Gaming on an Optane/Intel RST drive


Have any of you ever played games from an Optane drive that’s like 32GB cache and 2TB HDD for example? I know the point is that it mirrors frequently used data across to the fast SSD portion, which will make booting up speedy for sure, but I would have thought that most videogames – particularly big open world games – would be loading different data regularly, which means most of it wouldn’t be cached? Is this in line with your experience, or is it actually quite an uplift?

I’ve recently put Linux on such a laptop which means decoupling the drive into a separate 32GB boot drive and a 2TB mass storage drive, and playing games from the 2TB drive has been kind of a mess with frequent stutters as it streamed data. I can’t really imagine the Windows experience is much better unless a bulk of the game can be mirrored to the tiny SSD.

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That is because on the MS Windows side, it all shows as one drive. I believe the the Intel driver does some clever stuff in the backend. The Optane drivers do not exist in the BSD or Linux kernels. I don’t think there is any clever workaround that you can do with lvm and mdadm to trick the disk into functioning like its MS functionality.

I know that, that wasn’t really the question. The question was whether people have had a good gaming experience with it on Windows, given how tiny the cache is. If the game is large and the data being streamed is different every time then it stands to reason that the Windows drivers wouldn’t be able to help. My question is whether this is the case in practice.

I’ve seen Wendell use Enmotus tiering software with Optane to pretty good effect. it’s not a million miles away from what Intel claims to do (it’s a better solution imo).

If I was going to do some sort of read cache or tiering on linux, I’d first look into bcache: Bcache - ArchWiki

Never used it though.

Would your games fit directly on the 32gb drive? If so I’d stick them on it directly.

My experience with caching (not optane specific) games is a mixed bag, there were times when I would be playing WoW and doing repetitive things like loading the same areas back to back and loading was significantly faster but the second you break the pattern and the data you’re loading becomes more diverse the performance gain becomes negligible. Back in the day when I would play WoW for hours a day I built a PC with as much ram as I could get my hands on and stored the game data in a software ram drive and that gave me consistently faster load times but no other noticeable performance gains. I think your results storing a game on the optane drive as a stand alone disk may be similar.

Yep, that is pretty much how it works. Highly parallelized and predictable data can be easily cached and or retrieved. Once you start doing truly random stuff, you hit at least O(n) time to seek the pieces that you need.

Remember that optane is fast. As long as the data is relatively close to each other on the HDD, then it can stream as fast as it can to the optane cache. 32GiB is a lot of cache and unless you are dealling with lots of 4k textures or something, I would image that the optane+hdd combo would be an order of magnitude faster than a flash+hdd combo. Also, optane latency is much better than flash.

But yeah, I would imagine that there may be some cases where you will notice sub par performance.

My original point to answer your original question was just pointing out that you were making an apples to oranges comparison as you are not experiencing the magic that Intel delivers with their MS Windows driver. The driver is handling all of the caching and determines automagically what it needs to store on the optane cache and what it can sacrifice and read in real time.

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I guess my question is that surely the HDD is the bottleneck, not the Optane/flash speed. It doesn’t really matter how fast the 32GB is if it can’t get data from the shit-tier 5.25" laptop HDD fast enough. That’s why it relies on predictable, repetitive tasks for a performance boost – such as startup times. Putting the OS on that cache just makes sense.

I did actually experiment with installing (a singular) game on the cache, purely for the sake of testing whether the stuttering was a Linux-gaming thing or a HDD-is-slow-AF thing. The only game that would fit was OG Skyrim (the Special Edition was too big) and that didn’t really allow for a comfortable amount of space for a working OS drive. It did fix the stuttering, though.

It’s moot, the laptop is about to get a 2TB SATA SSD that may not be as fast as the Optane, but will be a lot more consistent across the 2TB of storage, particularly in Linux without tiering or caching. It also saves me an afternoon of playing around in fstab mounting my mum’s home folder across the drives lol.

I wasn’t making any comparison, I was asking what the experience is like on a platform I don’t personally have access to. I know I don’t have the drivers, that’s why I asked. I shouldn’t have mentioned Linux tbh. I’ve done it before – people always get hung up on that and ignore the actual question I’m asking.

I’ll drop it, but this has nothing to do with my response. Maybe I read your post incorrectly but the line …

Makes it sound like you were [in your mind] making a comparison of the the two drives in their natural state of the drive in the respective OSes, not that you were talking about the purely 2TiB HDD (non-cached) performance.

Either way, props on putting in the work to get to the answer that you were seeking. → I really wish that we could get the full Optane experience on BSD and GNU/Linux.

No one asked but since there’s some interest in Linux, I spent the day reinstalling Linux on mum’s laptop, but with a Samsung EVO SATA disk in place of the HDD. Swap, boot partitions and / are all mounted to the 32GB Optane and /home is mounted to the 2TB SSD. Should have taken it apart beforehand in retrospect to reveal a second m.2 slot we could have used, but you have to take the whole laptop apart to get at the drives and RAM so eh. Effort. Nevermind. The SATA SSD is plenty fast enough for what it’s going to be used for (Skyrim and storing photos lmfao).

Oh and fun fact it turns out the stutter was caused by a bug with Proton that required Glorious Eggroll to fix and not streaming from the slow 2.5" HDD at all xD Oh well, she now has considerably shorter loading screens for no reason.

I have no idea what this is but sounds like the naming from the old school open source days.

Consumer level Optane acceleration is pretty meh. 2 lanes of PCIe, routed through the chipset, ~200MB/s throughput.

It also requires Intel RST, which in my experience in multiple systems is a flaming dumpster full of fecal matter as it causes intermittent severe DPC latency spikes and audio pops.

These days I use PrimoCache and a 240GB SSD to accelerate my 8TB game drive.

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Intresting, how is PrimoCache? since im currently using a 8Tb drive for Plex Content and some Games and my old Samsung 240gb NVME that does nothing now i replaced it with a 480gb P5800x. and might be something to play with and try out.

Works great. I have mine configured with 8GB RAM as an L1 cache and the PCIe SSD as L2.

I had a 2tb SSHD (a seagate drive) in my old system. It had an 8tb SSD portion on the end. Seemed to work just fine, regardless of the size of the game. One thing I DID notice though, towards the end of me using my old PC I found that there were microstutters in recordings I posted to my YT channel. I’m not sure if the drive was failing, (it read fine in speccy) or if it was from a virus, or just being used in my ancient machine. Now that I have a bigger thrasher drive and multiple SSDs, I don’t use it at all. But I used it as a daily driver for two years continuously before having any trouble.