Intel Optane Memory - More Benchmarks To Look At

Last month Intel/Micron 3D Xpoint memory technology came out and it is the first new memory technology to hit the market in the last 30 years. One might expect the new memory technology to have been introduced on the a flagship consumer product that claims to be the fastest in the world at something, but Intel rolled it out on a caching drive called the Intel Optane Memory Series. Intel put the most advanced memory technology available today on a caching drive that will help make a hard drive competitive with a mainstream SATA SSD. Not exactly a product that will grab headlines and excite the enthusiast community, but we are very excited that Intel Optane SSDs are coming out soon. Intel Optane SSDs will be a consumer product that enthusiasts and gamers will be very excited about after seeing the early performance numbers on the Intel Optane Memory Series and the data center focused Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X Series. The new Intel Optane Memory Series are available now as add-in components in 16GB ($53.39 on Amazon) and 32GB ($76.00 on Amazon) capacities with a 5-year warranty period. Performance on the Intel Optane 32GB drive is rated at up to 1350 MB/s read and 290 MB/s write with 4K Random Read performance of up to 240,000 IOPS and 65,000 IOPS write. The read performance numbers are solid, but clearly this drive isn't designed to have good write performance. Intel Optane Memory Module When we covered the Intel Optane Memory Series launch last month the focus was entirely on the drive from a caching perspective as that is the point of the product. We ended up with some angry e-mails and comments on social media about why we didn't test the raw performance of the drive and even test it as a boot drive. We don't see too many people buying the 32GB model as a boot drives due to the $76 price point, but we were curious how an Intel Optane Memory module would perform as a primary boot drive, a secondary drive and then as a RAID 0 array with two of them. We managed to get our hands on a second Intel Optane Memory Module 32GB, so we fired up our storage test platform and gave it a quick look.

Intel Optane Memory 32GB Performance

  • Sequential Read (up to) 1350 MB/s
  • Sequential Write (up to) 290 MB/s
  • Random Read (up to) 240000 IOPS
  • Latency - Read 9 µs
  • Latency - Write 30 µs
  • Power - Active 3.5 Watts
  • Power - Idle 1 Watt
  • Endurance - 182.5 TBW
  Intel Optane Memory User It might be a complete waste of time, but we wanted to wet our whistle before Intel Optane SSDs come out. Intel Optane SSD series drives might be pretty expensive though as the Intel Optane Technology marketing slide above shows Intel recommending Intel Optane SSDs for high-end eSport Gamer systems that cost over $6,000. We already know that Intel 3D XPoint isn't going to be cheak as the Intel Optane Memory Module 32GB costs $2.38 per GB at the current price of $76 and the Intel Optane SSD DC P4800 375GB runs $1520 in a limited early-ship program or $4.05 per GB. [caption id="attachment_194160" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Intel Optane SSD 900P Intel Optane SSD 900P Slide Provided by BenchLife[/caption] Based off those prices and leaks about the Intel Optane SSD 900P series we can guesstimate whatwe are looking when it comes to consumer SSD pricing with 3D XPoint technology. If we take the low cost of $2.38 per GB that the Intel Optane Memory Module and take that over to the Intel Optane SSD 900P 480GB drive you are looking at $1,142. Even if Intel was able to lower the price to $2 per GB that would put the 480GB drive at $960. That price will be very prohibitive and something that most will be unable to afford. It looks like existing NAND powered SSDs won't be going anywhere anytime soon as Intel will need to get costs down on 3D XPoint big time for it to ever replace NAND. Let's stop talking and get to the numbers!

The SSD Benchmark Test System

Before we look at the numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (Anniversary Update build 14393) and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. This means windows defender, windows update, disk fragmentation and everything else that would interfere with testing was disabled. Windows 10 also had the power option set to high performance. We also disabled Turbo mode on the Intel Core i7-5960X to ensure our numbers are spot on and repeatable. ASUS X99 Sabertooth Motherboard The Intel X99 platform that we used to test the storage drives was based around the ASUS X99 Sabertooth motherboard with BIOS 3505 that came out on 03/10/2017. We used Intel RST storage drivers, the exact version was 15.5.0.1051. The Crucial Ballistix DDR4 32GB 2400MHz memory kit was run at 2666MHz with 15-15-15-28 1T memory timings. The Corsair Neutron XT 240GB SSD was used as the primary drive.

Intel X99 Test Bench

Intel LGA 2011v3 Test Platform
Component Brand/Model Live Pricing

Processor

Core i7 5960X

Motherboard

ASUS X99 Sabertooth

Memory

Crucial Ballistix 2400MHz 32GB

OS Drive

Corsair Neutron XT 240GB

Power Supply

Corsair AX860i

Operating System

Windows 10 64-Bit

CrystalDiskInfo 7.0.5 Readout:

The readout on CrystalDiskInfo 7.0.5 shows that the Intel Optane Memory series supports S.M.A.R.T. and nothing else. The drive we received had firmware version K3110300 installed and that is the version that we used for general testing and benchmarking. The overall capacity shows up as 27 GB in Windows 10 and if you wanted to install Windows and make this a boot drive you'd use up 14.3GB of space before any drivers, applications or Windows updates are installed. With just 12.3GB of space left after a clean install of Windows 10 Pro version 1703 on this 32GB drive you might not want to make it a boot drive!   Let's take a look at some common benchmarks!

Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities 1.1.0

Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 1, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.

Anvil SSD Benchmark with 100% Compression (incompressible data):

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Boot Drive:

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Secondary:

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Secondary RAID 0:

Benchmark Results: The Anvil SSD Benchmark showed that with 100% compression (incompressible data) the Intel Optane Memory 32GB PCIe NVMe SSD scored 9,160 points with the stock Windows NVMe Driver as the Windows 10 boot drive and then 11,073 points as a secondary driver. With two Intel Optane Memory drives in a dynamic software RAID 0 we got a score of 15,671 points with nearly 2,500 MB/s sequential read and 550 MB/ sequential write speeds.  Note that Windows write-cache buffer flushing was left enabled on the drive.  Secondary Drive Comparisons: Benchmark Results: We used Anvil to check the 4K Random Read performance and found we we topped out at 336,000 IOPS on the 32GB drive and 655,500 IOPS on two 32GB Intel Optane Memory drives in RAID 0, which is far and away the highest on our chart although it is the only RAID 0 result on the chart. The QD1 thru QD8 4K Random Read performance was simply mind blowing with 51,700 IOPS at QD1 and then 161,900 IOPS at QD4 and 286,000 IOPS at QD8 on a single Intel Optane Memory 32GB gum stick. Compared to the Intel SSD 600P PCIe NVMe 512GB SSD that is 6x more 4K Random Read IOPS at QD1, 5x more 4K Random Read IOPS at QD4 and 5x more 4K Random Read IOPS at QD8! Hopefully this is a sign that the upcoming Intel Optane Memory SSDs will have killer low queue depth performance!  Benchmark Results: When it came to 4K Random Write performance, the Intel Optane 32GB drive topped out at 71,200 IOPS at QD32 and then in RAID 0 we managed to his 133,600 at the same queue depth. 4K Random Write performance isn't the strength of this drive as it was designed to be a caching module and not a primary storage drive. 

ATTO & CrystalDiskMark

ATTO v3.05

ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 64MB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Boot Drive:

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Secondary:

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Secondary RAID 0:

Benchmark Results: ATTO showed the Intel Optane Memory 32GB SSD topping out at 1,416 MB/s read and 300 MB/s write in the standard overlapped I/O benchmark as a boot drive and at 1,411 MB/s read and 298 MB/s write. When you put two of these drives together in RAID 0 we topped out at 2,822 MB/s sequential read and 597 MB/s sequential write. Secondary Drive Comparisons:   Benchmark Results: When comparing the the other SSD models you can quickly the Intel Optane Memory module is in the middle of the pack for the read speeds and pretty much last place for writes.  

CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 x64

CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) and shows the highest score of five runs.

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Boot Drive:

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Secondary:

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Secondary RAID 0:

Benchmark Results: The Intel Optane Memory 32GB M.2 drive reached 1,411MB/s read and 300 MB/s write in the standard sequential write test and Random 4K performance was 290 MB/s read and 162 MB/s write as a secondary drive. The 4K performance dropped with the OS installed on the drive, but it wasn't that bad of a performance hit. In RAID 0 we were hitting 2,824 MB/s read and 585 MB/s write, but saw no real performance improvement at 4K unless you zero in on the 4K Q32T1 write test result as that nearly doubled.  Let's look at some other benchmarks!

AS SSD Benchmark

AS-SSD (1.9.5986.35387) Benchmark:

We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from all three of them.

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Boot Drive:

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Secondary:

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Secondary RAID 0:

Benchmark Results: AS SSD showed the Intel Optane Memory 32GB drive had an overall score of 2,627 points with sequential read speeds of 1,239 MB/s and 276 MB/s write as the boot drive. Those scores improved with is as an empty secondary and then in RAID 0 we show up to an overall score of 4,765 with sequential read speeds of 2,473 MB/s and 551 MB/s write. The 4K read performance of ~140 MB/s as a boot drive and ~190 MB/s as a secondary was very impressive! 

PCMark 8 Storage Test

pcmark8 logo PCMark 8 might have come out in 2013, but it is still Futuremark's most recent version of their industry standard PC benchmarking tool. PCMark 8 allows you to test the performance of all types of PC, from tablets to desktops. With five separate benchmark tests plus battery life testing, PCMark 8 helps you find the devices that offer the perfect combination of efficiency and performance. PCMark 8 is recognized by many as being the complete PC benchmark for home and business. We ran the Storage 2.0 benchmark test suite on PCMark 8 v2.7.613 that came out in April 2016. This is a major update accommodates a change in the latest version of Adobe After Effects and provides better support for NVMe SSDs. The changes affect the workloads in the Adobe Applications benchmark and the Storage 2.0 benchmark. Scores from the new versions of these tests should not be compared with older versions, so just a heads up if you wanted to compare scores. Version 2.0 of the Storage benchmark includes two changes to the storage playback engine:
  1. Write I/Os sent to the storage device no longer have the Force Unit Access flag enabled. This flag did not usually matter to older storage devices but could lead to reduced performance on some modern NVMe drives.
  2. The playback engine now aligns all I/Os on 4096 byte boundaries. This change improves test compatibility across modern devices.
The primary result of each storage test is the total time elapsed while playing back the trace. The primary result is used to calculate Storage score. The secondary result of the test is bandwidth, which is the total amount of bytes read and written during the test divided by busy time (in other words, the time when the depth of the queue of pending I/O operations was at least 1). The bandwidth result is used to calculate Storage bandwidth, which is reported along with Storage score and we are most interested in this score.

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Boot Drive:

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - Secondary:

Intel Optane Memory 32GB - RAID 0:

  Benchmark Results: When it comes to PCMark 8 performance we weren't able to run it on the boot drive as it didn't have enough free space with Windows 10 installed, but we got 5,044 points as a secondary drive and 5,087 points in RAID 0. Benchmark Results: The overall score of 5,036 places the Intel Optane Memory Module 32GB just behind the ADATA XPG SX8000 SSD in the middle of the pack slightly above the entry-level PCIe SSDs like the Intel 600P 512GB and the WD Black PCIe 512GB. While the overall score on PCMark 8 shows all the drives are very close to one another when it comes to performance, when you look closer at the results you'll see some bigger differences. For example the Storage 2.0 bandwidth test results shows the total amount of bytes read and written during the test divided by the time the test took. Here you can see that the Intel Optane Memory M.2 PCIe NVMe 32GB drive came in with a score of 55529 MB/s as a secondary drive and then 849.54 as a secondary RAID 0 array! Keep in mind that Futuremark told us it is normal for 3DMark and PCMark scores to vary by up to 3% between runs since there are factors in modern, multitasking operating systems that cannot be completely controlled. Let's wrap this review up

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

Intel Optane Memory Module installed in m.2 slot Looking at new technologies like 3D XPoint memory is always fun and we can see where Intel and Micron have been putting years of R&D work to get to this point. 3D Xpoint is the most innovative memory technology to debut since Legit Reviews started in 2002 and this is just the beginning. The performance numbers on Intel Optane SSDs that have leaked out so far are more than twice as fast as the Intel Optane Memory SSD that we benchmarked here today, so the best has yet to come. The performance is really exciting, but we just hope Intel can keep the price reasonable. The new Intel Optane Memory Series is available now as add-in components in 16GB ($53.39 on Amazon) and 32GB ($76.00 on Amazon) capacities with a 5-year warranty period Intel Optane Memory Street Pricing: Those prices won't have 3D XPoint killing off NAND Flash drives anytime soon, but that may not be the plan. 3D XPoint technology might just go one to compliment NAND and help fill the performance space between NAND and DRAM. We also see 3D XPoint being beneficial to existing NAND based SSDs as it could be used for caching purposes rather than forcing some of the MLC or TLC NAND to operate like SLC NAND. Intel and Micron have come up with a really innovative memory technology here and it will be interesting to see what is done with it. This year we'll see a handful of drives using it, but 2018 is when we really start to see it take off. Samsung and other companies don't seem too worried about 3D XPoint as they just recently introduced 4th generation, 64-layer triple-level-cell V-NAND flash memory and have developed a high performance, ultra-low latency SSD solution, the Z-SSD that is due out this year. Samsung claims the Z-SSD, powered by Z-NAND, will have four times faster latency and 1.6 times better sequential reading than the Samsung PM963 NVMe SSD. The Samsung PM963 as a sequential read speed of up to 1,800 MB/s, so that means it will have around 2,880 MB/s for sequential read speeds. The leaked data on the Intel Optane SSD 900P have the sequential read speed at 2,500 MB/s. Who knows what company will win the 4K Random Read/Write performance race and at what queue depth! All we know is the high-end SSD market is going to get really interesting later this year and that is good for all that care about performance. Bring on Intel Optane SSDs and Samsung Z-SSDs as we are ready! Legit Bottom Line: Intel Optane Memory is just a tease as the Intel Optane SSDs are coming soon and we can't wait!