The Intel Optane SSD 900P Review

Author: AkG
Date: February 25, 2018
Product Name: Optane SSD 900P 280GB AIC
Part Number: SSDPED1D280GASX
Warranty: 5 Years
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As a Solid State Drive buyer in 2018 it is hard to not take a lot for granted. Over the past decade this burgeoning industry has gone from niche products that were known for being (at best) ‘temperamental’ to mainstream darlings that are now the de rigueur choice for even entry level systems. Every inch of this amazing progress has been dotted with what trail-blazers like to call ‘challenges’ but us less forward-thinking mortals like to call problems. Intel’s new 900P series was created to solve many of today’s most glaring storage challenges but it may also create a few of its own.

The problems I’m referring to are countless in number and date back to the dawn of the SSD age. There was a lack of storage capacity, short lifespans, even performance bottlenecking, all of which started out as issues that had to be solved for the market to survive its infancy. Most of these were indeed solved, and sometimes seemingly overnight. When this happens, it creates a paradigm shift in the market with the first model offering the answer becoming the new gold standard upon which all following drives are judged.

The Intel X25 series, OCZ Vertex or even Samsung 850 Pro are all examples of these disruptive forces at play, and each one is an example of good engineers solving hard problems. The $389 to $600 (USD) Intel Optane SSD 900P series hopes to be another instant classic series that shows the rest of the industry how things should be done when it comes to performance stability and longevity.

While there are still numerous roadblocks on the path to a “perfect SSD”, the one hiccup that has proven to have a rather elusive solution is long term performance consistency. This is best described as the difference between a new solid state drive's performance and one that has been either hammered constantly for a while or simply filled to capacity. Put another way, the lack of consistency is why a drive does indeed seem to get slower the older it is and the less free space it has.

Intel, Micron, Samsung, Toshiba, and all the other stakeholders in the Open NAND Flash Interface Working Group have known for a long time now that NAND based storage -especially newer TLC or QLC NAND- is not overly fast to begin with and only gets slower with time. To help solve this issue some companies took the route of simply including a write acceleration buffer, where a portion of the NAND acts like SLC NAND. However, once this buffer is exhausted performance drops like the proverbial lead balloon.

Other companies are trying to use a different logic gate that is indeed faster than the more common Floating Gate design, but as we saw in the Toshiba OCZ TR200 (Toshiba OCZ TR200 960GB & 480GB SSD Review) review Charge Trap designs still have a way to go. Their performance does indeed suffer over time and there are other challenges they bring to the table as well.

With the 900P series, Intel has taken a different path and created an entirely new storage technology that promises to be faster, more robust, and just plain better than NAND storage. This new technology is of course 3D XPoint non-volatile storage and is considered by nearly anyone as a potential game changer or 'disruptor' of the industry.

Ever since the Intel Optane Memory and its groundbreaking 3D XPoint non-volatile storage was released several months ago enthusiasts and workstation users alike have been waiting with nearly breathless anticipation for these new technologies to trickle down into more practical models. Intel's more recent release of the rather niche and expensive DC P4800X did little more than fan the flames of desire. With many a storage enthusiast dreaming of the day when near RAM speeds in a non-volatile package would finally come.

With the release of the Intel Optane SSD 900p series it is pretty obvious that more mainstream folk will have to wait a little while longer for this to be a reality, but this is indeed the foundation upon which future solid state drives will be built.

In order to show exactly what level of performance the $389 Optane SSD 900P 280GB can offer we have included a wide variety of solid state drives – with all the major classes covered. For the entry level we have opted for a thirty cent per Gigabyte Toshiba TR200. For more mainstream both the BX300 and MX300 (also in the 27- 30 cent range) covers this class nicely, and of course for NVMe we have included results from a 1.2TB Intel 750 (which still costs seventy cents per GB). With all these data points potential buyers of the Intel Optane SSD 900P can make an informed decision on if the blazingly fast – and it is fast – Optane SSD 900P does indeed justify its asking price.

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