Test Setup

Our primary system for consumer SSD testing is a Skylake desktop. This is equipped with a Quarch XLC Power Module for detailed SSD power measurements and is used for our ATSB IO trace tests and synthetic benchmarks using FIO. This system predates all of the Optane Memory products, and Intel and their motherboard partners did not want to roll out firmware updates to provide Optane Memory caching support on Skylake generation systems. Using this testbed, we can only access the QLC NAND half of the Optane Memory H10.

As usual for new Optane Memory releases, Intel sent us an entire system with the new Optane Memory H10 pre-installed and configured. This year's review system is an HP Spectre x360 13t notebook with an Intel Core i7-8565U Whiskey Lake processor and 16GB of DDR4. In previous years Intel has provided desktop systems for testing Optane Memory products, but the H10's biggest selling point is that it is a single M.2 module that fits in small systems, so the choice of a 13" notebook this year makes sense. Intel has confirmed that the Spectre x360 will soon be available for purchase with the Optane Memory H10 as one of the storage options.

The HP Spectre x360 13t has only one M.2 type-M slot, so in order to test multi-drive caching configurations or anything involving SATA, we made use of the Coffee Lake and Kaby Lake systems Intel provided for previous Optane Memory releases. For application benchmarks like SYSmark and PCMark, the scores are heavily influenced by the differences in CPU power and RAM between these machines so we have to list three sets of scores for each storage configuration tested. However, our AnandTech Storage Bench IO trace tests and our synthetic benchmarks using FIO produce nearly identical results across all three of these systems, so we can make direct comparisons and each test only needs to list one set of scores for each storage configuration.

Intel-provided Optane Memory Review Systems
Platforn Kaby Lake Coffee Lake Whiskey Lake
CPU Intel Core i5-7400 Intel Core i7-8700K Intel Core i7-8565U
Motherboard ASUS PRIME Z270-A Gigabyte Aorus H370 Gaming 3 WiFi HP Spectre x360 13t
Chipset Intel Z270 Intel H370  
Memory 2x 4GB DDR4-2666 2x 8GB DDR4-2666 16GB DDR4-2400
Case In Win C583 In Win C583  
Power Supply Cooler Master G550M Cooler Master G550M HP 65W USB-C
Display
Resolution
1920x1200 (SYSmark)
1920x1080 (PCMark)
1920x1080 1920x1080
OS Windows 10 64-bit, version 1803

Intel's Optane Memory caching software is Windows-only, so our usual Linux-based synthetic testing with FIO had to be adapted to run on Windows. The configuration and test procedure is as close as practical to our usual methodology, but a few important differences mean the results in this review are not directly comparable to those from our usual SSD reviews or the results posted in Bench. In particular, it is impossible to perform a secure erase or NVMe format from within Windows except in the rare instance where a vendor provides a tool that only works with their drives. Our testing usually involves erasing the drive between major phases in order to restore performance without waiting for the SSD's background garbage collection to finish cleaning up and freeing up SLC cache. For this review's Windows-based synthetic benchmarks, the tests that write the least amount of data were run first, and those that require filling the entire drive were saved for last.

Optane Memory caching also requires using Intel's storage drivers. Our usual procedure for Windows-based tests is to use Microsoft's own NVMe driver rather than bother with vendor-specific drivers. The tests of Optane caching configurations in this review were conducted with Intel's drivers, but all single-drive tests (including tests of just one side of the Optane Memory H10) use the Windows default driver.

Our usual Skylake testbed is setup to test NVMe SSDs in the primary PCIe x16 slot connected to the CPU. Optane Memory caching requires that the drives be connected through the chipset, so there's a small possibility that congestion on the x4 DMI link could have an effect on the fastest drives, but the H10 is unlikely to come close to saturating this connection.

We try to include detailed power measurements alongside almost all of our performance tests, but this review is missing most of those. Our current power measurement equipment is unable to supply power to a M.2 slot in a notebook and requires a regular PCIe x4 slot for the power injection fixture. We have new equipment on the way from Quarch to remedy this limitation and will post an article about the upgrade after taking the time to re-test the drives in this review with power measurement on the HP notebook.

Introduction Application Benchmarks: SYSmark 2018 & PCMark 10
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  • SaberKOG91 - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    Nothing special about my usage on my laptop. Running linux so I'm sure journals and other logs are a decent portion of the background activity. I also consume a fair bit of streaming media so caching to disk is also very likely. This machine gets actively used an average of 10-12 hours a day and is usually only completely off for about 8-10 hours. I also install about 150MB of software updates a week, which is pretty on par with say windows update. I also use Spotify which definitely racks up some writes.

    I can't speak to the endurance of that drive, but it is also MLC instead of TLC.

    I would argue that it means that the cost per GB of QLC is now low enough that the manufacturing benefit of smaller dies for the same capacity is worth it. Most consumer SSDs are 250-500GB regardless of technology.

    I'm not referring to a few faulty units or infant mortality. I can't remember the exact news piece, but there were reports of unusually high failure rates in the first generation of Optane cache modules. I also wasn't amused when Anandtech's review sample of the first consumer cache drive died before they finished testing it. You're also assuming that they only factor in the failure of a drive is write endurance. It could very well be that overheating, leakage buildup, or some other electrical factor lead to premature failure, regardless of TBW. It's also worth noting that you may accelerate drive death if you exceed the rated DWPD.
    Reply
  • RSAUser - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    I'm at about 3TB after nearly 2 years, this with adding new software like android etc. And swapping between technologies constantly and wiping my drive once every year.
    I also have Spotify, game on it, etc.

    There is something wrong with your usage if you have that much write? I have 32GB RAM so very little caching though, so could be the difference.
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    "You're also assuming that they only factor in the failure of a drive is write endurance. It could very well be that overheating, leakage buildup, or some other electrical factor lead to premature failure, regardless of TBW."

    I certainly did not. It was in reply to your original post.

    Yes, write endurance is a small part of a drive failing. If its failing due to other reasons way before warranty, then they should move to remedy this.
    Reply
  • Irata - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    You are forgetting the sleep state on laptops. That alone will result in a lot of data being written to the SSD. Reply
  • jeremyshaw - Sunday, July 14, 2019 - link

    Or they have a laptop with the "Modern Standby," which is code for:

    Subpar idle state which goes to Hibernation (flush RAM to SSD - I have 32GB of RAM) whenever the system drains too much power in this "Standby S3 replacement."
    Reply
  • voicequal - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    "Optane has such horrible lifespan at these densities that reviewers destroyed the drives just benchmarking them."

    What is your source for this comment?
    Reply
  • SaberKOG91 - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    Anandtech killed their review sample when Optane first came out. Happened other places too. Reply
  • voicequal - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    Link? Anandtech doesn't do endurance testing, so I don't think it's possible to conclude that failures were the result of worn out media. Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - link

    "Since our Optane Memory sample died after only about a day of testing, we cannot conduct a complete analysis of the product or make any final recommendations. "

    here: https://www.anandtech.com/show/11210/the-intel-opt...
    Reply
  • Mikewind Dale - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    I don't understand the purpose of this product. For light duties, the Optane will be barely faster than the SLC cache, and the limitation to PCIe x2 might make the Optane slower than a x4 SLC cache. And for heavy duties, the PCIe x2 is definitely a bottleneck.

    So for light duties, a 660p is just as good, and for heavy duties, you need a Samsung 970 or something similar.

    Add in the fact that this combo Optane+QLC has serious hardware compatibility problems, and I just don't see the purpose. Even in the few systems where the Optane+QLC worked, it would still be much easier to just install a 660p and be done with it. Adding an extra software layer is just one more potential point of failure, and there's barely any offsetting benefit.
    Reply

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