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Intel Optane Memory (DETAILED TEST)

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Don’t have the patience to put up with a classic platter hard drive? Intel Optane Memory boosts your HDD so much that SSD won’t even cross your mind anymore. The 3D Xpoint Intelligent Cache Memory is finally here and we have finished testing it. How fast is it? What are the pros and cons? Find out in our detailed review.

Test Intel Optane Memory – content

Intel Optane Memory is more RAM than SSD

Let’s clarify one thing – this revolutionary cache memory isn’t meant to replace classic SSD drives. Rather, it presents an alternative to and increases the capacity of operating memory. Therefore, the phrase “Intel Optane SSD” is incorrect. The difference mainly lies in the fact that RAM is volatile, which means that it loses all stored data when the computer is restarted or turned off. Intel Optane Memory differs from RAM, because it is non-volatile – it therefore retains all the data even after the loss of electric power. This innovative cache memory is useful especially when used in tandem with a classic HDD. It can act as a very powerful speed booster and can boost a typical platter hard drive to the level of performance usually associated with a classic SSD.

Parameters, technical specification and the price of 16 GB and 32 GB modules of Intel Optane Memory

Considering the parameters and technical specifications of Intel Optane Memory, the price is pretty reasonable. Especially when you take into account the fact that it can, in combination with typical HDD, provide an alternative to SSD drives. See for yourself.

Intel Optane MemoryIntel Optane Memory 16GBIntel Optane Memory 32GB
Random read190,000 IOPS240,000 IOPS
Random Write35,000 IOPS65,000 IOPS
Sequential read900 MB/s1,350 MB/s
Sequential write145 MB/s290 MB/s
Read latency7 us9 us
Write latency18 us30 us
Write endurance (TBW)182.5 TB182.5 TB
Warranty 5 years5 years
InterfacePCIe NVMe 3.0 x2PCIe NVMe 3.0 x2
Price£40.90£69.90

Introducing Intel Optane Memory

Intel Optane Memory M.2 3D XPoint HDD cache acceleratorIntel Optane Memory 16GB M.2 ASUS MAXIMUS IX APEX

Intel Optane Memory module uses M.2 2280-S1-B-M format. It has a classic and most commonly used 80 mm size (drive length). It is compatible with 7th gen Intel Core Kaby Lake CPUs and motherboards with Intel 200 series chipset only. It also directly supports the new Intel Basin Falls platform, which introduces Intel Skylake-X CPUs with up to 12 cores and Intel Kaby Lake-X CPUs with 4 cores. It supports Windows 10 64 bit operating system only, which has to be installed on a SATA drive (HDD, SSHD, SSD).

What configuration have we used to test Intel Optane Memory?

Intel Optane Memory tests based on real-life scenarios

Futuremark’s PCMARK 8 benchmark program has been around for some time, but it is still the most recent version of the test suite and includes relevant tests of storage devices based on real-life tasks the device would be used for. Let’s see what is the impact of Intel Optane Memory on computer startup, how it works in a gaming environment, how does it help when you start feeling creative (Adobe), and of course, we won’t forget about office work either (Office).

Computer startup (boot time) with Intel Optane Memory

BOOT TIME HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

 Seconds (less is better)

If your OS is still installed on a hard drive, Intel Optane Memory will get you out of a tight spot. Of course, why use a HDD for the OS installation? Surely SSD drives, used primarily for operating system installation, have been around for years now. I have tested this scenario for the sake of completion.

Intel Optane Memory and World of Warcraft game in speed tests

World of Warcraft HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

 Seconds (less is better)

This test measures the time it takes for the player to get into the game from the moment he or she starts the game. With Intel Optane Memory, a classic HDD was 46.26% faster than without the new cache memory that utilizes 3D XPoint technology.

Intel Optane Memory in Battlefield 3 game and the increase in HDD speed

Battlefield 3 HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

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Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, After Effects and Illustrator with Intel Optane Memory

Adobe Photoshop Light HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

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PCMARK 8 uses two levels of tests for Adobe Photoshop. One represents a lighter workload and reads and writes less data, the other represents a heavier workload and handles more data. Using Intel Optane Memory, working with hard drive (HDD) was 32.96% faster than without the M.2 cache module. It’s no surprise that an SSD drive with NVMe protocol was even faster. What is surprising, however, are the results achieved by a classic SATA SSD drive and Intel Optane Memory combination. These results were slower and general data write speed was worse as well.

Adobe Photoshop Heavy HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

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As far as file handling is concerned, the difference in speed between a standalone hard drive and a hard drive paired with Intel Optane Memory is 24.51%.

Adobe InDesign HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

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When using Adobe InDesign, pairing a classic platter hard drive with Intel Optane Memory leads to far more interesting results – the speed is increased by 56.82%, which is a very solid result with only a few percent difference compared to using a classic SSD drive.

Adobe After Effects HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

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The speed increase when using Adobe After Effects together with Intel Optane Memory is 49.54%.

Adobe Ilustrator Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

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There is also a noticeable increase in speed when using Adobe Illustrator – adding Intel Optane Memory leads to speed increase of approximately 51.79%.

Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the speed increase of HDD with Intel Optane Memory

Microsoft Office Word Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

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For typical office work, Intel Optane Memory speeds up writing and reading data from the hard drive by 33.64%. 

Microsoft Office Excel Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

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When using Microsoft Excel with Intel Optane Memory, however, files on the HDD are handled faster by more than a half, exactly by 54.23%. Awesome.

Microsoft Office PowerPoint Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

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Similarly good results can be achieved with Microsoft Power Point if we pair a classic hard drive with Intel Optane Memory cache. A 54.19% improvement surely helps save time and increase work efficiency.

Intel Optane Memory in combination with HDD and SSD drives – Benchmarks

In the second part of this review, let’s look at some standard performance tests that are included in the Anvil’s Storage Utilities benchmarking application.

Anvil's Storage Utilities and HDD 2TB Seagate Barracuda

Anvils Storage Utilities Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

The results for a classic standalone HDD without Intel Optane Memory are rather poor. 4K, the small files for which speed is most important, get really low speeds. Let’s see what happens when we add an Intel Optane Memory module.

Anvil's Storage Utilities and 2TB HDD Seagate Barracuda + Intel Optane Memory 16GB

Anvils Storage Utilities HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

Quite a surprise, right? The speeds, including response time, are very different. After adding Intel Optane Memory, the entire system is fast and responsive and doesn’t test your patience nearly as much as it does when you only use a classic hard drive.

Anvil's Storage Utilities and Micron M1100

Anvils Storage Utilities HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

A classic SATA SSD drive, in this case Micron M1100, which is used primarily in notebooks, doesn’t achieve the data read performance of a HDD paired with Intel Optane Memory, but it does write data faster. Let’s see what happens when we pair this SATA SSD drive with the new innovative cache memory with 3D XPoint technology.

Anvil's Storage Utilities and Micron M1100 + Intel Optane Memory 16GB

Anvils Storage Utilities HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

As we can see again, SATA SSD drive with Intel Optane Memory is a lightning-fast drive with a great response time in read tasks, partially at the expense of write speed. Lastly, let’s compare Samsung 960 EVO 256GB NVMe drive, which is a very fast M.2 SSD drive.

Anvil's Storage Utilities and Samsung 960 EVO 256GB

Anvils Storage Utilities HDD Intel Optane Memory SSD NVMe

M.2 socket SSD drives with NVMe protocol are in a league of their own. Higher capacity drives of this type are of course more expensive – a 2TB drive costs almost 1200 £, while a 2TB HDD drive with 32GB Intel Optane Memory costs around 72 £ (42 £ with 16GB option). Of course, these alternatives are not the same performance-wise, but Intel Optane Memory presents a very solid and inexpensive way to increase the speed of your hard drive.

Conclusion – Intel Optane Memory looks great, but...?

Intel Optane Memory is a revolution. It can bring back the glory days of HDD drives before first SSD drives became available. The “smart caching” technology works very well, because it seems that even the smaller option, Intel Optane Memory 16GB, has no capacity issues. The Intel RST driver is able to asses very effectively which tasks need action and which have a lower priority.

A question remains who would benefit from using Intel Optane Memory especially when we consider its compatibility is limited to the latest hardware, including motherboards with the Intel 200 chipset and 7th gen Intel Core Kaby Lake CPUs. It is also worth mentioning that the cache memory supports Windows 10 system only. Personally, I am an enthusiast and overclocker, and I always use the newest technology. I do not have any complaints about the newest Windows OS, but some users do, of course. The smart cache memory with 3D XPoint technology is a good reason to upgrade, especially if you still use HDD hard drives. I have stopped using HDD drives years ago, mostly because of the noise they generate, but if I ever need to use HDD drive again, pairing it with Intel Optane Memory would be a clear choice. If your computer uses both a classic SSD drive and a classic HDD drive, you should consider buying this awesome speed booster for your hard drive. I would recommend that everyone at least checks this innovative memory out. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Intel Optane Memory Test – Assessment

Assessment95 % Alza.co.uk

Main parameters

Performance

100 %

Price

80 %

Smart caching

100 %

Positives

  • Noticeable speed increase in computers using HDD drives
  • Excellent write (mainly) and read speeds
  • Great response time of the entire system (low latency)
  • Smart caching (max. 32GB works without problems)

Negative

  • Only limited to the newest platform

Michal Mikle
My name is Michal Mikle and I am an overclocker and a performance enthusiast. You will find me everywhere where there is a potential to squeeze every last drop of performance out of the hardware. I love the adrenaline of overclocking and stretching the limits of both the hardware and myself. For this God-pleasing activity, I use mostly liquid nitrogen and compression methods, but I also love to play around with water (sometimes supercooled) and I do not shy away from a high quality air cooling system.

Alza Awards

Intel Optane Memory is an innovative new product that makes working with hard drives much faster, allows for very fast reading and greatly increases the response time of the entire system. Therefore, we award it with our highest mark – our golden Alzák!

Intel Optane Memory 32GB M.2 80MM
SSD Disk - M.2 interface, PCIe NVMe 3.0 x2, read speed up to 1350MB/s, write speed up to 290MB/s, 22x80mm, compatible with B250/H270/Z270 chipsets + Kaby Lake 7th gen CPUs

Do you want to squeeze maximum power from your computer into only one disk...

£76.90
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In stock 5 pcs
Order Code: NR111t7e
Intel Optane Memory 16GB M.2 80MM
SSD Disk - M.2 interface, PCIe NVMe 3.0 x2, read speed up to 900MB/s, write speed up to 145MB/s, 22x80mm, compatible with B250/H270/Z270 chipsets + Kaby Lake 7th gen CPU

Do you want to squeeze maximum power from your computer, but still have only one hard disk drive? The...

£41.90
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In stock > 5 pcs
Order Code: NR111t7b
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