Today Intel and system builders take hybrid storage technology in a new direction. The Intel Optane Memory H10 NVMe SSD combines two popular SSD technologies, 4-bit per cell memory and Intel's high-speed 3D XPoint. The combination fits on a single-sided M.2 2280 form factor NVMe SSD and enables slimmer profile notebook designs.
The Intel Optane Memory H10 is a system builder product that will likely never come to the channel market in significant volume. That doesn't mean you will never find this series at Newegg, Amazon, or CDW. If you do see these drives sold in traditional retail outlets, you need to jump over other hurdles to make it work. The drive divides the M.2 PCI Express slot into two PCIe 3.0 x2 lanes with one directed to the Optane Memory and the other to the 4-bit per cell portion. Very few motherboards support the M.2 lanes divided as required. On top of that, the H10 requires an 8th Generation Intel Core U Series processor, Intel 300 Series Chipset with on-package PCH and the latest Intel RST 17.2 driver.
In broad terms, the Optane Memory H10 is two separate Intel products. The first being an Optane Memory M10 and the second a trimmed down 660p. The retail 660p SSDs use the full PCIe 3.0 x4 interface, so the H10's traditional SSD bandwidth is limited. That doesn't mean the drive is limited to x2 lanes of bandwidth. The H10 is capable of reading and writing to both parts of the drive at the same time.
The Optane Memory H10 ships in three flash capacity sizes. The amount of 3D XPoint (Optane) memory varies with the 256GB (flash) model using 16GB of 3D XPoint (Optane). The 512GB and 1TB (flash) drives ship with 32GB 3D XPoint (Optane) memory.
Assigning performance specifications to this product is not as cut and dry as with other products. The 256GB and 512GB H10 use the same ratio of 3D XPoint memory to flash, 16GB for every 256GB of flash. The ratio changes for the 1TB model that uses 32GB of 3D XPoint for 1TB of flash.
Intel lists the Optane Memory H10 with up to 2,400 MB/s sequential read and 1,800 MB/s sequential writes. Intel didn't list maximum random performance in our documentation but shows queue depth (QD) 1 random reads at 32,000 IOPS. Random write performance at QD1 is up to 30,000 IOPS.
The Optane Memory H10 is a unique product that takes advantage of Intel's latest storage technologies. When the company first announced 3D XPoint memory, the state of flash was in a bad place. The dominate storage memory shipping from every company other than Samsung was planar 3-bit per cell (TLC) flash. Intel, Micron, Toshiba, and SanDisk didn't have shipping 3D NAND, and 3D XPoint was seen as the savior to low performance.
Since then every company has released 3D NAND and performance has increased considerably. Intel and manufacturing partner Micron currently have a dominant product with 64- and 96-layer TLC when it comes to random data reads. Some of that advantage carried over to IMFT's 64L QLC memory.
3D XPoint memory still provides superior random read performance with nearly a 3x improvement in our testing at low queue depths where consumer workloads operate. In our testing, the increase in IO translates into a more responsive user experience and a decrease in application load times.
Pricing, Warranty, and Endurance
The Optane Memory H10 will not be a retail product like the Optane Memory H10 or SSD 660p. The drives will ship in notebooks primarily and we've noticed some pricing trends from the models coming to market in Q2 2019.
The 256GB flash capacity H10 should appear mainly in systems costing between $799 and $949. The 512GB flash model takes up the next pricing tier between $950 and $1,499. The largest capacity Optane Memory H10 will appear in systems costing more than $1,500. These are just general observations but may change with user-configured systems.
We expect to see systems from Dell, HP, and ASUS first but other companies may have Optane Memory H10-equipt systems as well.
The warranties will come from system builders. Most don't list component warranties as individual line items. The Optane Memory H10 ships with up to a 300 TBW warranty. Each system builder will specify the warranty details and either list the write endurance, or cover the drive for the length of the notebook's warranty.
Intel's SSD Toolbox
Intel's SSD Toolbox software has learned new tricks for Optane Memory systems including those with the H10. The software can see the two distinct products and display information about both. There is also a feature to clear the QLC drive's SLC cache, but that's mainly a feature for hardware reviewers and not something most users would run.
A Closer Look
We've seen companies run two SSDs behind a SATA RAID controller in a 2.5" form factor before with mixed results. There has never been an NVMe SSD like the Optane Memory H10.
The QLC portion is closest to the M.2 fingers, and the Optane portion rests at the back of the drive. The H10 is a single-sided design that allows companies to make the thinnest notebook packages we've seen thus far.
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