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Intel Optane SSD 905P Review: World's Fastest SSD Gets LEDs

Editor's Choice

Conclusion

It's fast and flashy, but the Optane 905p is also expensive. Intel kicked it up a notch, but is that enough to silence the critics?

At $1,300, the 960GB Optane SSD 905P is the most expensive SSD ever designed for consumers and prosumers, but it's worth the price because it is the fastest SSD on the market. It doesn't matter if you primarily play games or render nuclear simulations for the Pentagon: this is the uncontested performance champion.

Synthetic benchmarks can be misleading if you don't know how to interpret the results. The Optane 905p loses to other drives in some specific synthetic benchmarks, but Intel designed it to increase real-world performance by focusing on performance that matters. That often consists of mixed workloads at low queue depths, and the Intel 905P wins that contest every time.

If you're an extreme performance enthusiast with an 18-core processor, 128GB of system memory, multiple video cards, and a titanium computer case with glass panels, you won't bat an eye at the asking price. The 905P has LEDs, it's fast, and you will love it.

Professional users fit into a broad group, and the effectiveness of this product really depends on the application. The 905P can force feed your high core-count processor with data so it doesn't have to sit idle waiting, but it's difficult to know if your system will benefit without a comparison between your existing drive and the 905P. If your application loads a lot of data from storage, it's safe to say that the 9-Series will decrease the time it takes to complete the assigned task. Intel uses a Houdini benchmark to show an Optane drive cutting the render time to less than half that of the 1.2TB Intel 750 SSD. That's a big improvement over the previous performance leader. Reducing a task from ten hours to four is a great accomplishment, and while it's an extreme example, it does show what is possible if you have workloads that can use Optane fully.

I don't run workloads that take several hours, but I've used the 480GB Optane SSD 900P in my general-use desktop for months. My system is noticeably faster across the board for everything that requires disk activity, and it provides the best user experience I've ever had. It doesn't matter if I'm surfing the web, moving through a few hundred tabs that I hope to read one day, or loading Command & Conquer to play against my kids.

The most noticeable performance increase comes from building Blu-ray ISOs from files with ImgBurn. For the most part, this is an application people run in the background while doing other tasks, so it isn't something you wait on. Still, a 20 to 30% reduction in the amount of time it takes to finish the process is a significant improvement. I don't think it I would spend $1,300 to save an hour a month, but the smaller 900P SSDs open the door for non-professionals to have the same user experience without breaking the bank.


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  • docswag
    What's even the point of the 960gb model if two 480gbs in RAID0 would be cheaper?
    Reply
  • docswag
    What's even the point of the 960gb model if two 480gbs in RAID0 would end up cheaper? Usually higher capacity SSDs have lower price/GB
    Reply
  • svan71
    each model is $200 more than i'm comfortable spending, at least they should be 512 and 1024. The storage numbers bs should be dealt with. I purchased a 4tb drive once formatted it's 3.6. Thats 400 gb lost simply making the drive usable.
    Reply
  • dudmont
    20957159 said:
    each model is $200 more than i'm comfortable spending, at least they should be 512 and 1024. The storage numbers bs should be dealt with. I purchased a 4tb drive once formatted it's 3.6. Thats 400 gb lost simply making the drive usable.

    Optane doesn't need overprovisioning. No more lost space.

    As to the issue of 2 in raid vs 1 big drive. It would be cheaper, but not faster(except in sequential, which doesn't hardly matter, as most users never have circumstances where sequential actually happens).
    Reply
  • Brian_R170
    I'd like to see some more data on power consumption. My instinct says that since the idle power consumption of Optane is so much higher than a NAND SSD, a typical desktop system with Optane won't be able to compete on power. However, the last paragraph on performance testing gives some hope at least for systems that aren't idle.
    Reply
  • Brian_R170
    20957058 said:
    What's even the point of the 960gb model if two 480gbs in RAID0 would end up cheaper? Usually higher capacity SSDs have lower price/GB

    There's the convenience of not having to deal with RAID. I know my time would be worth the extra $100 to never have to deal with it if I didn't have to.

    Plus, in theory, 2 drives in RAID have 3 times as many points of failure.
    Reply
  • takeshi7
    You should do the loading benchmarks in CPU reviews instead of SSD reviews. It's pretty obvious that the storage isn't the bottleneck because all of the numbers are so close regardless of whether it's the Intel 905p or just a SATA SSD. The CPU and/or platform must be the bottleneck.
    Reply
  • Gillerer
    20957159 said:
    ... The storage numbers bs should be dealt with. I purchased a 4tb drive once formatted it's 3.6. Thats 400 gb lost simply making the drive usable.

    The issue wasn't with "making the drive usable", but with the fact that a 4 TB drive has 4,000,000,000,000 bytes (usually with a few hundred thousand extra), which is industry standard and correct, since 1 tera = 10^12.

    Where it breaks down is when Windows reports file and drive sizes in base 2 while still using base 10 prefixes. A Windows "terabyte" (really tebibyte) equals 1024^4 = 1.0995*10^12.

    If you divide the 4,000,000,000,000 with 1.0995^12, you get 3.637. It *should* be labeled TiB, but Windows uses TB.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    20957159 said:
    each model is $200 more than i'm comfortable spending, at least they should be 512 and 1024. The storage numbers bs should be dealt with. I purchased a 4tb drive once formatted it's 3.6. Thats 400 gb lost simply making the drive usable.

    You don't lose 400 GB due to "formatting" - that's a marketing lie that generally hasn't been applicable since floppy disks. On floppies you could change the amount of space the disk could hold by altering the number/layout of the magnetic tracks - but people don't do that kind of thing with HDDs. SSDs are not magnetic so it is literally impossible to change the amount of flash memory available by changing the format. You can't change physical chips using software. Format in this case means the physical arrangement of data, not what filesystem is being used on the disk.
    Now, formatting a disk in Windows generally means to initialize a specific file system (FAT, NTFS) on the disk.
    When you format (add a file system) a drive with windows, you do lose a few hundred megabytes as the drive needs a space to save where the files are located. But Windows will display this as used space, not by reducing overall capacity.

    To windows, 1 GB = 2^30 Bytes = 1073741824 Bytes
    To storage marketers 1 GB is redefined to 10^9 = " 1 Billion Bytes" (There was a lawsuit to stop this because for most other industries it is illegal to redefine units of measure, but the storage companies won since "giga" can mean 10^9 in scientific notation)
    What actually ends up on the (raw/"unformatted") drive is often a little bit less than the advertised "1 Billion Bytes", and I have not yet found any other explanation other than false advertisement. I don't think this is a case of over provisioning, but it's not like there's many people out there testing various drives for their true capacites.

    Since the old definition of 1GB = 2^30 Bytes is very important for a lot of technical reasons, computer scientists invented a new word "Gibbibyte" to use instead. So now the abbreviation is 1GiB = 2^30 Bytes. Windows still uses the old abbreviation of GB (and maybe Mac/Linux?, I've seen it both ways in android) when they really mean GiB. There is a whole set of equivalents to expresses capacities in binary:
    1 Tebibyte (TiB)= 1024 GiB
    1024 Mebibyte (MiB) = 1 GiB etc.
    Basically say the old words as if you were a baby, and you have the new words. Yes, it's very dumb sounding but extremely important for engineers to be able to speak about this stuff in a non-ambiguous way.

    Anyways, the reason you have less capacity than you think you should, is because 1 GB is about 7% smaller than 1 GiB. But the gap gets worse as you move between orders of magnitude. So 1 TB is more like 9% smaller than 1 TiB.
    Check an online calculator and you'll see 4TB = 3.63798 TiB (which you'll see as 3.6 TB in Windows) = 3725 GiB

    TL;DR Hard drive storage capacities are a deliberately confusing mess, and marketers get away with their obsolete "formatting" explanation because most people don't know the difference. All the data you "lose" never existed in the first place and some judge said that's legal, because of technicalities and math. Also, OS makers aren't exactly helping the situation.
    Reply
  • staging10_purch
    this looks promising!
    Reply