Are Intel Optane Laptops Worth It? Real World Testing!
To test? This out Im using an HP 15 laptop, its got an Intel, i7 8550U CPU 4GB of memory and Nvidia MX130 graphics. For storage. The primary disk and boot drive is a 1TB 5400RPM hard drive, but this is paired with a 16gb Intel, Optane module, which is what were going to be focussing on here.. So what actually is Optane, Essentially its an M.2 stick of 3D Crosspoint memory that acts as a cache layer in front of another drive, but you can also use it as a standalone disk. In my HP laptop here. The theory is that the faster Optane storage will cache frequently accessed files and applications over time, speeding up overall system performance when compared to running off of the hard drive only. Its not as fast as RAM but its non volatile. So, unlike RAM data is saved to the Optane module, even if you turn the power off., It uses a standard, M.2 slot two lanes of PCIe and requires a 7th generation Intel, CPU or higher.. These are the raw speeds of the hard drive and the Optane module stand alone so with Optane disabled and not performing any caching. Just to show you the baseline differences in performance between the two types of storage and as we can see, the reads on my 16GB Optane stick are much higher than the hard drive, though the writes arent that much improved in comparison, but for something primarily acting as A caching device youd want better reads: anyway.
The larger 32GB Optane module does have faster, read and write speeds, though so more performance is available.. With all that in mind, lets take a look at some Optane enabled benchmarks.. All tests with Optane enabled were tested after enabling Optane from the disabled state as Intel. Note that you cant flush, the Optane cache so youve instead got to go through the slow process of disabling it and enabling it again. Its quick to enable, but can take a while to disable, as presumably it has to copy the data off to the hard drive.. With a clear cache, Ive run each test three times with a reboot in between to flush the faster RAM from caching things, with the idea being that we should see improved speeds each time with Optane, as what were opening frequently starts to get cached. To start with. Ive tested Windows boot times, no Linux support with Optane at this time, unfortunately. As we can see theres quite a large improvement using Intels Optane in this test. After the first initial cache., The first boot did take slightly longer than just running off of the hard drive. Only Im not sure if that was because it was part of the Optane enabling process as a reboot is required. Going from disabled to enabled. Intel note that within three boot cycles, after enabling Optane, it should take less time to boot. The OS – and this was holding true in my testing. Next up after the operating system had fully loaded after each reboot.
I opened the Google Chrome browser, so nothing should have been in RAM as this was straight after reboot and we can see that with Optane enabled the load time got faster with each test, but its worth noting I measured this as best I could with a stopwatch. So there are minor inaccuracies due to that. However, the results do definitely show us. The trend of the Optane cache improving performance over time. Ive also tested opening a game Overwatch in this case, the first time with Optane enabled shown in lightest blue was longer than subsequent loadings, though a little ahead of just on hard drive only possibly as the Optane Cache was being written to the first time and caching, the files and again, like the other tests. Each test was performed after a full Windows. Reboot, so system RAM was flushed between runs.. Here are the results of some synthetic benchmarks, a bit less useful compared to the real world tests just discussed, but provided for completeness., Starting with Crystal Disk Mark with Optane enabled the read and write speeds do improve a little after the first pass. And here are the results from ATTO benchmark which test different sizes and also lists IOPS., Honestly, not too useful, as as soon as the first part of the test runs. The Optane module has cached the results, and with these tests it seems like the first pass is using the Optane module anyway.. Its also worth mentioning that you wont see any improvements to games in terms of frame rate Ive previously compared gaming on a hard drive and SSD in the past, and there was no notable difference in the titles I used.
The biggest gains are definitely to be had from loading the required game files into RAM from slower, disk. Ive also only tested the scenario where a hard drive acting as the boot drive is sped up. Optane is now also capable of caching for a separate data disk. So, although not what I have in my configuration, you could, in theory, have an SSD boot drive, 2TB hard drive and then an Optane module, providing caching of the hard drive honestly, probably a more useful use. Case. Results will, of course, vary on many factors. For example, if I frequently open various video files that are multiple gigabytes in size, Id quickly fill up my Optane cache, making it less efficient. If the contents have to keep changing granted, probably not the most common scenario, but worth considering such a use case would likely benefit from a larger Optane module.. The 32GB Optane modules and above also give you the option to pin files. So, basically, you select the files, folders or applications that you know you use often so that they always stay cached on the Optane storage for faster access, rather than relying on the Intel software to figure it out for you. In terms of general usage with Optane disabled. I did notice that Windows felt less responsive its hard to accurately measure, but just interacting with the start, menu felt slow and tedious. It was noticeably better with Optane enabled. Thats, not to say Optane is a silver bullet though.
. With my 16GB Optane module, the write speeds arent much faster than a standard, hard drive. So as soon as Windows, update were going and writing away to disk responsiveness definitely took a nosedive granted. That would be an issue with just a hard drive by itself too, but not something youd typically see to this degree, with an SSD. In general. For most people, it probably makes more sense to use an SSD instead of an Optane module where possible, the classic SSD boot drive and hard drive data. Disk combination works well and with an SSD youre, always getting much better, read and writes compared to a hard drive.. There are also third party applications you can install that will use an SSD as a cache for a hard drive, though that is definitely more of a power user thing compared to Optanes simplicity, especially if your laptop comes with Optane as its ready to go out of The box. So whats the price difference between a stick of Optane and an M.2 SSD. You can check up to date, pricing using the links in the description, as things will change over time, but at the time of recording the 16GB stick. Im testing in this HP laptop goes for about 30 USD.. So can we actually buy an M.2 SSD for 30? Turns out we can granted, it will run at SATA speeds and not have quite as fast read speed as the Optane module. But I think in many cases the faster write speeds of the SSD would improve overall system usability.
For just a few dollars more than a 16GB Optane module. We could instead have a 120GB M.2 SSD, not bad.. I would of really liked to have compared a similarly priced SSD, but I didnt have one on hand, but based on the read and write speeds noted for the price, its pretty safe, to say that performance would be quite a nice step up for all round performance. As theres no cache layer to deal with, although for larger data drives of 1TB and above it would be too expensive for most people to buy an SSD of that size to fit all their data, so the hard drive and Optane combo makes more sense. There honestly depends entirely on your use case as to whats best.. The technology is definitely interesting, but in terms of price to performance, I think most users who know what theyre doing will be better off running an SSD, though, as discussed there are some niche use cases for Optane, especially if youre, not a power user.. There are some well priced laptops available with Optane preinstalled and at those lower price points, its better than just having a standard hard drive by itself, but personally Id be happy with a smaller SSD only.. If the laptop also had a large hard drive installed, then sure by all means, Optane me up on that, but finding a budget laptop with two M.2 slots and a 2.5 inch drive bay may limit this to more expensive models.
. Let me know what you guys think about using Intels Optane to speed up disk access in laptops down in the comments and dont forget to subscribe for future tech.