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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  • Alexvrb - Monday, April 22, 2019 - link

    "The caching is managed entirely in software, and the host system accesses the Optane and QLC sides of the H10 independently. "

    So, it's already got serious baggage. But wait, there's more!

    "In practice, the 660p almost never needed more bandwidth than an x2 link can provide, so this isn't a significant bottleneck."

    Yeah OK, what about the Optane side of things?
    Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    They totally nerf'd this thing with 2x PCIe. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    Linux handles Optane pretty easily without any Intel software through bcache. I'm not sure why Anandtech can't test that, but maybe just a lack of awareness.

    https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&...
    Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Tuesday, April 23, 2019 - link

    Testing bcache performance won't tell us anything about how Intel's caching software behaves, only how bcache behaves. I'm not particularly interested in doing a review that would have such a narrow audience. And bcache is pretty thoroughly documented so it's easier to predict how it will handle different workloads without actually testing. Reply
  • easy_rider - Wednesday, April 24, 2019 - link

    Is there a reliable review of 118gb intel optane ssd in M2 form factor? Does it make sense to hunt it down and put as a system drive in the dual-m2 laptop? Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, April 25, 2019 - link

    "QLC NAND needs a performance boost to be competitive against mainstream TLC-based SSDs"

    The real question is what dimension, if any, does this thing win on?
    OK, it may not be the fastest out there? But does it, say, provide approximately leading edge TLC speed at QLC prices, so it wins by being cheap?
    Because just having a cache is meaningless. Any QLC drive that isn't complete garbage will have a controller-managed cache created by using the QLC flash as SLC; and the better controllers will slowly degrade across the entire drive, maintaining always an SLC cache, but also using the entire drive (till its filled up) as SLC, then switching blocks to MLC, then to TLC, and only when the drive is approaching capacity, using blocks as QLC.

    So the question is not "does it give cached performance to a QLC drive", the question is does it give better performance or better price than other QLC solutions?
    Reply
  • albert89 - Saturday, April 27, 2019 - link

    Didn't I tell ya ? Optane's capacity was too small for many yrs and compatible with a very tiny number devices/hardware/OS. She played the game of hard to get and now no guy wants her. Reply
  • peevee - Monday, April 29, 2019 - link

    "The caching is managed entirely in software, and the host system accesses the Optane and QLC sides of the H10 independently. Each half of the drive has two PCIe lanes dedicated to it."

    Fail.
    Reply
  • ironargonaut - Monday, April 29, 2019 - link

    "While the Optane Memory H10 got us into our Word document in about 5 seconds, the TLC-based 760P took 29 seconds to open the file. In fact, we waited so long that near the end of the run, we went ahead and also launched Google Chrome with it preset to open four websites. "

    https://www.pcworld.com/article/3389742/intel-opta...

    Win
    Reply
  • realgundam - Saturday, November 16, 2019 - link

    What if you have a normal 660p and an Optane stick? would it do the same thing? Reply

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