Intel’s first consumer-grade 3D Xpoint memory solution is going on sale this week.
First unveiled in March, Intel Optane Memory is basically a small solid state drive using a new type of memory technology and designed to be paired with a hard drive to offer the best of both worlds: the large storage capacity of a HDD and the speedy read/write times of solid state storage.
So is Intel Optane Memory worth the money? Maybe.
As Ars Technica points out, $77 is kind of a lot to pay for 32GB of storage in 2017. And if you’re going to spend that kind of money, you might be better off just buying a 120GB or 250GB SSD.
While Intel claims its Optane Memory is faster than most traditional NAND Flash solid state drives, that’s only true if your system is only using Optane Memory. And Intel is really positioning these first drives as caching companions for hard drives. That means that sometimes your computer will benefit from Optane Memory. But sometimes you’ll still have the slow read/write times of a hard drive.
There are certainly some situations where it might make sense to use Optane Memory + a hard drive rather than just using a solid state drive. For instance, if you need more than 250GB of storage, SSD prices can get pretty high, while hard drive prices are relatively low. So if you want to store a huge library of games, high-resolution videos, or other content, then it’s probably a lot cheaper to buy a 1TB or larger hard drive and use an Optane cache drive than to get a massive SSD.
It’s also worth noting that Optane Memory does not provide a way to speed up old computers, because it only supports computers with Intel Kaby Lake Core i3 or faster processors. So you’ll need a relatively recent system (or at least a recent motherboard).
PC World also notes that a high-end Samsung 960 Pro SSD currently offers better performance than Intel Optane Memory in several different benchmarks, but the Optane system handily outperforms hard drives and some cheaper SSDs, which could make it a cost-effective way to give a PC a bit of a performance boost.
And as usual, if you want some really detailed thoughts about Intel Optane Memory, check out AnandTech’s writeup.
Possibly the most exciting thing about Intel Optane Memory is what this week’s launch portends for the future. It’s likely that Intel will eventually offer Optane storage in higher capacities, making 3D Xpoint technology a viable alternative to NAND Flash for laptop and desktop solid state drives.
At that point, rather than boosting the performance of systems with hard drives in some situations, Optane storage will offer permanently faster read/write times, longer endurance, and other improvements over existing SSDs.