Ever since 2015, Intel has been grabbing attention for their cutting-edge memory technology called 3D XPoint. Pronounced as “Cross Point,” it has been touted as the latest and greatest in the field of ultra-fast nonvolatile memory. After some delays, the enterprise-oriented server edition of 3D XPoint called the Optane SSD DC P4800X was released in early 2017. The SSD 900P is the consumer-oriented version. How does it fare on the performance front? Read on to find out.
Optane SSD 900P – Main Features
Optane is the series name given by Intel to their range of 3D XPoint technology-based products. The 900P is designed to work with Desktop PCs. There are two storage capacities on offer: a smaller 280GB variant, and a larger one with 480GB space on board.
They both use a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface, and an Intel SLL3D controller. The SSDs have a half height, half-length (HHHL) form factor, which is pretty standard. The design is that of an add-in card or AIC. The smaller 280GB variant is also available in an optional 2.5” 15mm enclosure, like a SATA drive.
At the moment, there is no option for laptop compatibility, as the power ratings are quite high. Even at idle, these SSDs draw 5W, which can spike to 13-14W on write and burst modes. Sequential read and write speeds are very impressive at 2.5k and 2k MB/s.
The 3D XPoint Advantage
The Cross Point memory technology has been raising eyebrows ever since it was announced by Intel. It blurs the line between DRAM and the current crop of NAND-based SSD storage. With a 3D XPoint SSD, you get storage that is faster than NAND SSDs, and capacities that are beyond the reach of the current DRAM SSDs.
So an Optane SSD can conceivably act as an extension of the existing DRAM in a PC. The device gets a larger pool of RAM storage to play with. At the same time, it also performs the role of a high-speed storage device, at rates faster than ordinary SSDs.
Optane SSD 900P – Actual Performance
The Optane SSDs live up to the hype when it comes to actual performance. One area where this is clearly visible is the endurance front. The best rated NAND SSDs, typically boast of a TBW (terabytes written) rating of around 400-500. In the case of the Optane SSDs, this rating is no longer in terabytes, but petabytes. The 280GB SSD has a 5.11 PB or over 5000 TBW rating.
On the capacity front, there are some limitations at present, with the maximum capacity being restricted at 480GB. But the main focus of these SSDs is read and write speeds. In the standard suite of 10 benchmark tests, the Optane SSD 900P handily outperforms all other NAND-based SSDs. It has an estimated performance bump of nearly 30% compared to traditional SSDs.
The Optane SSD 900 P is aimed mainly at the enthusiast and hardcore gamer consumers. Ordinary users will not need the kind of performance it offers. And the price is another great limiting factor. The SSDs are available at rates that are reminiscent of prices five years ago. But that is understandable, for the cutting edge technology that is on offer. But it will take time for 3D XPoint to become more mainstream.