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.

Intel currently offers a 16GB module for $44 or a 32GB version for $77.

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.


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10 replies on “Intel Optane Memory launches for $44 and up (speedy cache compliments your hard drive)”

  1. You can’t judge this product vs ordinary SSDs. For one thing, the memory is much faster than SSDs. Secondly, the small sizes they come in have a purpose: these are meant to act in conjunction with a large hard drive for large SSD to speed up disk operations. In other words, adding this to a computer with a slow 2TB hard drive, would make that 2TB drive behave almost as fast as an SSD, and a fraction of the cost of a large SSD.

  2. This is no more than Intel putting a toe in the water to test the temperature. The real potential for Optane memory technology comes when it develops to the stage that it starts to drive a revision to the current bus architectures that connect data storage devices to the CPU.

    1. Optane SSDs can only be used with Kaby Lake systems, it requires functionality built into the chipset (e.g. Z270, etc). I doubt there are any Kaby Lake chromebooks out there yet, the chips are still pretty pricey for that.

      1. Eve has been in development for almost 5 months now, it could be ready by the end of 2017.

    2. This is not a replacement for an SSD. This article does not properly cover the details of the product.

  3. I don’t get it (admittedly haven’t read on it other than this), Seagate has been making hybrid HDD’s for years. Almost 6 years ago I bought a traditional 7200 RPM 500GB drive but with an 8GB SSD cache so Windows and recently played games always loaded really fast. I only paid $90 for that on Black Friday 2011…

    1. An SSD cache built into a SATA drive is going to be limited to SATA speeds (600 MB/s for SATA III). The 32GB Optane can push twice that at ~1,225MB/s (verified in testing) since it’s running over NVMe which can go up to 3,938MB/s.

      1. Not the only difference. The SSD cache, just like any SSD have a limited write count (3000-10000), and as with any NAND memory, it can only be written as a whole block, so even if you only want to change one bit, in the worst case scenario you’d still have to write out 4096 bytes. Optane on the other hand have significantly more write cycles (the current models range from 30000 to 1 million), and each bit can be individually addressed. They are also faster, the current cheap cache models offer about 2-3 times the performance of an average consumer-grade SSD, but the higher end server-grade models can reach 10 times that, possibly even more in the near future, given the proper connection (not an USB3 port 🙂 ). Basically it’s non-violate RAM.

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