data. I find this to be a very peculiar mix and most won’t really like my thoughts here; it is something most believe in the industry but won’t state openly.
Intel Optane is the absolute best memory on the market. Nothing comes close for data throughput, IOPS and low latency… but this is not so for QLC 3D NAND. For a decade now, the industry has been looking for a way to put SSDs in consumers hands at a great price point. We started with SLC (single level cell) way back in 2007 and the cost for a 32GB drive back the was several thousand dollars. So we move to MLC (multi-level cell), TLC (triple level cell) and now QLC (quad level cell). As we moved to each level, endurance (or life expectancy) drop significantly and new and innovative ideas had to be found to maintain, and even better, the performance of previous versions.
So SLC caching became the norm with TLC NAND which meant that a very tiny SLC cache was present in a NAND package to speed up performance. And then came QLC. Quite frankly, QLC has definitely not been the be all and end all, but in the end, the industry is hoping that QLC memory will hit the sweet spot for price, capacity, performance and endurance for the typical consumer. Just how close can we come to the price of a hard drive in order to make that switch inevitable right? In the same breath, with QLC comes much higher storage capacities and, with respect to lifespan, the industry knows very well that these will last long enough to satisfy the consumer.
INTEL OPTANE H10 SSD COMPONENTS
The Intel Optane H10 is a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe 1.1 SSD and contains a Optane Memory chip on the left, followed by a much smaller Optane Controller to its right. Next up is the QLC Memory chip and then you see the SMI 2262 NVMe controller, affectionately referred to as the Intel QLC 3D NAND controller in the diagram above. Many will compare to the SSD portion of this device as an exact copy of the Intel 660P. Initial release will be limited to oem ultrabooks, tablets and laptops of HP, Dell, Asus and Acer, however, we expect the H10 to hit retail sales in time. Capacities first available to OEMs include 256, 512 and 1TB and the 256GB version contains a 16GB Optane chip while the other two capacities are 32GB Optane.
Performance is variable depending on capacity with the 1TB being 2.4GB/s read and 1.8GB/s write with 330K IOPS read and 250K IOPS write, 7µs read and 18µs write latency and 300TBW endurance. The 512GB sample we are testing is listed as 2.3|1.3GB/s throughput, 320/250K IOPS and 7/18µs latency and 150TBW endurance with the 256GB version dropping to 1.45GB|650MB/s throughput, 230/150K IOPS and 8/30µs latency with 75TBW endurance. These endurance ratings are 1/3 of that for premium MLC SSDs.
Remembering of course that the performance is derived through proper caching, the H10 is described as a low latency/high performance SSD, comes with a 5-year warranty, and has end-to-end data loss and power protection. The 512GB version we are testing today has a power rating of 5.8W active and <13mW at L1.2.