The Intel Optane Memory Module Review
Setup & Installation
It should come as no surprise that the Optane Memory module is not a plug and play device. This is because the motherboard, the OS, and even software all play important roles in transforming the module from a small M.2 solid state drive into a relatively high performance cache accelerator.
The first step is to ensure your motherboard is running the latest firmware revision. For most 2-series motherboards only the latest firmware will allow the motherboard to understand what the Optane Memory module is.
The next step is to install the latest Intel RST drivers. Earlier RST drivers will also not be able to properly harness the Optane Memory module and are critical to your success. At this time Intel has not updated their RST download page to version 184.108.40.2061 though by the time you are reading this review this should be corrected.
With these two pieces of software installed, the last is to install the Optane Memory application and have it ready to go once you physically install the module.
With the above steps completed, and confirmed to be installed, the next step is to actually install the Optane Memory M.2 module. This is fairly straightforward as it installs just like any other M.2 device. However, you need to insure it is installed in the right M.2 slot if your motherboard has multiple M.2 slots. Check your manual first as not every motherboard is configured to use Optane in more than one specific M.2 port. For example, while the ASUS B250-Plus comes with two M.2 slots, only M2_2 (i.e. the bottom-most M.2 slot) supports Optane Memory modules.
Once that is completed power the system back up and immediately enter the BIOS. In all likelihood, the BIOS will recognize the Optane Memory module and configure it properly but you may have to do this manually. If it is not configured properly your system may actually crash and issue a lovely BSOD during OS initialization – so double and triple check.
On ASUS-based systems you simply have to navigate to the Advanced BIOS mode, then the Advanced page, and finally to the SATA and RST configuration page. The actual name of this section may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and model to model, but the idea is the same: get to the SATA config section of the BIOS. Here you will find the SATA Mode Selection and M.2 PCIE Storage RAID support.
The SATA Mode Selection dropdown box needs to be set to Intel RST with Intel Optane System and Acceleration and not AHCI. If it is set to AHCI change it.
The M.2 PCIe Storage and RAID Support dropdown needs to be set to RST Controlled.
The other option – not RST controlled – tells the motherboard that you wish to use the Optane Memory module as a standalone device and will be seen by the OS as a secondary drive. Due to its lack of capacity and rather high asking price per Gigabyte, this is not recommended.
With this done save the BIOS and exit. When the OS finishes loading simply open the previously installed Optane Memory application, navigate to the Setup section on the right and press Enable. After a few moments of initialization this process will be complete and you will be prompted to reboot the system. When complete the Optane Memory cache will start its work.
In the next few days it will learn your habits and insure that what needs to be on the Optane Memory cache will be. You will however notice a nice bit of extra system responsiveness almost right away. If you wish to speed up this learning process can you open and then close your most used applications a few times to point the Optane Memory caching algorithms in the right direction.
- A Closer Look at the Optane Memory Module
- Setup and Installation
- Test Systems and Testing Methodology
- Read Bandwidth / Write Performance
- ATTO Disk Benchmark
- Crystal DiskMark / PCMark 7
- AS-SSD / Anvil Storage Utilities Pro
- Windows 10 / Adobe Photoshop CS6 Load Time
- Firefox Load / Real World Data Transfers
- Partial and Full Drive Performance
- Conclusion: Teaching a New Dog Old Tricks