eTeknix

Intel Optane SSD 800P 58GB M.2 PCIe SSD Review

Introduction


Intel is back with another drive based on their 3D XPoint NAND technology. We’ve previously seen the Optane caching module as well as the 900P PCIe add-in card for enthusiasts. Now, the company is ready with their first drive with this technology aimed purely at the ordinary consumer who wants that extra power where it counts, the Intel Optane SSD 800P. Today, I’m testing the smaller version with 58GB capacity, but there’s also a 118GB version.

What is the difference to other SSDs?

As far as functionality goes, there is no difference between the new Intel Optane SSD 800P and any other SSD. You can install it within any system which supports M.2 PCIe-based drives as you would any other NVMe SSD. That means that you aren’t limited to Z270 and newer systems such as it was the case for the Optane memory caching module.

The real difference lays within the NAND which is Intel’s 3D XPoint NAND. It is the same type NAND as we’ve seen on the other Optane products and as such, there are high expectations to the performance of these new drives. This will be particularly visible in the latency where the Optane SSD shines.

Desktop and Mobile Usage

The new Intel Optane SSD 800P is designed for both the desktop and mobile system market. The previous drives were for the desktop market and didn’t come with power saving features. The performance was key, and it still is. But Intel also added power saving features this time, allowing the drive to draw as little as 8mW when idle.

The single-sided design also makes it highly compatible with ultra-thin mobile systems such as ultrabooks while the 2280 form factor makes it compatible with the majority of systems. At that is no coincidence. These kinds of systems will benefit highly from this kind of drive which is why Intel made sure that it’s an optimal companion.

Performance and Endurance

So, I’ve talked a lot about how great these new Optane SSD 800P are so far, but I haven’t mentioned any performance figures yet. It’s time to change that and have a look at the official ratings. Starting with the sequential performance, we have a read speed of up to 1450MB/s and a write speed of up to 640MB/s at a queue depth of 4. Usually, when we talk performance, we have figures with higher queue depth, but we’ll get into that part in a little bit. While sequential performance gives us a great point of reference, the 4KB random performance is what truly matters and what makes the difference in daily operations. Here, we get up to 250K IOPS when reading and 140K IOPS when writing. That’s seriously impressive, especially considering the capacity.

While performance is important, so is endurance. After all, you don’t want your drive to die on you before its obsolete and naturally replaced with something newer and better. Intel’s 3D XPoint NAND is strong in this aspect too and we get an endurance of up to 365 TBW over a 5-year period. Now, that number is for the larger 118GB version, but even when halved, it’s a lot. You’ll have to completely fill and erase the drive over 3100 times to reach that number. And that’s not counting caching algorithms etc.

The 5-year period for the endurance is also the warranty you get on the drives. Five years is a longer warranty then you’ll find on most drives and certainly a lot more than the 2-year legal obligation (within the EU).

What’s up with the lower queue depth ratings?

Testing a drive with higher queue depths allows for a more detailed view of what can be done with a drive, but it doesn’t reflect real-world situations as much as lower queue depths do. You could compare it with an automobiles top speed; it says a lot about the power under the hood, but very few people will actually drive it at full speed. Especially not at all times. It is the same for a storage drive. Intel ran a lot of internal tests where they monitored their employees’ workloads, with their permission, as well as analysed various common application and games to see what actually happens in the background. What they discovered was that it rarely went above a queue depth of 4, hence the ratings.

Internal Parts, Features, and Compatibility

The Optane drives are full Intel product, well the 3D XPoint NAND is developed together with Micron, but apart from that, it’s a pure Intel drive. It’s made up of the 3D XPoint NAND, Intel Interconnect IP, Intel controller, Intel software, and Intel firmware. With everything developed in-house, the compatibility between the parts should be as flawless as humanly possible.

As mentioned earlier, there is no difference for the system running the Optane 800P when compared to any other NVMe PCIe-based SSD. Still, Intel wanted to make sure that it works as good as possible and for that, they worked closely with all major motherboard vendors. In fact, the drive is tested to be compatible with over 280 motherboards which are available now. It will no doubt work with more, but it’s still a huge pile of validated support.

It’s no problem to run the Optane 800P in RAID either. As a matter of fact, it does an amazing job in such a setup with over double scaling. The Optane SSD 800P supports RAID through the PCH as well as directly through the CPU, where supported.

Before we get to the testing, there’s only really two things left to mention. The drive is a PCIe 3.0 x2 which might be a concern for some at the first glance. But it really isn’t because it is plenty for the drive’s capabilities.

The last thing to mention is the price point. While this review is written before the release and published at the same time as the drive will be announced, we only have the suggested retail price and not actual listings. For $129 USD you’ll get this 58GB version while the larger 118GB will cost you $199. While that isn’t budget, the performance certainly makes up for it. It’s also a lot more affordable than the previously seen Optane SSD 900P.

Feature Highlights

Package and Accessories

As you can see below, the package shown here is, in fact, that of the larger capacity version. While that is the case, it’s the same box you’ll get this 58GB version in. The only difference is the included drive and the capacity sticker. So I didn’t feel anything wrong by showing this here.

The front features the Intel and Optane logos as well as the sticker with the included drive capacity.

Turning the box over and we get a bit more information about the drive. The form factor and interface are both given as some of the first information, followed by the feature highlights. At the bottom, we also see the 5-year warranty.

Inside the box is a small installation guide along with the drive itself.

Testing & Methodology


In a bid to make our testing as thorough and as accurate as possible, we have devised a testing methodology that will give us the maximum amount of data. While this means that testing each drive will take considerably longer – easily up 36 hours – the overall picture that we can gather is bigger too. It helps both you as the reader and us as the reviewer’s to gain a clearer view of the drive’s overall performance, strengths, and weaknesses. It also provides a more accurate analysis on how each drive performs under different conditions.

Data Fillage

There are many ways to test a storage drive, and we have chosen to include close to every test possible. We will start with a typical benchmark analysis of the formatted drive with various village scenarios. Depending on how a drive is built, the performance may differ depending on how much data it is already storing. Testing this, the drive will be tested empty as well as with 25%, 50%, and 75% space usage. For these tests, we will be using Anvil’s Storage Utilities, AS SSD Benchmark, ATTO Disk Benchmark, and CrystalDiskMark.

Application and Gaming

Besides these synthetic fill tests, the drive is tested with PCMark 8’s storage benchmark to get real-world performance results. These tests use common scenarios generated on real applications analysis.

Plain Drive Performance

Following the fillage tests, the partition gets removed, and we check the drive’s raw performance. These tests will determine the hardware’s capabilities while eliminating any interference from the set file system. AIDA64’s storage benchmark and IOmeter are both great tools for this, and they help us paint an even clearer picture of the drive. The IOmeter tests I run are quite different from the rest as they will give a final result after a longer performance test rather than a maximum or average score; this gives us yet another view of the tested drive over the regular tests.

Drive Conditioning

Durability is a vital factor when it comes to NAND-based drives as the chips only can be rewritten so many times before they’ll stop working properly. Modern SSDs come with wear-level algorithms to increase the lifetime and reduce this factor as much as possible. We also take this into consideration in our reviews even though it would take years to test this under real-world conditions. Luckily, Anvil’s Storage Utilities comes with an endurance test that can perform this action much faster, but it is still a time-consuming process. Depending on the hardware, this can easily take several days where thousands and thousands of small files in various sizes and compressibility are written to drive, over and over.

Following this conditioning process, all of the previous benchmarks will be run again in the same scenarios and the same order. This will give us a great view of how a drive will perform after prolonged usage, and that is a very vital factor when you pick out your storage drive.

The Preparation and In Between

The drive will be formatted as NTFS with default settings, as most users will do. The quick format option isn’t used as that might affect the performance the first time data is written.

Modern operating systems all take care of the TRIM command in the background and it isn’t something to worry about for regular users. However, for these reviews, I will add a waiting period between each benchmark to make sure that the TRIM command has been fully executed and finished. After all, we want a clear picture of the drive’s performance with minimal interference from the operating system.

On each page that follows with the benchmark results, I have inserted result screenshots from the benchmarks, created drive analysis chart for the fill-level performance, and added drive comparison charts where possible.

Hardware

Software

AIDA64 Storage Benchmark


AIDA64 is a streamlined Windows diagnostic and benchmarking software for home users with a broad range of features to assist in overclocking, hardware error diagnosis, stress testing, and sensor monitoring.

The app has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives and is compatible with most Microsoft Windows operating systems. It also has a disk benchmark tool, and that is the one I’ll be using.

Fresh Drive

The Linear Read and Write tests measure the sequential performance by reading or writing all sectors without skipping any. It gives us a view of the drives overall performance from start to end.

The Random Read and Write tests measure the random performance by reading or writing variable-sized data blocks at random locations on the surface of the drive. The Random tests are a combination of both speed and access times as it moves the position before each new operation.

The Access time tests are designed to measure the data access performance by reading or writing small 0.5KB data blocks at random locations on the drive surface.


Conditioned Drive

The Linear Read and Write tests measure the sequential performance by reading or writing all sectors without skipping any. It gives us a view of the drives overall performance from start to end.

The Random Read and Write tests measure the random performance by reading or writing variable-sized data blocks at random locations on the surface of the drive. The Random tests are a combination of both speed and access times as it moves the position before each new operation.

The Access time tests are designed to measure the data access performance by reading or writing small 0.5KB data blocks at random locations on the drive surface.


Drive Performance Analysis

Anvil’s Storage Utilities


Anvil’s Storage Utilities is a complete benchmark solution used to test any writeable storage drive. It also has a drive endurance test that consistently reads and writes data to the selected medium to deliver days, months, and potentially even years of use in a shorter period.

Fresh Drive

Conditioned Drive


Drive Performance Analysis


Drive Comparison

For the purpose of drive comparison, I will be using the performance figures from both unconditioned and conditioned tests with 0% data-fill.

AS SSD Benchmark


The AS SSD software determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains five synthetic and three practice tests. The synthetic tests determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD, and they aren’t using the operating system cache.

Fresh Drive

Conditioned


Drive Performance Analysis


Drive Comparison

For the purpose of drive comparison, I will be using the performance figures from both unconditioned and conditioned tests with 0% data-fill.

ATTO


The ATTO Disk Benchmark performance measurement tool is compatible with Microsoft Windows. Measure your storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Several options are available to customise your performance measurement including queue depth, overlapped I/O and even a comparison mode with the option to run continuously.

Fresh Drive

Conditioned


Drive Performance Analysis


Drive Comparison

For the purpose of drive comparison, I will be using the performance figures from both unconditioned and conditioned tests with 0% data-fill.

CrystalDiskMark


CrystalDiskMark is a small HDD and SSD benchmark utility that allows you to measure a drive’s sequential and random performance.

Fresh Drive

Conditioned


Drive Performance Analysis


Drive Comparison

For the purpose of drive comparison, I will be using the performance figures from both unconditioned and conditioned tests with 0% data-fill.

IOMeter


IOMeter is an I/O subsystem measurement and characterization tool for single and clustered systems. As a benchmark and troubleshooting tool, it is configurable to replicate the behaviour of many popular applications. One commonly quoted measurement provided by the tool is IOPS.

Sequential Performance

Random 4K Performance


Drive Comparison

PCMark 8 Storage Benchmark


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

Fresh Drive

Conditioned Drive


Drive Comparison

PCMark’s storage test isn’t purely drive-based and as such, the rest of the system has an impact on the scores. Drives which are marked by an asterisk are tested on a newer and more powerful system. That fact will cause improved scores for newly tested drives.

Final Thoughts


Pricing and Availability

As this review is written before the release and published at the same time as the drive will be announced, we only have the suggested retail price and not actual listings. For $129 USD you’ll get this 58GB version while the larger 118GB will cost you $199 USD.

Conclusion

Intel Optane SSDs are in a league of their own, there can no longer be any doubt about that. The 3D XPoint NAND delivers a performance which other types of NAND simply can’t. Small SSDs usually tend to be somewhat bad when it comes to performance as there’s simply too little capacity to play around with for the firmware. That’s not the case with Optane SSDs such as the 800P that I’ve tested today. Even with as small a capacity as 58GB, the drive delivers impressive results. Not only that, it does so consistently across fillage scenarios and over time. It isn’t just that it is fast either, it’s also extremely responsive through low latencies.

Intel built an amazing product here that delivers where it matters. And while the capacity isn’t large, I’m sure it will become extremely popular among enthusiasts who want a fast boot drive as well as ordinary users purchasing pre-built systems with the drive integrated. Because we will see that, there is no doubt. Ultrabooks and similar small form factor devices, as well as netbooks which generally have low local storage capacity, will both benefit greatly from this drive. Quick boot times and fast loading times are a clear result and who doesn’t want that. Especially when we look at the real-work tests from PC Mark’s storage benchmark, the strengths become clear.

On top of the great performance, the drive is highly compatible. The system it is installed in will see it as any other PCIe-based SSD. The 2280 form factor and single-sided design also make it compatible with most systems. The drive also scales extremely well in RAID setups with over double the performance of a single drive, but we’ll get into that in a separate review very soon.

You might pay a little more for this drive than you would for any other SSD with the same capacity, but it’s definitely worth the extra. I’m thoroughly impressed.

Pros

Cons

“You might pay a little more for this drive than you would for any other SSD with the same capacity, but it’s definitely worth the extra. I’m thoroughly impressed.”

Intel Optane SSD 800P 58GB M.2 PCIe SSD Review

We would like to thank Intel for this sample.