Intel Optane M.2 2280 32GB PCIe NVMe 3.0 x2 Memory Module Review: Page 5 of 6
Posted by Damon Bailey on Monday, November 6, 2017 - 8:00am
We’ll be testing 5 combinations here, Each drive or combination is used as the sole boot device in each set of testing:
5400 RPM Hard drive – Samsung Spinpoint 2TB SATA drive.
Hard drive + Optane, - The above plus a 32GB Optane Module
SATA SSD + Optane,
and finally, a high-performance NVMe SSD.
Each drive or combination is used as the sole boot device in each set of testing. When the Optane module was in use, all testing was performed several times over to ‘teach’ the caching engine what to boost. We typically saw very little change the first time we ran a benchmark with Optane enabled, but the 2nd time was noticeably faster, and by the 3rd or 4th time, the algorithm had pretty well locked in and achieved maximum performance for that given test.
We’ll first check out the drive like any other SSD, just to get a baseline comparison.
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"
ATTO shows rater performance up to the 24MB transfer size, and then read rates fall off sharply.
“CrystalDiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows measuring sequential and random read/write speeds."
CDM shows sequential performance just above the rated 1350MB/s reads and 280MB/s writes, but the really interesting part is the very strong 4K scores, hitting upwards of 300MB/s reads and 140MB/s writes is a queue depth of 1 is quite something.
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.
Anvil’s show the Optane module performing quite close to its rated throughput and IOPS numbers.
RAID - Two Drive RAID-0
While Optane caching can’t be used with RAID’ed modules, we CAN still put them in RAID for bulk storage, all 64GB of it here….
While we see sequential throughput scaling well, our low depth scores don’t really gain much and actually lose a bit here and there.
Crystal Disk Mark shows a similar pattern, almost perfect sequential scaling, but similar 4K scoring.
And lastly, ATTO also shows solid sequential scaling.
Next, we’ll take a look at our other drives used in this testing, just as a baseline again.
HDD - Samsung Spinpoint ST2000LM003 – 2.5”, 2000GB, 5400 RPM, 32MB cache, SATA 6gb/s
SSD – Samsung 850 EVO – 2.5” , 256GB, SATA 6Gbps
NVMe – Samsung 960 Pro – 2280 M.2, 2TB, PCIe 3.0 x4 – Connected to CPU based PCIe lanes
While high queue depth and high thread count sequential reads are quite impressive from flash memory such as our NVMe drive, the real perceived experience in day to day tasks comes from the ‘4K’ test with a single queue and single thread. In this category, you can see our mechanical drive is an order of magnitude slower than any other drive, and our very fast NVMe drive is only slightly faster than an ordinary SATA drive. You can also see here that the Optane module itself is more than 5 times as fast as any other drive, and Once we enable Optane caching, things get interesting.
With Optane enabled, our 4K performance rockets to a performance level several hundred times faster on the mechanical drive than without it, and even manages more than a 4x increase to our SATA Drive. Optane can’t be used to cache in front of another PCIe connected drive, but in all other combinations, it obliterates our top performing NVMe drive here. Optane also brings the overall performance up across the board.
Writes also get a bit interesting. The Optane drive is around half as fast on 4K as our NVMe test drive, and considerable slower in sequential writes. When coupled with the mechanical drive, it again significant elevates performance, sucking up all of your written data at close to 300MB/s and then drip feeding it to the mechanical drive. With the Optane in between your CPU and your drive, it actually hurts sequential write performance when coupled with a modern SATA SSD, limiting throughput to its own ~300MB/s ceiling. Realistically, this won’t be much of an issue unless you are working with large files that get written sequentially to disk where the NVMe drive holds the crown with no contest.
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 the 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. You can see overall that the NVMe drive is the fastest, the SATA SSD in the middle of the pack, and the mechanical HDD last. Once you add the Optane drive into the mix, things again get interesting. Even the Mechanical drive, with the help of Optane, is within fighting distance of the top performance level. The SATA SSD, when combined with Optane, is nearly within Margin of error of the NVMe drive as well. For something that appears to just be a little 32GB cache module, Optane makes a world of difference in the scoring here, easily leveling up your drive to the next performance tier.
Let’s take a little closer look at a few sub-categories.
We picked 4 sub-categories to look a little closer at, App start-up, Spreadsheets, Photo Editing and Video Editing. The overall trend is still here between the 3 main drives. We see the HDD + Optane combo pretty well match up to a SATA SSD, with the exception of app startup times which actually ends up being faster with the Optane module. Optane doesn’t help the SATA SSD much with editing, and actually, hurts a bit on spreadsheets, but App Startups are the fastest out of everything. You can also get a sense by now that while NVMe SSD’s look amazing on paper due to the incredible sequential ratings, in the day to day tasks, they don’t lead the pack by quite as much.
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.”
We’ve almost forgotten how painful it is to run a PC these days on a low RPM Mechanical drive alone. A whopping 66 seconds to launch the benchmark just hurts, but the good news is, you can drop that to an SSD level 26 seconds with Optane. Once again we see a SATA SSD + Optane turn in the fastest performance, half a second faster than an NVMe SSD.
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 also shows the mechanical drive alone turning in a painful launch time of more than twice as slow as an SSD, and Optane leveling the playing field.
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 Is the 3rd test to show Optane doing great things for game launch times, with the SATA SSD + Optane cleaning house, even over the drastically more expensive NVMe SSD.
Windows Boot Time – Cold Boot
Measured from the first press of the power button to the first glimpse of the desktop. We are running this on an X299 system which is slower than many mainstream desktop platforms such as Z370 based systems. System POST makes up around 24-25 seconds of this time, while actually loading windows is the rest.
We see now why almost everyone has moved to a solid-state boot disk, doing it cold from a mechanical drive leaves you time to go make a drink. 96 seconds is already painful, but even after you get to the desktop, it’s still almost as long or longer again before the computer is actually usable. Windows booting responds quite well to Optane with boot times dropping nearly 2/3rds with a mechanical drive, and a still impressive amount of time using a SATA SSD and Optane. We see again that a SATA SSD + Optane ends up being a little bit better than a bare NVMe drive alone which is quite impressive given the radical difference in price.