Intel Optane Memory With 3D XPoint Review: Easy, Robust PC Acceleration

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Intel Optane Memory System Acceleration

So, what happens when you pop in an Intel Optane Memory module and enable the technology on a compatible rig? From the end user perspective, you don’t see much. There is no new drive letter to manage and really no indication that the Optane Memory is accelerating the system at all – other than the increased performance and responsiveness and a tiny icon in the system tray.

optane memory disabled  optane memory enabled
Left: BEFORE - Right:  AFTER

Here’s what happens to storage performance in a system equipped with a WD Black 1TB hard drive when Optane Memory is enabled. The hard drive’s performance on its own is on the left, and Optane Memory accelerated on the right. Notice CrystalDiskMark still reports the same capacity for the “C:” drive. But performance across the board looks more like an SSD.

hdtune optane off
Optane Memory Disabled

hdtune optane on1
Optane Memory Enabled - First Run
hdtune optane on2
Optane Memory Enabled - Second Run
hdtune optane on3
Optane Memory Enabled - Third Run

And here are some HD Tune benchmarks before and after enabling Intel Optane Memory acceleration. Notice that not only are transfer speeds increased, but access times drop significantly and are way more consistent. The behavior of the drives changes from run to run (and it's actually recognized as a 1TB Optane volume by the tool), but overall, transfer speeds and access times are improved. Access times specifically look much more consistent by the third run.

Increasing storage performance obviously has an impact on overall system performance and responsiveness as well. Here are a few examples...

boot1


search


pcm8


ashes

As you can see, boot times significantly improve with Intel Optane Memory. File search times are vastly improved as well. PCMark 8 doesn’t show a huge uplift in performance, because it also takes into account CPU and GPU performance, but the score in that benchmark is improved nonetheless. Game load times are also improved – Ashes of the Singularity in particular shows and absolutely monster improvement.

When you first launch Ashes, it loads an array of assets, and then launches a video. We timed how long it took from the time the “Play” button was clicked in the launcher window, until the video begun playing. The first launch with just the HDD active in the system took over a minute and 24 seconds. Enabling Optane Memory brought that first launch time down to a minute and 16 seconds, but subsequent launches, once the data had been cached the game load time took just a mere 7 seconds.

Now, this test is an interesting one. If you just sit there, launch the game, exit, and then launch the game again, repeatedly, even without Optane Memory installed, Windows will cache some of the data and bring load times down, even with just a hard drive in the system. But if you reboot or perform a bunch of other tasks in between game launches, the initial launch time goes back up. With Optane Memory installed, however, that quick 7 second load time was repeatable after many reboots and performing other tasks on the system. Once the data is cached, if its not bumped from the drive to make room for other, more frequency accessed data, performance increases dramatically.

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