Intel is introducing their second generation of Optane Memory products: these are low-capacity M.2 NVMe SSDs with 3D XPoint memory that are intended for use as cache devices to improve performance of systems using hard drives. The new Optane Memory M10 brings a 64GB capacity to the product line that launched a year ago with 16GB and 32GB options.

The complete Optane Memory caching solution consists of an M.2 SSD plus Intel's drivers for caching on Windows, and firmware support on recent motherboards for booting from a cached volume. Intel launched Optane Memory with its Kaby Lake generation of processors and chipsets, and this generation is intended to complement Coffee Lake systems. However, all of the new functionality works just as well on existing Kaby Lake systems as with Coffee Lake.

The major new user-visible feature for this generation of Optane Memory caching is the addition of the ability to cache a secondary data drive, whereas previously only boot drives were possible. Intel refers to this mode as "data drive acceleration", compared to the system acceleration (boot drive) that was the only mode supported by the first generation of Optane Memory. Data drive acceleration has been added solely through changes to the Optane Memory drivers for Windows, and this feature was actually quietly rolled out with version 16 of Intel's RST drivers back in February.

Also earlier this year, Intel launched the Optane SSD 800P family as the low-end alternative to the flagship Optane SSD 900P. The 800P and the new Optane Memory M10 are based on the same hardware and an updated revision of the original Optane Memory M.2 modules. The M10 and the 800P use the same controller and the same firmware. The 800P is usable as a cache device with the Optane Memory software, and the Optane Memory M10 and its predecessor are usable as plain NVMe SSDs without caching software. The 800P and the M10 differ only in branding and intended use; the drive branded as the 58GB 800P is functionally identical to the 64GB M10 and both have the exact same usable capacity of 58,977,157,120 bytes.

Everything said about the 58GB Optane SSD 800P in our review of the 800P family applies equally to the 64GB Optane Memory M10. Intel hasn't actually posted official specs for the M10, so we'll just repeat the 800P specs here:

Intel Optane SSD Specifications
Model Optane SSD 800P Optane Memory
Capacity 118 GB 58 GB
M10 (64 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 800P: $129
M10: $144
$77 $44

Rather than cover exactly the same territory as our review of the 800P, this review is specifically focused on use of the Optane Memory M10 as a cache drive in front of a mechanical hard drive. Thanks to the addition of the data drive acceleration functionality, we can use much more of our usual benchmark suite for this than we could with last year's Optane Memory review. The data drive acceleration mode also broadens the potential market for Optane Memory, to include users who want to use a NAND flash-based SSD as their primary storage device but also need a more affordable bulk storage drive. The combination of a 64GB Optane Memory M10 (at MSRP) and a 1TB 7200RPM hard drive is about the same price as a 1TB SATA SSD with 3D TLC NAND, and at higher capacities the combination of a hard drive plus Optane Memory is much cheaper than a SATA SSD.

Intel's Optane Memory system works as an inclusive cache: adding an Optane Memory cache to a system does not increase the usable storage capacity, it just improves performance. Data written to the cache will also be written to the backing device, but applications don't have to wait for the data to land on both devices.

Once enabled, there is no need or option for manual tuning of cache behavior. The operation of the cache system is almost entirely opaque to the user. After an unclean shutdown, there is a bit of diagnostic information visible as the cache state is reconstructed, but this process usually seems to only take a second or two before the OS continues to load.

Test Systems

Intel's Optane Memory caching drivers require a Kaby Lake or newer processor and chipset, but our primary consumer SSD testbed is still a Skylake-based machine. For last year's Optane Memory review, Intel delivered the 32GB module pre-installed in a Kaby Lake desktop. This time around, Intel provided a Coffee Lake system. Both of those systems have been used for tests in this review, and a few benchmarks of drives in a non-caching role have been performed on our usual SSD testbed.

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
Test Procedures
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  • CheapSushi - Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - link

    Maybe you didn't notice this but NVMe NAND M.2 drives tend to be x4, meaning 4 PCIe lanes. These are x2, meaning 2 PCIe names. These are also slightly gimped controller wise, so enterprise doesn't use them instead. There's also an AIC/HHHL version of the Optane drives, even for enterprise. And regardless, Optane still has a huge amount of benefits compared to a NAND drive. It doesn't slow down the fuller it gets unlike NAND drives, the endurance is MUCH higher than even MLC NAND, the latency is better overall, etc. The fast majority of what is being done on a PC, even with file swapping, caching is low queue depth, not high. So it just depends on your workload and what you want to accomplish. Have you ever looked at how a completely full NVMe SSD slows down? What about when the DRAM RAM buffer gets full? No issue with Optane.

    Personally if I care about having large bulk storage. I'll be using Optane for cache. If I'm going for just ONE drive for my ENTIRE system, sure, I'll go with a large NVMe NAND drive and spend the $1K or more for it..
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - link

    Your response doesn't cover the flaws discussed in the post you're responding to, save to astroturf them by defending Intel's artificial product segmentation. It's bizarre!
  • CheapSushi - Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - link

    Meant to write, "meaning 2 PCIe lanes" and it falls in line with actual real world MB/s rather than theoretical max bandwidth on two lanes.
  • hanselltc - Thursday, May 17, 2018 - link

    Maybe you should take a look at the Optane NVMe drives.
  • haukionkannel - Friday, May 18, 2018 - link

    8 Tb ssd are still too expensive. Now the picture that you are editing from your 16tb picture library, runs automatically faster, because it will be in cache part, instead of really slow storage HDD... this is excellent product!
  • frenchy_2001 - Friday, May 18, 2018 - link

    Actually, that would depend on your flow.
    To load data into the cache, you need to access it several times.
    If you process your images by loading them one by one, editing then saving, this will not help.
    Then again, why would you need help for that, as this is all sequential access and HDDs are reasonably good at it.
  • escksu - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    No it doesnt. Like any cache out there, the data has to be inside the cache before it can speed things up. The whole idea is that you will probably be using the same data again so by storing it in the cache, you get it faster.

    But, cache is not magic. You initial loading of your photo be just as slow because it reads from your slow HDD. After that, it will get from the cache so things speeds up. there are algorithms such as read ahead to predict what you may need so it reads more than you need. But don't count on it to work all the time.
  • escksu - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    Another thing is no one in the right mind will buy a single 8TB SSD and store everything inside. You need redundancy in case the SSD fails. Thats why people run RAID 5.
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, May 16, 2018 - link

    I personally don't understand the appeal of such a small cache. The speed improvements only kick in after the first use of the data and while Optane can be quite a bit faster than SSD, the 99th percentile numbers don't look great, which isn't a problem for data access but can be for program access (hiccups). Also, 64GB cache vs >100GB (which I think you meant to write instead of "less than", since <100GB does not mean anything [can be 1kb for all we know]) of data does not look like it will show great improvements to your workflow on a regular basis.
    If you are working off a 6TB HDD and need great speed, why not employ a RAID? RAID 5 with 4 2TB HDDs should be able to give you in excess of 300MB/s read/write speeds. Or RAID 10 if you want a simpler system, speed should still be over 300MB/s. Seems like a more equal solution than this 64GB cache that kicks in after one or two runs and even then is a bit uneven.
  • escksu - Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - link

    Btw, this cache is not everything. Its still very very very slow compared to RAM. If someone needs to work with 100GB photos, they ought to invest at least 128GB of RAM.

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