In­tel Op­tane SSD 800p

In­tel’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary 3D XPoint mem­ory tech hits the main­stream. Jeremy Laird tries to look im­pressed.

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Is this the af­ford­able SSD from In­tel we’ve all been wait­ing for? Prob­a­bly not be­cause of its M.2 in­ter­face, but it’s cer­tainly af­ford­able and has I/O off the charts!

We have our hands on In­tel’s first main­stream SSD for PCs based on its 3D XPoint tech (see

LXF232), the In­tel Op­tane SSD 800p. But what’s this? Se­quen­tial reads of 1,450MB/s? Writes of just 640MB/s? AIOPs at just 250K read and 140K for writes? All of this is fall­ing well short of the pre-re­lease mar­ket­ing hype. What’s go­ing on? It’s com­pli­cated…

We found the 800p to be un­re­mark­able by con­ven­tional SSD stan­dards, and a ma­jor letdown given the hype that ac­com­pa­nied 3D XPoint. Se­quen­tial through­put is pretty much in line with In­tel’s claims, and thus miles off the fastest NAND-based SSDs.

Granted, In­tel has gone with a dual-lane PCI Ex­press in­ter­face for the 800p, which lim­its peak trans­fer per­for­mance com­pared to high-end NAND drives with quad-lane in­ter­faces, but that’s clearly not what’s hold­ing back the 800p’s se­quen­tial write per­for­mance, which clocks in at a max­i­mum of 650MB/s in bench­marks. That’s barely any faster than a SATA SSD.

The prom­ise of bet­ter things

How­ever, 4K ran­dom ac­cess met­rics hint at the 800p’s greater po­ten­tial. The 800p reg­is­ters 229MB/s for reads and 176MB/s for writes. Those fig­ures are sub­stan­tially faster than the cur­rent gold stan­dard among NAND SSDs, the Sam­sung 960 Pro, can muster. Broadly speak­ing, then, the fo­cus for this drive is on low la­tency and low queue-depth per­for­mance, rather than straight­for­ward peak through­put.

More specif­i­cally, In­tel says that the 800p is four to five times faster to re­spond at short queue depths of one and two com­pared to a NAND-based SSD. In­tel reck­ons it’s these shorter queue depths that most de­ter­mine the per­for­mance of typ­i­cal client PC work­loads. In­tel also says per­for­mance is main­tained re­gard­less of how full the drive is, and rates the 800p for 365TB of writes, which is in­cred­i­bly high.

All told, the new 800p is a bit of a mixed bag. The lim­ited ca­pac­ity means that even the larger of the two avail­able drives is mar­ginal as a boot drive. It’s also dis­ap­point­ing to see a drive based on such a sup­pos­edly rev­o­lu­tion­ary mem­ory tech­nol­ogy de­liver such medi­ocre per­for­mance. The con­se­quence is that the up­sides of this new tech­nol­ogy will have to be qual­i­fied, for now. This is, very likely, the most re­spon­sive main­stream SSD you can buy. It’s also quite pos­si­bly the most ro­bust. But it’s not the fastest all around.

The ex­tent to which this dis­ap­points prob­a­bly de­pends on how much you bought into the 3D XPoint hype. Re­al­is­ti­cally, it was never likely to com­pletely de­liver on the bom­bas­tic claims, and even less likely to do so from the get-go. Cer­tainly, it isn’t as im­me­di­ately rev­o­lu­tion­ary as we were hop­ing.

The 800p is the first main­stream Op­tane SSD big enough (just) to be used as a boot drive.

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