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Intel Optane Memory 32GB M.2 NVMe SSD Review

By: Jon Coulter | m.2 SSDs in Storage | Posted: Apr 24, 2017 4:00 pm
TweakTown Rating: 100%Manufacturer: Intel

ATTO

 

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.05

 

ATTO is a timeless benchmark used to provide manufacturers with data used for marketing storage products. When evaluating ATTO performance, we focus on the drive's sequential performance.

 

Mechanical HDD only - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_18

 

The mechanical HDD that was provided with the test system delivers 185MBs max sequential write performance and 200MBs max sequential read performance. This is pretty decent sequential performance for a mechanical disk.

 

 

Mechanical HDD + Optane Memory - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_19

 

No problem meeting and exceeding Intel's sequential performance specs. We will point out that Optane Memory is able to achieve maximum sequential performance at smaller transfer sizes than we typically see from conventional flash-based SSDs. Optane Memory is hitting its max sequential write at 8KB transfers; max sequential read at 32KB transfers. Flash-based SSDs typically reach max sequential performance at between 128KB and 1MB transfer size.

 

Optane Memory running as a secondary storage device - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_20

 

When we untether the Optane Memory module from the HDD and run it on its own as a secondary storage device, small file performance gets better. On its own, the Optane Memory module is hitting its max sequential write at 4KB transfers; max sequential read at 16KB transfers. Sequential write performance of the Optane Memory module is much lower than we typically see. However, when we get to our real-world performance testing, you will clearly see that as we've been saying for years' - sequential performance is not nearly as important as random performance in terms of system performance.

 

Optane Memory running as OS disk - TweakTown's high-performance Z270 test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_21

 

Our high-performance test system, as expected, cranks out even better small file performance than the Intel provided test system. On our system, we can almost hit max sequential write performance at 2KB transfers. This is astounding when you consider that a typical flash-based SSDs achieve max sequential write performance at about a 128KB or larger file size.

 

 

Anvil Storage Utilities

 

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0

 

Anvil's Storage Utilities is a storage benchmark designed to measure the storage performance of SSDs. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test or just the read or write test, or you can run a single test, i.e. 4K QD16. When evaluating performance with Anvils, we focus on total score. With Optane Memory, we will focus on the total read score.

 

Mechanical HDD only - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_22

 

As evidenced by the results of this test, a mechanical HDD on its own is not what you want for an OS disk. In an OS environment, random performance is what matters, and this is where a mechanical HDD is at its worst. This is why it takes 50 seconds to reboot to desktop with a typical mechanical HDD. To say that this performance is terrible is an understatement.

 

Mechanical HDD + Optane Memory - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_23

 

This particular test run gives us our first taste of Optane Memory's main strong point - random read performance. At 4K QD1 read, Optane Memory + HDD is delivering more than 3x the performance of the fastest NVMe SSD, and like we explained earlier, this is by far the most important performance metric in an OS environment. This metric is where system responsiveness comes from more than anywhere else. Already, we can see that 3D XPoint is a game changing technology. Even when tethered with a sluggish mechanical HDD, Optane Memory acceleration can deliver better system response than any flash-based NVMe SSD.

 

Let's focus on the total read score. A total read score of 7,370.69 with Windows 10 is a new lab record, and this is in spite of the low sequential read performance where 4MB sequential transfers are dragging the total score down. The previous lab record total read score comes from Samsung's $1,300 2TB 960 Pro which scored 6,898.34. We will also point out that the Optane Memory module delivers the best 128K sequential read performance we've seen from this test.

 

Optane Memory running as a secondary storage device - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_24

 

When we untether the Optane Memory module from the HDD and run it on its own as a secondary storage device, random read performance goes way up, and random write performance goes down. This appears to be a corner-case scenario that only occurs when running the drive as a secondary device while using the RST driver. Look at that 4K QD1 read performance. 60K IOPS is more than 4x higher than a 960 Pro is capable of. Random read performance at QD16 is 120K IOPS better than any flash-based NVMe SSD can deliver.

 

Optane Memory running as OS disk - TweakTown's high-performance Z270 test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_25

 

Our high-performance test system unleashes the Kraken. 76,753 IOPS at 4K QD1 is more than 5x better than a 960 Pro, and this is just scratching the surface of what the Optane memory module is capable of delivering under the right conditions. If we run Optane on a higher performing OS, we are able to hit up to 125,000 IOPS 4K QD1 read which is 8-9x better than any flash-based SSD. A total read score of 9,769.65 is over 3K better than the total read score of a 2TB 960 Pro. This is in spite of the fact that the Optane Memory module has relatively modest sequential read performance at 4MB sequential transfers dragging the total score down. We used the in-box Windows 10 NVMe driver for this test, and it did not suffer the same write performance decrease we witnessed with the RST driver and Optane memory running as a standalone secondary device.

 

Comparison performance - 960 Pro 2TB running as OS disk - TweakTown's high-performance Z170 test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_26

 

Our Anvil's testing seals the deal, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that 3D XPoint does indeed, as Intel puts it, establish a new normal. Flash is no longer the go to for the ultimate in storage performance; it has now been relegated to a mid-performance storage tier.

 

As we previously mentioned, it is important to keep in mind that the Optane Memory module we are testing is only 32GB in capacity and still, it is absolutely demolishing the 2TB 960 Pro where it matters most - 4K QD1 random read. Even though the Optane Memory Module has very low write performance, this is more than offset by its mind-bending random read performance. Approximately 70% of the transactions that take place in an OS environment are random reads at QD1-4 which is why 3D XPoint has such an impact on system responsiveness.

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