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Intel Optane 900P: Review and Tests

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Intel Optane 900P: Review and Tests

Review

Updated

Solid state drives (SSDs) are becoming more and more common as the first choice for computer storage. If you don’t have one, you might have missed out on recent trends. But it’s not always simple – SSDs can be complicated and if you don’t make the right choice, you might end up with an underperforming computer. Fortunately, we now have the Intel Optane 900p, which eliminates the vast majority of problems associated with these drives.

Intel Optane 900P Review – Contents

  1. 3D Xpoint Memory Revolutionises SSDs
  2. Which Drives Have We Compared?
  3. Methods of SSD Testing
  4. Intel Optane 900p 280GB in the PC MARK 8
  5. The Intel Optane 900p SDD and Competition in Crystal Disk Mark 5.5.0.
  6. Intel Optane 900p SSD and Competition in Anvil SSD PRO
  7. Conclusion and my first impressions of the Intel Optane 900p

3D Xpoint Memory Revolutionises SSDs

If you have ever done research on SSDs to any depth, you'll have some across terms like TLC, MLC, drivers, cache, write speed, longevity and service life. Especially in connection to M.2 SSD drives, you'll also see terms related to temperature and overheating, corresponding with performance drops due to thermal throttling. The great news is that with Intel Optane 900p, you can stop worrying about these problems. The main and undisputed advantage of Intel Optane SSD 900p is that this drive isn't bothered by the amount of data stored on it and what type of files it contains – it maintains constant speeds. This is also true for wear and tear. It doesn’t matter if you’ve owned the drive for a week and have written 10TB of data to it, or have owned it for a year and have racked up 400TB (which is the total space of VNAND drives, held by the competition). The Intel Optane 900p promises to maintain its constant powerful performance. The 3D Xpoint technology used by Intel Optane 900p SSDs is still relatively new and constitutes a major game changer. For today’s tests, I took several of the more expensive M.2 drives and one classic SATA drive. It’s up to you to decide what kind of power you want in your PC. 

Which Drives Have We Compared?

Area of comparisonIntel Optane 900PIntel 750 SeriesSamsung 960 EVOSamsung 960 PROSamsung 960 PROSamsung 850 PROKingston KC1000
Tested capacity280GB400GB1TB1TB2TB512GB960GB
Sequential reading2500 MB/s2200 MB/s3200 MB/s3500 MB/s3500 MB/s550 MB/s2700 MB/s
Sequential writing2000 MB/s900 MB/s1900 MB/s2100 MB/s2100 MB/s520 MB/s1600 MB/s
Random readingup to 550,000 IOPSup to 430,000 IOPSup to 380,000 IOPSup to 440,000 IOPSup to 440,000 IOPSup to 98,000 IOPSup to 190,000 IOPS
Random writingup to 500,000 IOPSup to 230,000 IOPSup to 360,000 IOPSup to 360,000 IOPSup to 360,000 IOPSup to 90,000 IOPSup to 165,000 IOPS
Power consumption14W12W5.7W5.3W5.8W3.2W7.4W
Max. written data8760TB70GB/day400TB800TB1200TB150TB1000TB
InterfaceU.2, PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4U.2, PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4M.2 NVMe 3.0 x4M.2 NVMe 3.0 x4M.2 NVMe 3.0 x4SATA 6GB/sPCIe NVMe 3.0 x4
Cell type3D XPOINTMLCTLCMLCMLCMLCMLC
Price392EUR-500EUR654EUR1347EUR284EUR483EUR
The prices were valid on 21. 12. 2017

Methods of SSD Testing

It’s not easy to put together a set of drives to compare with Intel Optane 900p, so the choices were based primarily on the price point. Naturally, I included the SATA drive mostly for reference, as well as the competitively priced 2TB Samsung 960 PRO model. In order to make the comparison relevant as far as the drive usage is concerned, I formatted each drive to GPT and after the loading of Windows 10 OS, I filled the drives to 75% (+- 3%) capacity in 80:20 ratio with 128k files of sequential type and 4k files of random type. On the Internet, most tests fill the drive with a text file or large video files, but you should be mostly interested in the drive performance when it is filled with files of various sizes. Let's assume that a part of the drive is filled with small 4k files – and this is the part where you’ll feel the performance of an SSD drive the most. For this purpose, I use special software that I won’t go into detail about here – this is an advanced software and its description isn’t relevant for the purposes of this article.

For each of the tested drives, with the exception of Intel Optane 900p and Series 750, I have disabled the clearing of Windows cache for the write caching. I mention this fact to further describe the testing and also as a small tip that could help you boost the performance of your SSD drive. This option can be accessed as follows: This computer -> your drive -> right mouse click -> Properties -> Hardware -> your drive -> Properties -> Change Settings -> Policies.

Many people tend to forget that it is important to use the appropriate driver. Samsung and Intel use their respective NVMe drivers. Among the tested drives, only Kingston KC1000 used the standard NVMe driver included in the Windows 10 OS. If you want to achieve optimal performance, you have to download these drivers from the manufacturer’s website and install them manually.

All the tested SSD drives were brand new and freshly unpacked. Even though this factor is irrelevant for Intel Optane 900p, it is important for all the other tested drives. If you want to compare used SSD drives, you would have to use Secure Erasure method on top of the processes mentioned above – this is a type of formatting used for SSD that can usually restore the drives to their former glory. This awesome function can be found in UEFI in the Tools section on ASUS motherboards of the Republic of Gamers series, for example. However, be aware that using Secure Erasure will erase all data on the drive. Also, NEVER use or try to use Secure Erasure on Intel Optane drive – this can irreparably damage your SSD drive.

There is always the question of how and in what to test SSD drives. Since it’s not that simple to interpret the results of various queue-depths tests and present them to the reader, it's better to use summary test, where the results are presented as time, speed or score. For this purpose, I use Storage tests included in PC MARK 8 and Futuremark. These tests use real workloads, such as Adobe software, Microsoft Office and several games with substantial volume of files of various sizes. I also included speed results from Crystal Disk Mark and Anvil SSD for reference.

iIntel Optane Memory
We have prepared a very detailed review of Intel Optane Memory – the very first real application of 3D Xpoint cache memory.

Intel Optane 900p 280GB in the PC MARK 8

PC MARK 8 includes a set of tests based on real scenarios that you might encounter in daily use. Even though this is an older version of the benchmark, these tests are still most relevant for the typical user. If you’re interested in more detailed information regarding the manner of testing SSD and HDD drives in PC MARK 8, here’s a link to specific technical data. PC MARK 8 also offers more detailed tests – however, these can take 12–24 hour per drive and unfortunately, we don’t have time for that.

Intel Optane 900p in PC MARK 8 – Storage Bandwidth Test

Intel Optane 900p; PC MARK 8 Storage Bandwidth

Intel Optane 900p in PC MARK 8. More is better (MB/s)

The result of storage bandwidth test is presented as a geometric average of the number of bytes per second processed by the drive while reading or writing in all ten tests. In other words, this result counts the state and number of I/O (input/output) operations, when the state in queue-depths queues was at least 1. Therefore, this is a result of speeds across all the following tests that you will see throughout all the queues in which the files were processed according to priority. Intel Optane 900p comes out of this broad-spectrum test as an absolute winner that has crushed all competition. 

You can imagine these tests in the following way – you’re standing at the counter waiting for movie tickets and all the windows are busy serving customers. The goal of the first 5 windows is to get the customers into the movie theater, since the longest queues are at these first five windows and there is only a handful of customers at the other windows. The movie is starting in 2 minutes and you need the customers inside. Even though windows 6 and further clear up and there are no people waiting, the customers are still standing in the first 5 queues. What do you need to do? In short, you need the first 5 windows to process customers extremely fast. And this is something that Intel Optane 900p does exceptionally well.  

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in the PC MARK 8

Intel Optane 900p; PC MARK 8 SCORE

Intel Optane 900p and the total score in PC MARK 8. More is better (POINTS)

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in World of Warcraft

Intel Optane 900p; PC MARK 8

World of Warcraft and Intel Optane 900p. More is better (POINTS)

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in Battlefield 3

Intel Optane 900p; PC MARK 8 Battlefield 3

Intel Optane 900p and the performance in Battlefield 3. More is better (POINTS)

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in Adobe Photoshop: Light Test

Intel Optane 900p; PC MARK 8 Adobe Photoshop light

The performance of Intel Optane 900p in Adobe Photoshop light test. More is better (POINTS)

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in Adobe Photoshop: Hard Test

Intel Optane 900p; PC MARK 8 Adobe Photoshop heavy

The performance of Intel Optane 900p in Adobe Photoshop hard test. More is better (POINTS)

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in Adobe InDesign

Intel Optane 900p; Adobe InDesign

Intel Optane SSD 900p in Adobe InDesign. More is better (POINTS)

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects; SSD Intel Optane 900p

Adobe After Effects and SSD Intel Optane 900p in test. More is better (POINTS)

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in Adobe Illustrator

Intel Optane 900p SSD; PC MARK 8 Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator with SSD Intel Optane 900p 280 GB. More is better (POINTS)

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in Microsoft Word

Intel Optane 900p; PC MARK 8 Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word and the performance of SSD Intel Optane 900p. More is better (POINTS)

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in Microsoft Excel 

SSD Intel Optane 900p; PC MARK 8 Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel and the comparison with SSD Intel Optane 900p. More is better (POINTS)

Performance of Intel Optane 900p in Microsoft Power Point

SSD Intel Optane 900p; PC MARK 8 Microsoft Power Point

SSD Intel Optane 900p 280 GB in Microsoft Power Point test. More is better (POINTS)

As you can see, you are not really going to feel the speed in the real tests, unless you’re switching from a classic SATA SSD or, God forbid, from an old HDD drive. However, if you’re moving files back and forth frequently, regardless of their sizes, you will like the Intel Optane 900p.

The Intel Optane 900p SSD and Its Competitors in the Crystal Disk Mark 5.5.0.

Crystal Disk Mark is a popular benchmark for both HDD and SSD drives. In the first test of Intel Optane 900p, you can notice a note “+ Intel Driver”. I have been informed that the standard NVMe driver and Samsung NVMe driver provides better performance with Intel Optane 900p. Therefore, I have tested everything. This information seems to have been incorrect and the drive has provided the best performance with Intel driver. However, I have performed all the tests in Windows 10, the most popular operating system – this information could prove to be more relevant in other systems.

SSD Intel Optane 900p and Intel 750 Series in CDM test

SSD Intel Optane 900p; Crystal Disk MarkIntel Series 750 SSD 400GB; Crystal Disk Mark

SSD Intel Optane 900p and Intel 750 Series in CDM test. More is better (MB/s)

And what about SSD Intel Optane 900p speeds in 4k? I have run the tests several times, because I couldn’t believe the results.

Kingston KC 1000 960 GB and Samsung 850 PRO 512 GB SATA

Kingston KC1000 960 GB; Crystal Disk MarkSamsung 850 PRO 512 GB; Crystal Disk Mark

Kingston KC 1000 960 GB and Samsung 850 PRO 512 GB SATA. More is better (MB/s)

This doesn’t really need any commentary, but try to thoroughly compare the results with SSD Intel Optane 900p and flagship products of other manufacturers.

Samsung 960 EVO and PRO with 1TB size in Crystal Disk Mark 5.5.0

Samsung 960 EVO 1TB; Crystal Disk MarkSamsung 960 PRO 1TB; Crystal Disk Mark

Samsung 960 EVO and PRO with 1TB size in Crystal Disk Mark 5.5.0. More is better (MB/s)

Until recently, if you wanted an SSD drive with awesome performance, the clear choices were 960 PRO models and, with a tighter budget, EVO models from Samsung. Without much ado, Intel has released the Intel Optane 900p and swept all competition away. Pay attention to the highlighted features while comparing the results and reading reviews online. You should be most interested in the processing speeds of small 4k files. The very popular sequential speeds are generally irrelevant and in many times of no consequence whatsoever.

Samsung 960 PRO 2TB in Crystal Disk Mark test

Samsung 960 PRO 2TB

Samsung 960 PRO 2TB in Crystal Disk Mark test. More is better (MB/s)

Intel Optane 900p SSD and Its Competition in Anvil SSD PRO

Anvil PRO is one of the benchmarks most frequently used to compare the speeds and performances of SSD drives. I have briefly mentioned the queue depth performance – this test will also show you some results.

Intel Optane 900p 280GB and Intel 750 Series 400GB in Anvil PRO test

Intel SSD 750 Series; Anvil PRO Intel SSD 750 Series; Anvil PRO

Intel Optane 900p 280GB and Intel 750 Series 400GB in Anvil PRO test. Responce time – less is better (ms) | IOPS+MB/s – more is better

When comparing Intel Optane 900p to the competition, pay attention especially to the processing of small files, i.e. 4K files. As you can see, these results are completely different from the competition. The 3D XPOINT technology is a game changer and I’m looking forward to its production getting cheaper and the prices getting lower. 

Kingston KC 1000 960 GB and Samsung 850 PRO 512 GB SATA in Anvil PRO

Kingston KC1000 960GB ANVIL PROSamsung 850 PRO SATA 512 GB; Anvil SSD

Kingston KC 1000 960GB and Samsung 850 PRO 512GB SATA in Anvil PRO. Responce time – less is better (ms) | IOPS+MB/s – more is better

It’s a shame that the manufacturer of Kingston KC 1000 doesn’t have his own NVMe driver, as is the case with Intel and Samsung, but I cannot fathom the reason for this.

Samsung 960 EVO and PRO with 1TB size in Anvil PRO benchmark

Samsung 960 EVO 1TB; Anvil PRO Samsung 960 PRO 1TB; Anvil PRO

Samsung 960 EVO and PRO with 1TB size in Anvil PRO benchmark. Resp. time – less is better (ms) | IOPS+MB/s – more is better

If you’re under the impression that Intel Optane 900p doesn't bring any difference based on PC MARK 8 tests, carefully review the individual results again – even flagship models like Samsung 960 PRO 1TB and 2TB are approximately half as fast in 4k READ tests.

Samsung 960 PRO 2TB in Anvil PRO test

Samsung 960 PRO 2TB; Anvil PRO

Samsung 960 PRO 2TB in Anvil PRO test. Responce time – less is better (ms) | IOPS+MB/s – more is better

Conclusion and My First Impressions of the Intel Optane 900p SSD

I like it. Seriously, I’m very impressed with the new SSD Intel Optane 900p. Existing modern SSD drives have two weak points. First, performance drops as you fill up the drive; second, the wear resulting from writing. Both of these weaknesses are eliminated in this new SSD drive – it speaks for itself, the 8760TB of written data listed as the service life in comparison with 1200TB of written data in a competing drive with 3 times the price (even though this drive has 2TB of capacity). Of course, we have to take into consideration the fact that the 280GB SSD drive will probably have less data written to it than a 2TB SSD drive in a similar period of time, but Intel Optane 900p offers a substantially problem-free and maintenance-free solution with unparalleled speed processing small files across operation queues (queue depths). 

In today’s review, I have offered mostly the classic tests, but while my interest in Intel Optane 900p lasts, I’m in contact with several people who are thoroughly benchmarking the performance of this SSD drive. Similar to my experiments with liquid nitrogen and trying to get the most from CPUs, GPUs and RAM, these people and groups are interested in getting the most from SSD drives, and believe me – what you see in my reviews is very far from these peak performances. For example, despite the lack of official support for Windows Server 2012 and 2008, using several tricks, you can run and use Intel Optane 900p and boost its performance by more than 1/3, which is unbelievable.

Corsair Dominator Platinum 4000 MHz CL19

SSD Intel Optane 900p

SSD drives

For its groundbreaking technology and ultimate SSD drive that changes everything we know as far as service life and performance across time and space usage, I award Intel Optane 900p our highest mark, the golden Alzák.

Pros

  • Performance, performance, performance
  • Great speeds across queue depths compared to competitors
  • Size of the drive has no impact on performance
  • Fullness of the drive has no impact on performance
  • Unbelievable service life of 8760TB of written data
  • Both PCIe and U.2 variant
  • Entire drive is cooled via a passive heat sink

Cons

  • Price per GB (this is unsurprising because the technology is still very new)
Michal Mikle

Michal Mikle

My name is Michal Mikle. I'm an overclocker, and I enjoy getting the best performance from my gadgets. If there is the possibility of squeezing another drop of power from the hardware, I won't miss it. I love adrenaline and pushing the limits, of the components and myself. This activity is rich with choices, but I mainly use liquid nitrogen and compressor methods. I also like to play with water (sometimes undercooled), and I won't boast now about the quality of air cooling. I also set up a service to optimise Intel processors, delid.cz, and I try to actively participate and lecture on mining and innovations in the digital world. Some of my other interests include blockchains, cryptomania, and decentralisation.

Intel Optane 900P is, without any competition, the fastest SSD drive on the market

Intel introduced the 3D Xpoint cache memory at the start of the summer school break, and the Intel Optane Memory is just a peek into the brand new technology. Despite this, it has caused an uproar. There was a cache memory/drive with 16 or 32GB capacity that could significantly improve the speed of your system equipped with a common platter drive. Today, only a few months later, we have a full-fledged SSD drive in the form of the {Intel Optane 900P}. Intel guarantees a performance advantage compared to the rest of the market. So how much will such an SSD drive cost? And will it be really substantially faster than common SSD drives?

Intel Optane 900P

Intel Optane SSD 900P in the form of an accessory card that fits into the PCIe 3.0 x4 slot on your motherboard.

Intel 3D XPoint, New Memory Technology for SSDs

Intel is making huge investments in development. This is not surprising, since in 2017, its main competitor AMD has undoubtedly caused Intel a few concerns, especially with its AMD Ryzen CPUs. Despite this, Intel has never been in better form. The 3D XPoint memory is hailed by many as the biggest breakthrough in storage technology since 1989, when the still dominant memories of NAND type were introduced. 3D Xpoint memory chips are (significantly) faster, allow for a higher density of writing and are additionally also significantly more reliable. And what about their disadvantages? Maybe only a higher price point.

Introducing Intel Optane 900P

The parameters of Intel Optane 900P are fantastic on paper. See for yourself –sequential speeds, as well as random transfer speeds, should reach up to 2.5GB/s in reading and 2GB/s in writing. Random write and read boasts the values of 550,000/500,000 IOPS. To compare, the currently most popular SSD drive {Samsung 850 EVO} offers values several orders of magnitude lower, specifically 0.54GB/s reading and 0.52GB/s writing. And what about IOPS? Even here, EVO with its 97,000 IOPS reading and 88,000 IOPS writing cannot really compete with Intel Optane 900P.

Intel Optane 900P will be available in the less traditional format of U.2 or as a card for PCIe 3.0 x4 interface. For now, we have to be satisfied with 280 and 480 GB capacity, however, {Intel} will certainly soon add a 1 TB unit.

What About the Price? Intel Optane 900P Is Not for Everyone

Of course, Intel Optane 900P has an expected disadvantage – its price. It is notably higher than in other SSD drives. Therefore, we cannot expect this drive to be immediately included in a large amount of computer configurations. Optane 900P is suitable for the real enthusiast who likes to use the BEST components. Such as several GPUs in Crossfire or SLI configuration. Similarly, the new SSD drive from Intel will be more suitable for gamers using the 4K resolution or VR technology. However, aside from gaming usage, the drive will also have its firm place in high performance work desktops.

Intel Optane 900P, 3D XPoint

Black casing with Intel Optane SSD 900P text hides the new generation of 3D XPoint memory chips.

Intel Optane 900P vs Intel Optane Memory comparison

Basically, Intel Optane 900P has no competition on the market – therefore, we have used Intel Optane Memory for the basic comparison. This product also uses 3D Xpoint memory, although due to the significantly lower capacity, it is classified as a cache memory instead of a common {SSD drive}. The differences in read/write speeds and IOPS, however, are still substantial.

Area of comparisonIntel Optane 900PIntel Optane Memory
Capacity280 and 480GB16 and 32GB
Sequential read2500 MB/s1350MB/s
Sequential write2000MB/s290MB/s
Random read up to 550,000 IOPSup to 240,000 IOPS
Random writeup to 500,000 IOPSup to 65,000 IOPS
Power consumption14W3.5W
Max. written data8760TB182.5TB
InterfaceU.2, PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4M.2
Availabilityfrom 26.10.2017from 06.05.2017
Reference price (approx.)from 430EURfrom 46EUR

The prices were valid on 2. 11. 2017

Intel Optane 900P – The Price is Dropping

At the first glance, the price in the comparison table can be daunting, even though Intel has corrected it downwards. However, the high price point is something we have to expect in groundbreaking new technology. On the other hand, this is not an SSD drive you’ll stop using after one year. We can claim with confidence that Intel Optane 900P will be on the peak of performance for the majority of its service life.

Intel Optane 900P vs Samsung 960 Pro 

Only a few SSD drives can go toe to toe with the Intel Optane 900P. After long deliberations, we have chosen the best this South Korean hardware giant has to offer. Samsung 960 Pro is no slouch and in several parameters it’s actually better than Intel Optane 900P. However, the really important value is the amount of IOPS in random reading and writing. This is almost twice as high in Intel Optane. Samsung’s ace in the hole is the capacity of 2TB, which is a serious luxury in a SSD drive. However, you will also pay more than 1300EUR for the luxury.

Intel Optane 900PSamsung 960 Pro
Capacity280GB and 480GB512GB, 1TB and 2TB
Sequential read 2500MB/s3500MB/s
Sequential write2000MB/s2100MB/s
Random readup to 550,000 IOPSup to 330,000 IOPS
Random writeup to 500,000 IOPSup to 330,000 IOPS
Power consumption14W5.1W
Max. written data8760TB400TB
InterfaceU.2, M.2, PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4M.2
Availabilityfrom 26.10.2017
Reference price (approx.)from 440EURfrom 370EUR

The prices were valid on 2. 11. 2017

Intel Optane 900P and the first reviews

Before we take a look at Intel Optane 900P in our own review, we can briefly talk about earlier reviews from abroad. The respected server tomshardware.com notes that the 3D XPoint memory technology is only at the beginning of its journey, but the performance is already fascinating. It is so high, in fact, that you will find it hard to use the entire performance potential of the drive. Therefore, the server recommends especially the 480GB model, since the 280GB model will limit your usage to a certain degree.

A competing server anandtech.com published a substantial review (11 pages), in which it especially praises the consistent drive speed regardless of its usage, which is a weak point of drives using NAND type memory. 

Star Citizen Bonus with the Intel Optane 900P Drive

If you buy a selected Intel Optane 900P SSD drive, you’ll get Sabre Raven spaceship for Star Citizen. Read more in our Intel Optane 900P and Star Citizen contest article. Do you want more information about the game itself? Check out our Star Citizen preview (CZ).

Intel Optane 900P; Star Citizen; akce

If you buy select Intel Optane 900P SSDs, you’ll get a bonus – a spaceship for Star Citizen.

Summary of the Intel Optane 900P SSD

We expect the Intel Optane 900P to be available by Christmas, but the available stock is limited. The technologically-complex manufacturing process does not yet allow for the quick production of new drives. The Intel Optane 900P is excellent in all regards and we’ll have a review written by overclocker Michal Mikle for you soon.

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