Intel's first Optane products hit the market almost a year ago, putting the much-awaited 3D XPoint memory in the hands of consumers. Today, Intel broadens that family with the Optane SSD 800p, pushing the Optane brand closer to the mainstream.

The new Optane SSD 800p is an M.2 NVMe SSD using Intel's 3D XPoint memory instead of flash memory. The 800p is based on the same hardware platform as last year's Optane Memory M.2 drive, which was intended primarily for caching purposes (but could also be used as a boot drive with a sufficiently small operating system). That means the 800p uses a PCIe 3 x2 link and Intel's first-generation 3D XPoint memory—but more of it, with usable capacities of 58GB and 118GB compared to just 16GB and 32GB from last year's Optane Memory. The PCB layout has been tweaked and the sticker on the drive no longer has a foil layer to act as a heatspreader, but the most significant design changes are to the drive firmware, which now supports power management including a low power idle state.

The low capacities of the Optane Memory product forced Intel to position it as a drive specifically for caching in front of a much larger hard drive, but the Optane SSD 800p has enough space to serve as primary storage. While 64GB-class drives have disappeared from current flash-based SSD product lines, there are still plenty of 128GB-class drives around. These drive capacities certainly aren't roomy, but they are sufficient to install an operating system and several applications. For users that don't install huge AAA video games or deal with large collections of videos and photos, the 118GB 800p might not even feel too confining.

For flash-based SSDs, tiny capacities should often be avoided because they have much worse performance than larger models. The relatively small 128Gbit (16GB) capacity of a single 3D XPoint die means the Optane SSD avoids the limited parallelism that small flash-based drives suffer from, and the performance of a single 3D XPoint die is high enough that not much parallelism is needed to begin with.

Intel Optane SSD Specifications
Model Optane SSD 800p Optane Memory
Capacity 118 GB 58 GB 32 GB 16 GB
Form Factor M.2 2280 B+M key M.2 2280 B+M key
Interface PCIe 3.0 x2 PCIe 3.0 x2
Protocol NVMe 1.1 NVMe 1.1
Controller Intel Intel
Memory 128Gb 20nm Intel 3D XPoint 128Gb 20nm Intel 3D XPoint
Sequential Read 1450 MB/s 1350 MB/s 900 MB/s
Sequential Write 640 MB/s 290 MB/s 145 MB/s
Random Read 250k IOPS 240k IOPS 190k IOPS
Random Write 140k IOPS 65k IOPS 35k IOPS
Read Latency 6.75 µs 7 µs 8 µs
Write Latency 18µs 18µs 30 µs
Active Power 3.75 W 3.5 W 3.5 W
Idle Power 8 mW 8 mW 1 W 1 W
Endurance 365 TB 365 TB 182.5 TB 182.5 TB
Warranty 5 years 5 years
Launch Date March 2018 April 2017
Launch MSRP $199 $129 $77 $44

The higher capacities that the Optane SSD 800p offers over the Optane Memory also allow for much higher write performance, which was the biggest weakness of Optane Memory. Still, this only brings the 800p up to performance levels slightly faster than SATA, with sequential write performance rated at 640 MB/s and 4kB random write at 140k IOPS. Read speeds are slightly faster than the 32GB Optane Memory and also look poor compared to flash-based SSDs, but Intel is specifying this performance at a queue depth of four, which is far lower than what most flash-based SSDs need to hit their peak throughput.

The addition of a low-power sleep state brings the idle power rating of the 800p down to just 8mW, compared to the 1W rating on the smaller Optane Memory modules. The endurance rating for both capacities is 200 GB/day for the five-year warranty period. Given the small capacity of the drives, this works out to 1.7 or 3.4 drive writes per day, which is considerably higher than normal for consumer SSDs.

The capacities of 58GB and 118GB look odd compared to the more usual amounts like 120GB or 128GB commonly seen for flash-based SSDs. The reason the 800p has slightly reduced capacity is that a 3D XPoint die's actual capacity really matches the nominal 128Gb, whereas NAND flash incorporates extra space above the nominal capacity to allow for error correction and wear leveling. For the Optane Memory, the difference between the power of two definition of 32GB and the traditional drive manufacturer's definition of 32GB provided sufficient space, but the 800p's metadata and error correction requires a bit more usable space be taken.

Pricing for the Intel Optane SSD 800p is similar on a $/GB basis to the Optane Memory, which is now significantly cheaper than the launch prices from last year. However, this still leaves the 800p as the most expensive consumer SSD on the market on both a capacity and per GB basis, with the 58GB model exceeding $2/GB. Even the ultra-high-end 900p is cheaper per GB than the 800p.

The Competition:

There aren't any close competitors to the Optane SSD 800p. Intel's Optane SSD 900p is a consumer-focused derivative of their enterprise Optane SSD DC P4800X and inherits its high power consumption and the large PCIe add-in card or U.2 form factors. The existing Optane Memory M.2 modules are closely related to the Optane SSD 800p, but their low capacities prevent them from being used for the same purposes.

Among flash-based SSDs, there are some current-generation 128GB-class NVMe SSDs but no 64GB-class drives. The small flash-based SSDs are all relatively low-end and far cheaper per GB than the Optane SSDs. The high-end NVMe SSDs that roughly match the 800p on price tend to have four times the capacity.

For this review, we are comparing the 800p against Intel's other Optane products and against a variety of flash-based NVMe SSDs ranging from entry-level drives to the premium Samsung 960 PRO.

Intel also sent us four of the 118GB model, so for the curious we have some benchmark results from using them in RAID. For those tests, the Optane 800p M.2 modules were installed in an ASRock Ultra Quad M.2 card and tested in our enterprise SSD test system, using Windows 10 and Intel's Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC) drivers. That enterprise test system includes all the latest firmware and OS patches for the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, so those test results reflect the overhead of those mitigations in addition to the overhead of the NVMe RAID software. The single-drive test results were all recorded on our usual consumer SSD test system that has not received any firmware or OS patches for the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.

AnandTech Enterprise SSD Test System
System Model Intel Server R2208WFTZS
CPU 2x Intel Xeon Gold 6154 (18C, 3.0GHz)
Motherboard Intel S2600WFT
Chipset Intel C624
Memory 192GB total, Micron DDR4-2666 16GB modules
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
AnandTech 2017/2018 Consumer SSD Testbed
CPU Intel Xeon E3 1240 v5
Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty E3V5 Performance Gaming/OC
Chipset Intel C232
Memory 4x 8GB G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4-2400 CL15
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 5450, 1920x1200@60Hz
Software Windows 10 x64, version 1709
Linux kernel version 4.14, fio version 3.1

Caveat: Many of our current SSD tests were not designed with tiny drives in mind. The results for the 32GB Optane Memory and the 58GB Optane SSD 800p do not represent exactly the same workload performed by the larger drives. Several of our synthetic benchmarks of sustained performance default to using a 64GB span of the drive, and in the case of the smaller drives, the test simply uses the entire drive. Likewise, the workloads represented by the ATSB Destroyer and Heavy tests don't actually fit on such small drives. The small drives still perform the same volume of reads and writes, but the block addresses in the I/O trace that are beyond the capacity of the drive are wrapped around to fit. The ATSB Destroyer and Heavy results for those two drives could be viewed as representative of the drive's performance as a cache device, but they do not include the effect of cache misses that would be present in a real tiered storage configuration.

AnandTech Storage Bench - The Destroyer
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  • boeush - Thursday, March 8, 2018 - link

    P.S. please pardon the "autocorrect"-induced typos... (in the year 2018, still wishing Anandtech would find a way to let us edit our posts...)
  • Calin - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    Unfortunately, if you already have a computer supporting only 32 GB of RAM, the 200$ for an Intel 800p is peanuts compared to what you would have to pay for a system that supports more than 128GB of RAM - both in costs of mainboard, CPU and especially RAM. I'd venture a guess of a $5,000 entry price (you might pay less for refurbished). It might very possibly be worth it, but it's still a $5k against a $200 investment
  • The_Assimilator - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    Entry-level Intel Xeon + 1U motherboard with 8x DIMM slots = ~$600
    8x 32GB modules for 256GB RAM total = ~$3,200

    So not quite $5k, but still a lot more than $200 :)
  • mkaibear - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link a new case, plus a new PSU, plus a UPS...
  • boeush - Saturday, March 10, 2018 - link

    Yes, I did mention a lot of $$$...

    But that's the point: how badly do you really need the extreme random access performance to begin with - above and beyond what a good 1 TB SSD can deliver? Will you even be able to detect the difference? Most workloads are not of such a 'pure' synthetic-like nature, and any decent self-respecting OS will anyway cache your 'hot' files in RAM automatically for you (assuming you have sufficient RAM).

    So really, to benefit from such Optane drives (at a cost 4x the equivalent-sized NAND SSD) you'd need to have a very exotic corner-case of a workload - and if you're really into such super-exotic special cases, then likely for you performance trumps cost (and you aren't going to worry so much about +/- a few $thousand here or there...)
  • jjj - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    Yeah not impressive at all. They can't reach mainstream price points with higher capacity and that leads to less than stellar perf and a very limiting capacity.
    To some extent, the conversation should also include investing more in DRAM when building a system but that's hard to quantify.
    Intel/Micron need the second gen and decent yields, would be nice if that arrives next year- just saying, it's not like they are providing much info on their plans. Gen 2 was initially scheduled for early 2017 but nobody is talking about roadmaps anymore.
  • jjj - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    Just to add something, NAND prices are coming down some and perf per $ is getting better as more folks join the higher perf party. It's not gonna be trivial to compete with NAND in consumer.
  • CheapSushi - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    Hardware "enthusiasts" have sure become jaded, cynical, grumpy assholes.
  • Reflex - Friday, March 9, 2018 - link

    No shit. I think people are confusing their anger at Intel with whether or not this is a good tech advancement. I am wondering if they even are looking at the article I saw. The vast majority of the charts showed Optane products in the lead, power consumption lower, latency lower, etc. Only a few places showed it behind, most around scenarios that are not typical.

    It is fair to point out its not worth 3x the cost. I'm building a system now, not going with Optane at this price. It is fair to point out that the capacity is not there yet. That is another part of why I'm not using it. Those are valid criticisms. They are also things that are likely to be remedied very soon.

    What is not fair is to bash it incessantly for reasons imagined in their own minds (OMG IT DOES NOT HIT THE NUMBERS IN A PAPER ABOUT THE POTENTIAL IN ITS FIRST GEN PRODUCTS!), or ignore the fact that we finally have a potentially great storage alternative to NAND which has a number of limitations we have run up against. This is a great thing.
  • Adramtech - Saturday, March 10, 2018 - link

    Agreed, Reflex. In 2 years Optane Gen 2 is likely going to look a lot better and impress. Criticizing Gen 1 tech is ridiculous.

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