Intel Optane Memory | What It is and What it is for?

Intel Optane Memory combines the speed of a RAM memory with the non-volatility of an HDD or SSD. Today we will describe about Intel Optane Memory. 

Intel Optane Memory | What It is and What it is for?
Intel Optane Memory | What It is and What it is for?

However, there is still a percentage of you who probably have not studied the topic in depth, due to lack of time or perhaps not having found a concise and easy-to-understand explanation.

Here is the purpose of this second content. Answer the questions asked in the survey in a comprehensible way for everyone and continue this path that will end in the coming weeks with a third content in which we will show you the differences between configurations with and without Intel Optane Memory at work in real use . But enough of the chatter and let’s start answering the questions.

What is Intel Optane Memory?

True, this question was not in the survey but was in the title of the same and therefore I would start right here to better introduce the topic.

First of all, we specify that Intel Optane technology (based on 3D Xpoint memory technology in combination with very fast memory and storage controllers, Intel Interconnect IP and Intel software) is used for both SSDs (we find on the market Intel Optane SSD 800p, 900p and 905p) and for Intel Optane Memory , which is a different product, and is the protagonist of this study.

As you can easily understand from the name, with Intel Optane Memory we speak of a memory . However, this is not RAM memory, nor hard disk. It could be confused for a common SSD, but the purpose is fundamentally different.

Intel Optane Memory is a product for PC acceleration: an m.2 module (this is the name of the format used) which is positioned between the CPU and a SATA disk (HDD or SSD) and which manages the most used data and programs by the user by keeping them closer to the processor.

What is Intel Optane Memory for?

Here we are at the first real question of the survey. The correct answer brings us back to what was said above. Intel Optane Memory combines the speed of a RAM memory with the non-volatility of an HDD or SSD.

These features allow you to use an Intel Optane Memory module as a sort of bridge (in jargon it is called cache memory) between the CPU and a mechanical hard disk or a traditional SATA SSD to make sure that access to some of the data contained on them is much faster.

The data to be speeded up is automatically chosen by the intelligent Optane Memory software on the basis of the most frequently used ones. Therefore, the PC will be faster overall, especially in daily operations : from power on, to opening programs or large files.

What is the difference between Intel Optane Memory and an SSD?

In part, we have already said it by answering the first question, but we try to go a little more in detail without complicating things.

An SSD is a storage memory , on which we can install our operating system and store data. In most cases, especially when it comes to mainstream PCs, we refer to SATA (and not PCIe) SSDs equipped with NAND flash memories, slower than the 3D Xpoint memories of the Optane Memory. It is not enough to say SSD to say speed: not all SSDs are the same!

The difference between Optane Memory and an SSD is not only in the speed of data access , on the contrary, the real core of the matter is in the purpose.

If an SSD is used to store files, on Optane Memory, on the other hand, you do not keep your files there, but it serves to give more speed to the disks where you store your files. Specifically, Intel Optane Memory is a very fast memory module that is used to speed up SATA storage memories, including SSDs.

What is the difference between a 16GB and a 32GB Optane Memory?

Before answering this question it is necessary to specify that, at present, these and only these are the memory cuts marketed when we talk about Optane Memory. If you see 118gb, 480 and above, you are certainly looking at an Intel Optane SSD and not Memory.

16 and 32gb may seem few but in reality it is not so . These capabilities won’t serve you as storage space, you won’t have to physically put your files in them like in an HDD or SSD. In fact, the “instructions” necessary to speed up certain processes are recorded on these memories.

Having said this, it is therefore easy to answer the question. The main difference lies in the number of “instructions” that each module is able to store and therefore, consequently in the number of processes / applications that it is able to speed up.

The technology behind the two modules, as well as the physical dimensions and operation are exactly identical . There is a second, less important difference, which is given by the data reading and writing speeds which are greater in the 32GB module. However, this is a difference that in practice translates into a difference in performance that is practically invisible to the naked eye.

What do you need to use an Intel Optane Memory?

In order to properly install and use an Intel Optane Memory, essentially two hardware components and a compatible operating system are required.

Speaking of hardware components, we refer in particular to the motherboard and processor. Starting from the motherboard, it must be equipped with an Intel 200 or 300 series chipset and offer an M.2 slot compatible with Intel Optane Memory – compatible motherboards have an Optane Ready logo.

Once this first requirement is satisfied, the second hardware request is the presence of an Intel processor of at least the seventh generation on board.

Last but not least, software support. The Intel Optane Memory are in fact compatible only with PCs equipped with the Windows 10 operating system.

In summary: to be able to use an Intel Optane Memory you need a motherboard with M.2 slot with Optane Ready indication, at least seventh generation Intel Core processor and Windows 10 operating system.

In which Scenarios intel optane memory can bring benefit

At this point, answering this question should be child’s play. In fact, we explained in a simple but exhaustive way what is the purpose of an Intel Optane Memory; that is, to speed up SATA storage media, whether they are standard HDDs or not very recent or rather cheap SSDs.

Consequently the most common scenario among those in which Optane Memory can benefit is undoubtedly the case in which we wanted to build a PC with a large storage space that is at the same time fast in operations and not economically expensive – therefore exceeding the limit of typical speed of a PC with hard disk. Or , similarly, in cases where the PC in our possession is equipped with SATA storage (also SSD), which would be good to speed up, and compatible with the product.

Using Optane Memory in this type of configuration, in most cases an evident improvement in the system performance is obtained with regard to the performance of various operations, especially those in which the storage medium plays a fundamental role.

We should not therefore expect improvements in the framerate of the game sessions , or in the timing of rendering a video with Premiere. However, we will have shorter waiting times when loading programs (such as Premiere), loading games, turning on the PC and opening particularly heavy projects within the graphics processing software.

What do the bore CORE i5 +, i7 + and i9 + indicate?

A particularly interesting question because it is a recently introduced topic and that has not yet been properly assimilated, or at least not by all (results of the survey in hand).

The new badges introduced by Intel with the latest refresh of its CPU range indicate solutions with integrated Intel Core and Optane Memory processors.

It may be pre-assembled notebooks or desktops that already include an installed and configured Optane Memory module in the sales configuration, or even Intel processors sold in bundles with Optane Memory modules obviously to be inserted in your new system or to be updated.

If, on the other hand, you already have all the compatible hardware and are only interested in purchasing a 16 or 32 GB Intel Optane Memory module then you can simply search online. Prices currently range between 35 and 70 euros depending on the chosen cut.

It does not end here

Hoping to have been able to resolve most of your doubts, we remind you that in the coming weeks we will conclude this series of contents regarding Intel Optane Memory with an article in which we will compare the performance of three identical systems but with different configurations for regarding storage (HDD vs SSD vs HDD + Intel Optane Memory).

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