optane
intel optane

Intel is a brand and part of what it has created is Intel Optane memory which is a great memory as a result of an improved speed of a hard drive. A good look on the inside of intel optane is a 3D non-volatile Xpoint that settles all memory cells good for operation in a unique 3-dimensional mesh aiding speed and large memory span. Optane it’s being marketed primarily in a specialized M.2 card, compatible only with supported motherboards that can use Intel 7th-gen Core processors (i3, i5, and i7 chips in the 7XXX series). Optane memory uses 3D NAND fabrication techniques and various proprietary technologies to achieve super-low latency—as fast as 10 microseconds.

What Optane Isn’t

Optane memory isn’t a type of conventional random-access computer memory, or RAM. And it isn’t a technology that’s being used for conventional storage—at least not at the consumer level, and not yet. Instead, the consumer M.2 Optane modules sold in 16GB and 32GB capacities are meant to work as a cache memory bridge between RAM and storage, allowing for faster data transfer between the memory, storage, and processor. This accelerates more or less every operation for the end user, especially when paired with caching software that intelligently stores relevant data on the Optane drive for near-instant retrieval. The idea of using a small amount of super-fast flash storage to augment the performance of a primary storage drive isn’t new. In fact, Optane is basically a next-gen version of Intel’s Smart Response Technology (SRT), which could use cheap, low-capacity SSDs to cache data for slower, high-capacity conventional hard drives. The difference is that Optane uses memory manufactured and sold by Intel, in conjunction with special hardware and software components on compatible motherboards.

How Much Faster Can Optane Make Your PC?

According to Intel’s marketing material, adding an Optane M.2 memory module to a 7th-gen Core motherboard can speed up overall “performance” by 28%, with a 1400% increase in data access for an older, spinning hard drive design and “twice the responsiveness” of everyday tasks.

performance of intel optane

These claims are based on a series of benchmarks, the SYSmark 2014 SE Responsiveness subscore and the PCMark Vantage HDD Suite, so they’re fairly reliable. The actual hardware used to test those figures is hardly industry-leading: Intel used a mid-range Core i5-7500 processor, 8GB of DDR4-2400 memory, and a conventional 1TB hard drive with a speed of 7200RPM. That’s a decent system, but without the Optane add-on pretty much anything with an SSD installed will beat it for storage access and responsiveness.

Anandtech did a series of more intensive benchmarks using the same SYSmark 2014 test. They found that combining an Optane memory module with a conventional spinning hard drive could indeed increase overall system performance, in some cases beating out an SSD alone. But in each case, the performance was close enough that a simple SSD setup might be preferable to a hard drive plus Optane memory module, especially if you can afford to match the extra storage space with a 1TB or denser SSD. Performance improvements when pairing an Optane storage module with an SSD will be present, but much less dramatic.

What Are the Drawbacks?

Since Optane modules are relatively cheap performance add-ons—approximately $50 for the 16GB M.2 card and $100 for the 32GB version, at the time of writing—it might seem like a no-brainer. But keep in mind a few things. One, you’ll need the latest seventh-generation processor and a compatible motherboard to take advantage of it. Two, though Intel is advertising performance boosts for more or less any situation and application, the most dramatic improvements come from a system with an older spinning hard drive, not increasingly-popular SSD storage. The Optane system also increases power draw by a considerable margin.

What about combination systems, which use an SSD as a primary “OS” drive and a larger hard drive for more dense file storage? Sorry, no. Optane’s caching system only works with the primary OS drive, and even then, only the primary partition. You can install Optane memory in a desktop that uses both SSD and hard drive storage, but it won’t improve the speed of the secondary storage drive at all. Your money would be better spent on more RAM or a larger initial SSD if you’re building from scratch.

Who Needs Intel Optane?

Knowing the Optane memory features and conditions of service, we can roughly draw a conclusion that users purchase Optane memory mainly for large-capacity storage, faster operating speed and lower cost. Thus, the following users are suitable for purchasing Optane memory.

  1. Business users. Optane memory is simply the gospel of business users. Mass storage is essential for business users, but the cost of SSD is too high. The Optane memory can speed up the original mechanical hard drive to the effect of SSD. Considering the final effect, cost and reliability, Optane memory is the best choice.
  2. Designers and gamers. These two groups of people have a higher tendency for hard drive capacity and speed, especially in terms of capacity. But it takes too much money to buy a large-capacity SSD compared with buying HDD and Optane memory. As Optane + HDD combination can greatly improve system fluency and software loading speed, they are the advocates of Optane memory.
  3. Home users. Although home users are not so sensitive to capacity, selling prices is a very important consideration in the purchase of household products. At present, the price of SSD is high, and improving disk performance by installing SSD is too expensive. On the contrary, they can spend little to get Optane memory to improve disk performance more suitable.

What Are the Hardware Requirements?

intel hardware

First of all, you need a seventh-generation Intel Core chip. That’s any desktop processor in the Core i3, i5, and i7 family with a model number in the 7XXX format.

You’ll obviously need a compatible motherboard, but that motherboard also needs an Intel chipset that supports Optane and at least one M.2 expansion slot.  These don’t necessarily need to be Intel-branded motherboards—here’s a list of compatible boards from ASUS, Asrock, Biostar, ECS, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI, and SuperMicro. They range in size from mini-ITX all the way up to ATX, so system builders have plenty of options.

Optane memory works with any kind of RAM modules, storage drives, and graphics cards that will fit in a compatible motherboard. At the moment Optane is not sold in laptops, but they may become available at some point. At the time of writing, Optane’s software component is only compatible with Windows 10.

Budget

Intel Optane is budget-intensive which is makes it less-expensive compared to SSD. This is the best offer one can get at a lower price and sure makes a good deal because the hard drive becomes improved at the cheapest of prices with a topnotch performance.

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