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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

Moderate Workload Model

 

We categorize these tests as indicative of a moderate workload environment.

 

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

 

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0.0

 

The reason we like PCMark Vantage is because the recorded traces are played back without system stops. What we see is the raw performance of the drive. This allows us to see a marked difference between scoring that other trace-based benchmarks do not exhibit. An example of a marked difference in scoring on the same drive would be empty vs. filled vs. steady state.

 

Mechanical HDD only - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_36

 

To say that this is a terrible score would be an understatement. A score of 7,700 is the lowest we've ever seen, probably because we've never run Vantage on a mechanical HDD. Take a look at the bandwidth at each phase of the test. Especially application loading. The bandwidth of application loading with the HDD alone is only 7.744 MBs. The results of this test clearly show that an HDD's workload performance is total garbage.

 

 

Mechanical HDD + Optane Memory - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_37

 

Pairing Optane Memory with an HDD makes for spectacular performance workload performance. We do need to mention that Vantage will need to be run twice for Intel's intelligent caching software to identify it as something to be accelerated. Our first run scored 9,500. the second run scored 144,928. Compared with the HDD alone, Optane caching is delivering a score that is 18.8x better. If we focus on application loading, Optane caching is delivering a whopping 100x the bandwidth of the HDD alone.

 

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

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_38

 

Untethering the Optane Memory module from the HDD doesn't net that much of a scoring increase. Vantage scoring is greatly impacted in a negative way when there is data on the disk. It is not uncommon to see a drive that scores 400,000 when empty drop down to as low as 80,000 when data is on the disk, so we are a bit surprised that the score did not go higher than 160K when the drive is empty.

 

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

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_39

 

The Optane Memory module is our OS disk, and it is 75% filled with data. Despite this unfavorable scenario, the 32GB Optane Memory module delivers a new lab record for a 75% full OS Disk. Here is how it compares against the fastest flash-based NVMe SSDs:

 

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_101

 

Despite all of the inherent disadvantages including capacity, interface, etc. the $77 32GB Optane Memory module is able to outperform the $1,300 2TB Samsung 960 Pro. This test shows clearly the impact low QD random read performance actually has on an OS environment. The Optane Memory module has the best 4K random read performance, so it scores highest.

 

 

PCMark 7 - System Storage

 

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4.0

 

We will look to Raw System Storage scoring for evaluation because it's done without system stops and, therefore, allows us to see significant scoring differences between drives.

 

Mechanical HDD only - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_40

 

A raw system storage score of 693 is just abysmal. Starting applications has the HDD alone delivering an infinitesimally low bandwidth of 4.43 MBs. This is the first time we've ever run a HDD on PCMark 7. We knew it would be bad, but we did not anticipate it would be this horrible.

 

Mechanical HDD + Optane Memory - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_41

 

This time Intel's intelligent caching software was ready for the benchmark. We only had to run the test once to obtain a stellar result. With a score of 16,181 the Optane accelerated system delivered the third highest score in TweakTown history.

 

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

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_42

 

Untethering the Optane Memory module yields a substantial scoring increase. Untethered, the Intel Optane Memory module manages to unseat the 960 Pro 2TB as lab champion.

 

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

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_43

 

Unlike Vantage, PCMark 7 scoring is not negatively impacted when there is data on the disk. Running on our powerful test system, the Optane Memory module sets an all-time lab record for a single SSD by delivering an astonishing score of 18,409. Here is how it compares against the fastest flash-based NVMe SSDs:

 

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_102

 

Despite all of the inherent disadvantages including capacity, interface, etc., the $77 32GB Optane Memory module once again outperforms the $1,300 2TB Samsung 960 Pro when running moderate consumer workloads.

 

 

PCMark 8 - Storage Bandwidth

 

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.4.304

 

We use PCMark 8 Storage benchmark to test the performance of SSDs, HDDs, and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, and a selection of popular games. You can test the system drive or any other recognized storage device, including local external drives. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.

 

Mechanical HDD only - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_44

 

We always wondered what a mechanical HDD would do with this test, and now we know. A storage bandwidth of 12.8 MBs is just laughable.

 

Mechanical HDD + Optane Memory - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_45

 

This result lands the Optane accelerated system's storage performance smack in the middle of the hyper-class flash-based NVMe SSDs. With Optane speeding things along, storage bandwidth is an astounding 41x higher than a standalone mechanical HDD.

 

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

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_46

 

Untethering the Optane Memory module yields a substantial scoring increase. Untethered, the 32GB Intel Optane Memory module delivers a storage bandwidth of 586.98 MBs which has it nipping at the heels of OCZ's 1TB RD400.

 

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

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_47

 

Unlike Vantage, PCMark 8 scoring is typically not negatively impacted in a significant manner when there is data on the disk. Running on our powerful test system, the Optane Memory module delivers a robust storage bandwidth of 603.53 MBs. We were hoping to see another lab record, but this time the diminutive Optane Memory Module couldn't get there. Here is how it compares against the fastest flash-based NVMe SSDs:

 

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_103

 

 

BAPCo SYSmark 2014 SE System Performance

 

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.0.70

 

SYSmark 2014 SE is considered the gold standard for testing system performance as a whole because it is an application based benchmark. This test gives us the ultimate in real-world results because it utilizes actual applications running on the system, instead of playing back recorded traces. If you want to know what kind of impact a system storage device will have on your system's overall performance; this test will show you. Disk performance has the greatest impact on the Responsiveness Score, so that is what we will focus on.

 

Mechanical HDD only - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_48

 

If we focus on the responsiveness score, we can see that the use of a mechanical HDD vs. an SSD has a huge impact. Despite the fact that the rest of our test system is providing a big boost over the calibration system, the HDD is dragging the overall score of our test system way down.

 

Mechanical HDD + Optane Memory - Intel provided test system:

intel-optane-memory-32gb-2-nvme-ssd-review_49

 

Pairing Optane Memory with the HDD gives the test system the boost it needs to deliver a decent overall score. When we focus on the responsiveness score, we can see that when Optane Memory is accelerating the system, it is overall nearly twice as responsive as an HDD alone.

 

We tried multiple times and spent many a frustrating hour trying to get SYSmark to run with the Optane Memory module alone. We believe we would have seen a new level of system performance delivered if it would work. However, with only 32GB (27GB after formatting) to work with there just isn't enough space for SYSMark to run on the Optane Memory module.

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