While it’s a fact that Solid State Drives can outperform Hard Disk Drives with faster read and write speeds, higher-capacity SSD models are still expensive for budget conscious buyers. Intel has cracked down the solution for accelerating the speed of an HDD with the new Optane memory technology. Let's find out if the Intel Optane 32GB NVMe SSD can deliver on its promise.
Specifications and Features
Back in 2015, Intel had announced the Optane memory brand for storage products that are based on the Intel 3D XPoint, a non-volatile memory technology that was co-developed by Intel and Micron Technology. The Intel Optane Memory 32GB M.2 NVMe is designed to accelerate the performance of a hard drive. However, the Optane memory only works if your PC features an Intel 7thgeneration processor and if your motherboard supports it. This can be disappointing for all AMD users or even to those who have a 6thgeneration Skylake processor.
The Intel 32GB Optane memory, basically boosts the read and write speeds of your hard drives and also increase the system responsiveness for shorter Windows boot times, more responsive browsing and faster application launch times. This means you can pair a 2TB or above hard drive with the Intel Optane to maximize its performance. Intel claims that the 32GB Optane memory has a sequential read speed of 1350 MB/s and sequential write speed of 290 MB/s and the drive can operate up to 70 degrees.
Setting up the Optane may take a bit of work. After inserting the drive into the M.2 slot, the user will need to make some changes on the Windows 10 bootable USB drive before installation. Basically, Intel says that the Windows 10 image that currently ships doesn’t feature support for Intel Optane. Intel has made a guide on how to make the changes on your bootable drive by modifying the install.wim file with the help of the Deployment Image Servicing and Management Tool from CMD. The procedure will take some time, so you will need to be patient. Once the bootable ISO is made, we proceeded to install Windows 10 Pro on a testbed that featured a Seagate IronWolf 6TB NAS drive.
Before we proceed further, let me make one thing clear. You cannot install Windows directly on the Intel Optane drive. Our testbed included the ASUS ROG Strix X299-E Gaming motherboard (which comes with Optane memory support), 2x 8GB Corsair Vengence DDR4 RAM, and the new Intel 8-core i7-7820X processor with an ASUS Strix GTX 1080 Ti GPU.
After the installation of Windows, you will need to install the Intel Optane memory software from the downloadcenter.intel.com. Once you have installed the software and restarted your system, the application will then present an option to enable the Intel Optane memory. This option further proceeds to restart the system once again for entering a command page where the Intel Optane is paired with the HDD and gets optimized for the system.
While we installed numerous memory-taxing applications that can generally slow down a hard drive (Chrome, Photoshop, Games, Steam etc.), the responsiveness is surprisingly fast with no signs of the drive getting stuck. Windows boot-ups were also quick enough, but we suspect that it could be because of the fresh Windows installation. So, the best way to check out the performance of the HDD is to try its read and write speeds. To check out the effectiveness of the Optane memory, we tested the IronWolf HDD (with and without pairing the Intel memory) using the CrystalDiskMark at 32GB data transfers. Check out the results below.
At first, we simply couldn’t believe the benchmark numbers that we got when the hard drive is paired with the Intel Optane memory. The read speeds are blazing fast in such a way that it's almost thrice faster than a normal SATA SSD. From our CrystalDiskMark Q32T1 tests with 32GB transfers, we got a read speed of 1410 MB/s as opposed to the 235MB/s read speed when the hard disk works solo. The write speed that we got with the Optane is 296MB/s, which is quite a considerable improvement over the 228MB/s write speed when the HDD works alone.
That being said, while the Optane is designed to boost a hard drive, I was curious to see of the Optane can increase the performance of an SATA SSD. So, we paired the Intel Optane with our Kingston HyperX 240GB SSD and below are the results.
With the introduction of Intel’s new Optane memory modules, SATA hard drives can no longer be seen as an outdated means of storage space. The improved boost in read and write speeds are a welcome addition for any budget conscious buyers who wants to achieve the maximum potential at a reasonable rate.
A combination of a high-capacity hard drive (like the 6TB HDD that we used on our testbed) and the Intel 32GB Optane memory is a storage configuration that cannot go wrong, and we think it’s better than setting up a system with a 128GB SSD for Windows installation. The only downfall is that the Optane works with the 7th gen Intel processor and is not easy to setup.
The 32GB Intel Optane NVMe M.2 memory costs about AED 300