Optane for the masses.
Intel and its production partner Micron have never been shy about promoting the advantages of their Optane technology. Indeed it is a potential game changer. So far we’ve seen a few products that show off just what this exciting technology is capable of. The first products were the somewhat lacklustre Optane cache drives which provided a few benefits, but they didn’t really set the world on fire. Then we saw the excellent high end 900P and its enterprise counterparts which under many workloads are simply the fastest SSDs available. Finally we have an Optane drive that the masses can sink their teeth into. The 800P that we are reviewing here is the first truly consumer oriented model and one that promises to shake up the traditional SSD market. But the obvious question is: Can it?
NAND HAS SOME COMPETITION
Intel claims that 3D XPoint memory is inherently superior to traditional NAND flash based SSDs by offering significantly better random access performance, lower latency and improved endurance. It also negates a weakness of traditional SSDs which degrade in performance as they fill with data. In terms of reliability, the 58Gb 800P is rated for a very respectable 182.5 terabytes written. The 118Gb version doubles that. These really are excellent ratings and are a real strength of the Optane 800P.
The 800P series are M.2 drives that available in 58Gb and 118Gb capacities. They plug straight into a regular M.2 slot, but only if you are using a 200 series chipset motherboard with a Kaby Lake CPU and newer only. Unlike most NVMe SSDs, the 800P only uses two PCIe 3.0 lanes which will limit the raw bandwidth of the drive. Intel claims that the 800P is designed for low latency and random performance, which doesn’t require the typical four PCIe lanes. We have the 58Gb version on hand to test with. While 58Gb is enough for a Windows install, it doesn’t leave much room for many applications, let alone a meaty game, which might even be too large for the entire drive.
GROUND BREAKING RESPONSIVENESS
When it comes to performance, the 800P performs exceptionally well in some areas, while being average in others. The strength of the 800P is its insane random read and write performance and in/out operations per second (IOPS). The random read performance in particular is many times that of a Samsung 960 pro which itself is no slouch. This kind of read performance paired with sky high IOPS makes the 800P a very responsive SSD, and perfect for a main boot drive where Windows is doing all sorts of things in the background all the time.
The sequential read and write performance is right back in the pack, though far from bad. Intel has clearly designed the 800P as a boot or application drive rather than as a storage device where its performance advantage is negated. We have had a taste of what’s to come in the form of the much more expensive 900P, and we are really excited to see what Intel could do with a future M.2 variant with a PCIe x4 connection and 1Tb+ capacity. If priced appropriately, that could be the true game changer we hope 3D Xpoint products can be.
WE WANT TO LOVE IT
We like the Optane 800P. It delivers a new level of responsiveness, but it has avoidable issues. The first issue is the capacity. The 58Gb capacity of our test sample is not enough to justify itself as a boot and application drive. Even the 118Gb version is about the minimum you’d want to use as a main drive in 2018. The second issue is the steep price which puts it well into the crosshairs of higher capacity SSDs. The market needs a 250Gb and higher 800P drive and we hope such a beast arrives with more palatable pricing.
If you’re prepared to pay to play, then the 800P is a solid product. Optane is starting to show promise, and we are excited to see what Intel comes up with next.