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Intel Optane Memory H10 with Solid State Storage Review

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Introduction

Intel’s 3D XPoint (pronounced cross point) has been one of the very few of the dozens of annual groundbreaking storage technologies to make it to retail, and the only one in recent memory to actually deliver on the hype. This technology arrived in the form of a 16GB or 32GB M.2 module called ‘Optane’ that could be used as a very high-speed cache for your existing SATA drive. While many enthusiasts argued that ‘high speed’ was a bit of a stretch when mistakenly compared to top end NAND drives that were easily clearing the 3GB/s mark on high-queue depth sequential transfers in synthetic tests, those that could see the difference between apples and oranges saw the more than order of magnitude increase Optane provides in low queue depth random I/O that more closely resembles daily real-world usage.

While a few comparatively higher cost and higher capacity models like the Intel Optane 900P have come to the market, the real benefit still comes from combining an Optane cache with a slower but much larger traditional NAND based storage drive through Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology. The problem has been the need to have a standalone storage device plus a free M.2 slot for the Optane module itself. This isn’t terribly hard to find in a traditional desktop, but mobile users of laptops and ultrabooks have been limited in options and often to a single M.2 storage device. A lower powered mobile machine can really use the performance benefits of Optane Memory Technology and today Intel’s Optane Memory H10 drive gives it to them. The Optane Memory H10 drive combines a 16GB or 32GB Optane Memory Module and up to 512GB of traditional NAND flash-based SSD into a single M.2 2280 device ready to even the lightest and most storage option limited mobile platforms.

ProClockers would like to thank Intel for sending us the new H10 drive and an ideal machine to test it in!

Intel’s Take on Optane Memory H10:
By combining the best attributes of Intel® Optane™ technology and Intel® QLC 3D NAND Technology, the Intel® Optane™ memory H10 with solid-state storage brings together two revolutionary memory and storage technologies on a single M.2 2280 form factor. Delivering innovation in storage through Intel platforms, the Intel® Optane™ memory H10 offers a personalized computing experience with a new level of performance and large storage capacity options, now available for gamers, media and content creators, everyday users, and professionals.

The versatile M.2 form factor works in everything from thin and light notebooks to traditional desktops, as well as AIOs and mini PCs. Providing system responsiveness with storage capacities, the Intel® Optane™ memory H10 accelerates what you use most, from everyday tasks to managing large media and gaming files and applications.

Features & Specifications

Less Waiting, More Creation, Gaming, and Productivity

The Intel® Optane™ memory H10 offers low latency and high performance with mixed random read/write speeds at low queue depths, and under demanding workloads. This kind of performance makes the Intel® Optane™ memory H10 an ideal OS drive—delivering fast boot and application launch, as well as smooth multitasking.

In addition, the Intel® Optane™ memory H10 includes Intel® QLC Technology with an aerial density advantage of 33% more1 bits per cell than the prior generation of Intel® 3D NAND. That means large, reliable capacities in a small footprint.

Smart Storage for Faster Access to Most Used Files and Apps

With the intelligent Intel® Rapid Storage Technology (Intel® RST) driver working behind the scenes, Intel® Optane™ memory H10 recognizes and remembers content needed for important and frequent tasks—quickly accelerates them for use—providing even faster access to your frequently used data. Furthermore, as your computing habits change over time, Intel® RST will adapt to ensure what you use most often has a responsive accelerated experience.

What’s New: Intel today revealed details about Intel® Optane™ memory H10 with solid-state storage – an innovative device that combines the superior responsiveness of Intel Optane technology with the storage capacity of Intel® Quad Level Cell (QLC) 3D NAND technology in a single space-saver M.2 form factor.

“Intel Optane memory H10 with solid-state storage features the unique combination of Intel Optane technology and Intel QLC 3D NAND – exemplifying our disruptive approach to memory and storage that unleashes the full power of Intel-connected platforms in a way no else can provide.”

–Rob Crooke, Intel senior vice president, and general manager of the Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group

Why It’s Important: Combining Intel Optane technology with Intel QLC 3D NAND technology on a single M.2 module enables Intel Optane memory expansion into thin and light notebooks and certain space-constrained desktop form factors – such as all-in-one PCs and mini PCs. The new product also offers a higher level of performance not met by traditional Triple Level Cell (TLC) 3D NAND SSDs today and eliminates the need for a secondary storage device.

How It’s Different: Intel’s leadership in computing infrastructure and design allows the company to utilize the value of the platform in its entirety (software, chipset, processor, memory, and storage) and deliver that value to the customer. The combination of high-speed acceleration and large SSD storage capacity on a single drive will benefit everyday computer users, whether they use their systems to create, game or work. Compared to a standalone TLC 3D NAND SSD system, Intel Optane memory H10 with solid-state storage enables both faster access to frequently used applications and files and better responsiveness with background activity.

8th Generation Intel® Core™ U-series mobile platforms featuring Intel Optane memory H10 with solid-state storage will be arriving through major OEMs starting this quarter. With these platforms, everyday users will be able to:

  • Launch documents up to 2 times faster while multitasking.
  • Launch games 60% faster while multitasking.
  • Open media files up to 90% faster while multitasking.
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SSDs with Intel Optane memory are the fastest compared to NAND SSDs in the majority of common client use cases. Intel-based platforms with Intel Optane memory adapt to everyday computing activities to optimize the performance for the user’s most common tasks and frequently used applications. With offerings of up to 1TB of total storage, Intel Optane memory H10 with solid-state storage will have the capacity users need for their apps and files today — and well into the future.

The Intel Optane memory H10 with solid-state storage will come in the following capacities, 16GB (Intel Optane memory) + 256GB (storage); 32GB (Intel Optane memory) + 512GB (storage); and 32GB (Intel Optane memory) + 1TB storage.

When/Where You Can Get It: In addition to the first systems being made available through OEMs (including Dell*, HP*, ASUS*, Acer* and others), it will also be available on-shelf at Best Buy* and Costco*. Check out the Intel Optane memory product page for more information.

Specifications:

A Closer Look

The first systems using Intel Optane H10 drives will be available through OEM’s including Dell, HP, ASUS, Acer and others.

Our 512GB review sample arrived as an OEM model in an HP Spectre X360 which is a 13” 2-in-1 ultra-portable laptop.

Inside the box is a travel sleeve, and a second box supported in foam blocks containing the Spectre itself.

HP’s Spectre X360 containing the Intel Optane H10 drive comes in quite the flashy box.

The 13-inch powerhouse is safely cradled inside this box.

The Spectre X360 will be our testbed for the Intel Optane H10 drive.

With a 15W Intel Core i7 CPU and Intel’s Optane drive, you get all-day battery life and instant response, even from the most demanding users.

It takes the removal of 7 screws and some special opening tools to get our first look at the Optane Memory H10 module. Combining a 32GB Optane memory module and 512GB of traditional NAND flash gets you the perfect combination of performance and space in a device like the HP Spectre X360 where you can only have a single storage device.

Compared to Intel’s SSD 760p, you can see that Intel managed to cram two devices into the same single-sided M.2 2280 footprint, enabling powerful new configurations for portable system builders.

Since this is targeted at the mobile world where space is a premium, Intel kept all models single sided to provide maximum compatibility with even the thinnest devices.

System Configuration & Software

System: HP Spectre X360 2-in-1 Laptop

CPU: Intel Core i7-8565U

RAM: 16 GB 2400 MHz Dual-Channel system memory

GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620 integrated graphics.

SSDs: Intel Optane H10 32+512GB, Intel 760p 512GB

OS: Windows 10 Professional X64

 

One thing to note here is the H10 device is an M.2 2280 M-key PCIe 3.0 x4 device physically, but electrically it is two PCIe 3.0 x2 devices that share the x4 link provided over the M.2 Slot. Your target system must support PCIe bifurcation on the M.2 slot to split to two separate PCIe x2 links. As the H10 drive is only planned to be sold to OEM’s, your system should already be configured correctly to handle this. Just keep it in mind if you plan to try to run the H10 drive in another system that you may find only the larger NAND storage device exposed to the host system since it is the primary device.

You can use Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology utility, or the dedicated Optane Memory Technology utility to configure and enable Optane. We’ll be using Intel’s RST tool as seen here to enable and disable Optane memory acceleration as needed for testing.

Once an Optane Memory volume is created, you’ll see it on the right side in blue, with each of the two independent devices, the faster Optane half of the module and the larger NAND half of the H10 module.

Our previous experience with Intel’s Optane Memory Technology has shown us that Intel’s caching algorithm is quite adept and keeping everything needed at your fingertips. If you have certain files or programs you’d like to guarantee land in the Optane cache, you can ‘pin’ them here.

Given the mobile platform target audience, every bit of power savings can mean the difference between getting through a meeting or running for a charger. You can disable PCIe link power management here for that last sliver of performance If needed.

You can change a few settings here, but most are for RAID setups under RST won’t really apply to Optane Memory.

Testing & Performance

Storage Testing

Intel’s Optane H10 module operates as two independent devices and appears in device manager as such. It is only through the magic of Intel’s Chipset based Rapid Storage Technology that the two can be married together.
Independent Testing

ATTO Disk Benchmark

“As the industry’s leading provider of high-performance storage & network connectivity products, ATTO has created a widely-accepted Disk Benchmark freeware utility to help measure storage system performance. As one of the top tools utilized in the industry, Disk Benchmark identifies performance in hard drives, solid state drives, RAID arrays as well as connections to storage. Top drive manufacturers, like Hitachi, build and test every drive using the ATTO Disk Benchmark”

  

On the left is the ‘normal’ QLC NAND half of the drive and it hits a respectable 1.43GB/s read speeds and just under 1GB/s on writes. The Optane half of the drive on the right hits about 1.34GB/s on reads and about 350MB/s on writes.

 

CrystalDiskMark 6.0

“CrystalDiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows measuring sequential and random read/write speeds.”

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CrystalDiskMark shows very similar speeds to ATTO on the high Queue Depth sequential transfers, but the differences in the underlying technology start to become apparent at the lower queue depths with the Optane half of the drive (on the right) holding a clear advantage on low queue depth reads.

 

Anvil’s Storage Utilities

Written by ExtremeSystems forum member ‘Anvil’, Anvil’s Storage Utilities is a full suite of benchmark and endurance tests for hard drives and SSD’s.

The DRAM cache on the NAND half of the drive helps support high write throughputs in this test, but we see IOPS peaking out at about 80K on reads. Latency at the highest IOPS read segment of 4K QD16 sits around 0.2ms.

On the Optane side of the drive, we see read IOPS of 340K at a latency of 0.05ms, about 5x faster. Writes are still decent but don’t quite catch up to the DRAM cache on the NAND part of the drive. If you look at the scores, the Optane end of the H10 drive just decimates the NAND side.

 

AS SSD

The AS SSD benchmark determines the performance of Solid State Drives (SSD). The tool contains six synthetic and three copy tests.

The synthetic tests determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. These tests are carried out without using the operating system cache. In Seq-test the program measures how long it takes to read a 1 GB file to write respectively. 4K test the read and write performance is determined at random 4K blocks. The 4K-64 corresponds to the test Third 4K procedure except that the read and write operations are distributed to 64 threads. This test should SSDs pose with Native Command Queuing (NCQ), differences between the IDE operation mode where NCQ is not supported, and the AHCI mode. The additional compression test can measure the power of the SSD in response to the compressibility of the data. This is especially for the controllers that use to increase the performance and life of the cell compression, important.

In the first three synthetic tests and the compression test, the size of the test file 1 GB. Finally, the access time of the SSD is calculated, wherein the access to read over the entire capacity of the SSD (Full Stroke) is determined. The write access test, however, is done with a 1 GB big test file.

AS SSD Benchmark again shows us lower sequential speeds on the NAND half, but the Optane side of the module providing significantly higher performance through lower latency and higher throughput at lower queue depths.

 

Optane Memory Mode

We will test each benchmark run twice in this section to show what, if any improvements are made after the Optane Memory algorithm has a chance to start moving data around.

 

ATTO Disk Benchmark

 

With Optane Memory enabled and running, we see about the same speeds as the Optane module itself provides on the first run. We see some improvements on the second run at the lower end of the scale as RST is able to start caching test files as soon as the first run is finished.

 

CrystalDiskMark 6.0

 

Similar to our previous testing, CDM shows roughly the same performance as the raw Optane half of the drive itself and again we see some improvement by the second test.

 

Anvil’s Storage Utilities

Anvil’s Storage Utilities also sees increases across the board after the 1st run.

 

PCMark 10

PCMark 10 is the complete benchmark for the modern office. It is the ideal test for organizations that are evaluating PCs for a workforce with a range of performance needs. The tests in this benchmark cover a wide range of activities from everyday productivity tasks to demanding work with digital media content.

PCMark 10 uses a modular approach to build relevant benchmark tests around common end-user scenarios. A Test Group is a collection of workloads that share a common theme or purpose. There are four test groups in PCMark 10, we use three of them.

Essentials: covers the common, everyday ways that people use a PC. The workloads include Web Browsing, Video Conferencing, and App Start-up time.

Productivity: measures system performance with everyday office applications. This test group includes Spreadsheets and Writing workloads.

Digital Content Creation: This test group’s workload reflects the demands of working with digital content and media. The tests include Photo Editing, Video Editing, and Rendering and Visualization.

With a broad selection of common, everyday tasks, PCMark 10 offers a great overall insight into how different drive configurations will perform. We see Optane Memory providing a notable increase in performance in daily essential tasks like web browsing and starting applications, as well as productivity tasks like document and spreadsheet editing. The second and subsequent runs are optimized just a bit more and eke out a few more points.

Let’s take a little closer look at a few sub-categories.

Here again, the faster write speeds and overall higher performance lends itself to top scores in every single sub-category, not just the ones we listed here. The extreme performance at low queue depths makes this drive just incredibly fast at workstation and day to day type tasks and even with things going on in the background, applications start up noticeably faster.

Multi-tasking

We’ll launch a complex Excel spreadsheet while a large file copy operation is going on in the background and see how the system handles multiple operations.

We see that opening out Excel test file without anything going on only takes about found and a half seconds, with Optane shaving a hair off of that as expected. What is interesting is when we set a large 18GB file copy in motion and re-run the tests. The heavy activity adds less than two seconds to Optane’s launch time but nearly triples the time it takes without Optane running.  Heavy multitaskers are really going to enjoy this aspect.

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Game Startups

We Used the in-game benchmarks set at our normal 1080p testing and measured how long from starting a benchmark to the first scene. This is the time it takes to load all of the data from disk into RAM and VRAM to run the benchmark.

Grand Theft Auto: V

“When a young street hustler, a retired bank robber, and a terrifying psychopath find themselves entangled with some of the most frightening and deranged elements of the criminal underworld, the U.S. government and the entertainment industry, they must pull off a series of dangerous heists to survive in a ruthless city in which they can trust nobody, least of all each other.”

Running 5 runs, we average the time needed to launch the benchmark after we click start. Optane Memory shaves about 1.5 seconds off the launch time, almost a 5% decrease.

 

Metro: Last Light

“It Is the Year 2034. Beneath the ruins of post-apocalyptic Moscow, in the tunnels of the Metro, the remnants of mankind are besieged by deadly threats from outside – and within. Mutants stalk the catacombs beneath the desolate surface, and hunt amidst the poisoned skies above.”

Developed by 4A Games and published by Deepsilver, Metro: Last Light uses the 4A game engine. At its highest settings, the 4A game engine is capable of bringing all but the most extreme gaming systems to their knees.

Metro: Last Light shows a slightly faster launch, about a half of a second faster with Optane Memory enabled, making up nearly a 6% decrease in launch times.

 

Ashes of Singularity: Escalation

From the people who brought you Sins of a Solar Empire comes a new massive-scale real-time strategy game. The human race is under assault by a race of machines who seek nothing short of total annihilation. Choose your side amidst the rising tensions between the Post-Human Coalition and the AI beings, the Substrate. Conquer new and exciting worlds, build unique and diverse armies, and engage in epic battles against up to a dozen other players on huge maps.

Launch times were tested in DX12 mode and CPU Focused.

Ashes of Singularity doesn’t show a huge improvement, only about a quarter of a second, but that’s still a 5% decrease launch time.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

We’ve been impressed with Intel’s Optane Memory technology from our very first experience with it nearly two years ago, and it continues to get better and better. Taking advantage of its prowess in chewing through a steady stream of small files with almost zero latency makes it ideal as a cache ahead of a much larger and cheaper storage volume comprised of NAND flash that excels most when bombarded by many concurrent strings of sequential commands. Until today, this application was almost exclusive to the realm of desktops and desktop replacements due to the need for multiple devices. Today’s launch of the Intel Optane H10 with Solid State Storage gives highly portable users the ability to enjoy both the acceleration of Optane and the large storage spaces of traditional (and affordable) NAND based storage.

While the wall of numbers in the testing section of this review might not mean much to you, I want to point out a few things. The first is not unique to this particular product, but to Optane in general. Most of the activity your drive will see is low queue depth. In English, that means that about any solid state drive is so fast these days that the normal activity of ‘read this file, read that file, wait a bit, read another file, write a file, wait’ and so on happen so fast that its very rare for more than one command to reach the drive at any given time, and are completed long before the next command comes in 99%+ of the time. Optane can handle tens to hundreds of thousands of these every second.  This normal day to day activity is exactly what it reigns supreme doing. In contrast, synthetic benchmarks queue up from 8 to 32 commands and sends them to the drive all at once and keep the flood gates open.

Traditional NAND flash is comprised of a controller and multiple channels of storage. It does best when it has multiple things to do at once since it can distribute that pile of commands across its multiple slow channels. In aggregate, you get very high throughput at high queue depths, but it doesn’t do very well with only a single command. This looks incredible on benchmarks, but those impressive speeds listed on the box really don’t translate to real-world use for nearly all users. We see this performance advantage when opening applications, working with files and just in general responsiveness of the entire system. Windows is always interacting with small files in the background, and Optane just makes the entire system “feel” more responsive and faster. That’s a bit hard to convey in benchmarks, but you can certainly tell the difference once you get your hands on a system with Optane Memory Technology enabled and running. We can really see this with the multitasking tests, those small file reads, like opening a spreadsheet, can squeeze in with minimal impact from other ongoing tasks like copying a large file in the background.

Look for Intel’s Optane H10 + Solid State Storage in products from your favorite vendors starting at around $750 soon.

Great Job Intel!

ProClockers was founded way back in 2004, with a goal to provide unbiased PC hardware and tech reviews. Whilst the first products we reviewed are long gone, we're continuing to review the latest and greatest every month.

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ProClockers was founded in 2004, and since then we have reviewed thousands of tech products, including motherboards, CPUs, graphics cards, PC cases, cooling solutions and more. Whilst many of the original products we reviewed back then have long bit the dust, we continue working hard to provide unbiased PC hardware and tech reviews.

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