Whenever Intel develops a new generation of SSDs based entirely on in-house technology, the result is usually a product that turns heads. Several times, Intel has set a new standard for SSD performance, starting with its original X25-M. Their most recent shake-up of the consumer SSD market was the Intel SSD 750, the first consumer NVMe SSD. Such significant releases don't happen every year, and in the intervening years Intel's competitors always catch up and surpass Intel.

However this year's revolution from Intel will be very hard for the competition to match anytime soon. All of Intel's previous record-setting SSDs have relied on the drive's controller to stand out from the crowd. This time, Intel's advantage comes from the storage medium: its 3D XPoint memory technology, a new nonvolatile memory that offers much higher performance than flash memory.

The Intel Optane SSD 900P

The new Intel Optane SSD 900P is a premium NVMe PCIe SSD offering the highest level of performance, with a moderate capacity. The Optane SSD 900P is intended for high-end desktop systems and workstations with very disk-heavy workloads. The Optane SSD 900P isn't for everyone and won't be displacing any existing products - it exists alone in a new product tier, with prices that are more than twice what the fastest flash memory based SSDs are selling for.

Optane is Intel's brand name for products featuring 3D XPoint memory.  The Intel Optane SSD 900P is actually the third Optane product to be released, but it's the first family member to go after the high end consumer market segment. The Intel Optane Memory M.2 drives released earlier this year have capacities far too small for general-purpose storage use and instead have been marketed for use as a cache device to be paired with a mechanical hard drive. Intel's caching strategy works and can bring a hard drive's responsiveness up to the level of mainstream SSDs, but it has downsides. The Optane Memory caching requires a few extra steps to setup, and the caching software will only run on Intel platforms introduced this year: Kaby Lake or newer.

The Optane SSD DC P4800X is Intel's flagship enterprise SSD, and it is priced accordingly—putting it far out of reach of consumer budgets, and even with a price tag of over $1500 for 375GB it has been quite difficult to acquire. In the enterprise storage market, the P4800X has been highly sought after, but it isn't appropriate for all use cases and is not a threat to the many enterprise SSDs that prioritize capacity over performance and endurance.

The Optane SSD 900P will still cause some sticker shock for consumers expecting prices in line with M.2 PCIe SSDs, but it is acceptable for the kinds of machines that might be packing multiple GPUs or 10+ CPU cores. The Optane SSD 900P probably wouldn't be the only drive in such a system, but it would work well as a blazing fast primary storage device.

Intel Optane SSD 900P Specifications
Capacity 280 GB 480 GB
Controller Intel SLL3D
Memory Intel 128Gb 3D XPoint
Interface PCIe 3.0 x4
Form Factor HHHL Add-in card or
2.5" 15mm U.2
HHHL Add-in card
Sequential Read 2500 MB/s
Sequential Write 2000 MB/s
Random Read IOPS 550k
Random Write IOPS 500k
Power Consumption 8W Read
13W Write
14W Burst
5W Idle
Write Endurance 10 DWPD
Warranty 5 years
Recommended Price $389 ($1.39/GB) $599 ($1.25/GB)

The Intel Optane SSD 900P is initially launching with 280GB and 480GB capacities. Both sizes will be available as PCIe 3.0 x4 half-height half-length add-in cards, and the 280GB model is also available as a 2.5" U.2 drive. Higher capacities may be added later, but Intel isn't promising anything yet. The sequential transfer speeds are nothing special for a NVMe SSD these days—Samsung's 960 PRO can hit much higher read speeds and slightly higher write speeds. The random read and write IOPS are far higher than any consumer SSD has offered before.

Intel's specifications for power consumption show one big reason why the Optane SSD 900P is a desktop-only product. Laptops are not equipped to supply up to 14W to a SSD, and they usually aren't equipped to cool a drive that idles at 5W instead of 50mW. The level of performance offered by the Optane SSD 900P cannot currently fit within the power budget or space constraints of a M.2 card.

The five year warranty Intel offers is typical for a high-end SSD in today's market, but doesn't compare to the 10 year warranty that Samsung's flagship 850 PRO SATA SSD offers. On the other hand, the 10 drive writes per day write endurance rating is far higher than most consumer SSDs get; 0.3 DWPD is more typical.

The Intel Optane SSD 900P starts shipping worldwide today, and here is our review of the 280GB version.

Who is the Optane SSD 900P for?
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  • Lolimaster - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

    Optane seems like a Joke not only in endurance, performance, but not power consumption too. Right now it's basically a bot for random 4K, you don't really need that, get the 960EVO/PRO.
  • Lolimaster - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

    Why are you saying get the 960 PRO? It costs double a normal SSD and performs the same in real-world. Please enlighten me.
  • SunnyNW - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

    Would system start-up be any faster?
  • Lolimaster - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

    Probably yes since it has higher random 4k read and latency. Wanna check the limit, search those old ramdisk booting times. Above that we would need a boot disk of L3 cache memory class, then one made up of L2 cache memory class, edram, etc.
  • Lolimaster - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

    Till you reach L1 cache memory class or sram.
  • "Bullwinkle J Moose" - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

    That depends....
    How fast is Fast?

    I've seen people bragging on youtube that their new 90+ Watt Quadcore Intel CPU will boot Win 10 to an M.2 EVO drive in 17-20 seconds....

    But my 35 Watt dualcore Sandy bridge will boot Windows 10 Fall Crappers Edition (Sept 2017) to an 850 Pro in 5.35 seconds.....

    or, the same machine will boot Windows XP-SP2 to the same 850 Pro in 3 - 4 seconds (Varies sleightly every boot)

    So, how fast is fast?
  • jabber - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

    Good luck to the couple of dozen or so that will be able to make proper use of this and notice a difference over a 850 EVO .
  • Pork@III - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

    Do fast? Yes it is fast. Has volume? - Nope.
    I maked install of operation system and come to install FM7 on 128GB SSD and instalator say me: "not enough space". :(
  • nOOky - Saturday, October 28, 2017 - link

    The 280 gig drive is priced similarly to the Samsung 830 Pro 256 gig when it came out if you're thinking the price is outrageous...

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