We can easily identify the target audience for most products, but we're not so sure about the Intel Optane SSD 800P. Intel's Optane Memory caching product had a clear target even though the user base was limited to newer chipsets. The 900P opened Optane technology up to a wider audience without any system-specific restrictions. In previous products, Optane's high performance made up for the big price tag, but we see less of that with the Optane SSD 800P.
The Optane SSD 800P series has two issues that will prevent most users from giving it a shot. The first is capacity. For most, the 58GB model is too small for anything other than a cache SSD. Luckily, it works as an Optane Memory caching module, and it should also work with third-party caching/tiering software.
The 118GB model is the only real option for most of our readers, and even that's debatable. We stopped reviewing 128GB SSDs several years ago because enthusiasts and power users moved on to higher capacities as SSD pricing plunged. Intel's $200 price tag for the 118GB Optane 800P pits it against low-cost NVMe and premium SATA 512GB SSDs. It's a tough sell even if you have a very high-speed internet connection and a rock-solid cloud service.
The low-capacity 800P SSDs might stand a chance if their performance was more in line with the 900P. Without a custom driver, the low-capacity drives are only slightly faster than NVMe SSDs in some areas, and slower in others. We don't see a clear all-round performance advantage that compels us to buy an Optane 800P.
That may change. Currently, you can't change the Optane 800P's Windows cache buffer settings, which means performance will suffer until Intel offers a custom driver. That's not ideal; the company needs every advantage possible when it's trying to sell 118GB drives to the masses. Intel does have a driver for its Optane Memory, but it is designed to cache data for an HDD or SATA SSD. The Optane 900P also has a driver, but it uses the same one as the enterprise DC P4800X.
I think Intel misjudged the market. A duo of larger 120GB and 240GB capacities would be more realistic in 2018. It's possible to fit four memory packages onto a single-sided M.2 SSD, and there isn't a need to stick with the single-sided design at this point, either.
The 800P's saving grace is the VROC feature and special adapter cards that fit four drives in a single PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot. Asus, Asrock, and Aplicata all have good, low-cost cards that work with X99 and X299 motherboards. Aplicata makes a card with a PLX bridge that accepts four M.2 SSDs and works with mainstream chipsets like the Z170 and Z270. The PLX card downshifts to a PCIe 3.0 x8 connection, but there should be minimal performance loss with 800P SSDs. It will also avoid the CPU utilization issue we found.
Buying four 118GB Intel Optane 800Ps puts you in the $800 range before you even buy an adapter card. That's more than a 480GB Optane 900P, which is a superior product that runs right out of the box without jumping through VROC hoops (and there are plenty). Configuring RAID on a mainstream platform like the Z170 is simple, and the performance results rival the X299 platform with VROC.
The 800P works as an Optane Memory drive (800P Cache in the charts above) with Intel's caching software, which caught us by surprise. But the performance results with the 118GB Optane 800P and the Seagate BarraCuda Pro 12TB are even more exciting. We have always liked Optane Memory and feel it has excellent potential for gamers with large libraries. If Steam gift cards are the only items on your holiday list, Optane Memory and the 800P are a powerful combination. The 800P provides increased cache capacity, which addresses one of the biggest complaints about the official "Optane Memory" series.
The Intel Optane SSD 800P may not be the perfect product right out of the box, but it is a versatile SSD that works well in some nontraditional roles. You might not envision buying a 60GB or 120GB SSD in 2018 as a boot drive, but a few in RAID (or as a larger cache) fit well with the capacity and performance available.
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