Technology is ever-changing. It seems every year brings new products and developments in this field. There is always a quest for better, stronger and more capable technology. When it comes to computers specifically, Intel is a company on the leading edge. It has recently introduced its seventh generation Core processors and along with them, it revealed Optane memory.
Understanding what is optane memory is a little tricky. If you are not a very technical person, you may get lost in all the details. However, knowing more about this product is important if you wish to invest in it or use it. Here is a guide to help you understand what it is and what it can do for you put into straightforward terms.
What is Optane memory?
To begin with, Optane is the trademarked name for this type of memory. That is similar to how Kleenex is a trademarked name for tissues. Optane is just a name; it isn't descriptive of the actual technology. Furthermore, Optane memory is not memory in the way you may think. Typically, when you think of computer memory, you think of random access memory or RAM. Optane does not provide conventional storage in the manner of RAM. It also is only applicable with motherboards using the seventh generation Core processors from Intel.
Type of Memory
This type of memory comes in an M.2 card. It is characterized by super-low latency, which means information travels very fast within this memory format. Its main function is to work as cache memory that comes between the RAM and storage to bridge the gap and improve function, speeding up information transfers. To you, this means faster computer operation overall and almost instant access to stored information.
Essentially, Optane memory is not a needed component. Your computer will work without it. It is, however, an enhancement that makes your computer work better. Think of it as a tweak or add-on that boosts your overall computing power.
Old Becomes New
This isn't the first time Intel has developed technology like this. In fact, it has Smart Response Technology that works in much the same way that was released before Optane. This is just an updated version of the SRT. It also only works with specific components, whereas SRT wasn't so limited. Optane also is improved upon to provide a speed that SRT could never reach.
Some people may be interested in the actual specifications of the technology. Knowing these details is important for seeing if Optane will work for your system and understanding what it needs to function. Remember, it isn't a standalone technology and must have specific hardware and software to work. Here's a breakdown of the specifications as given by Intel:
- Memory capacity: Comes in 16 GB and 32 GB
- Endurance Rating: 100 GB Writes Per Day
- Components: Intel Rapid Storage Technology 15.5 or later, Intel Optane memory module with 3d XPoint memory and Intel Controller and firmware
- Interface: PCIe 3.0x2 with NVMe interface
- Power: 3.3V supply rail; Active: 3.5W; Drive Idle:: 900mW to 1.2W
- Reliability: 1.6 million hours Mean Time Between Failure
- Operating System Support: Windows 10 64-bit
- Height/weight: Up to 1.5mm/up to 40 grams
- Temperature: Operating: 0-70 degrees Celsius; non-operating: -10 to 85 degrees Celsius
This memory only works with the seventh generation Core processors. You cannot put Optane in just any system and expect it to work; you will simply be wasting your money by trying to use it outside of the specified uses.
Now that you understand this memory product a little better, what is optane memory? you may have some questions about using it. You may also wish for clarifications of certain facts. Here are some questions commonly asked about this type of memory:
Will Optane memory replace DRAM?
No. It cannot be used as a full storage drive, nor does it work as primary computer memory.
How much speed is gained through installing Optane?
For everyday tasks, the speed is doubled. Overall performance is generally increased by 28 percent. These findings, though, are mostly for those using a large HDD as opposed to an SSD. The system running the memory makes a big difference in how much speed is gained.
How does Optane speed up a system?
What is optane memory? Optane can increase system acceleration to increase the speed of tasks and cut down on wait times. It also allows for a faster responsiveness so when you boot up the system, save large files or do a search, you get results or complete the task much quicker than if you didn't have Optane. Basically, when you give the computer a command of any type, having Optane installed allows the computer to produce faster results with less wait time.
Beyond the seventh generation Core processor, what else is needed to use Optane?
You need a motherboard with at least one M.2 expansion slot and an Intel chipset that supports Optane. You also must have a desktop computer, as this memory is not available for laptops at this time, and it must be running Windows 10.
Possible Issues or Drawbacks
Of course, any new technology is talked up in a push to get it into the market and used by a large number of people. The company's focused attention on the technology and all the work that went into its development is something it doesn't want to lose. This means you will hear a lot about the good of a product with any negatives minimized.
Hardware and Software Requirements
When it comes to Optane, there are a lot of great things being said about how it increases performance and makes a computer more reactive. While it can provide you with these benefits, you do have to have the right system. Optane is quite limited in how it can be used with different systems. It has very specific requirements that must be met for it to even function. This is probably the biggest drawback, especially if you just wanted to try the technology without having to buy a whole new system. Unfortunately, if you don't have the required hardware and software, you are out of luck.
Many people may rush to add on Optane memory because it is inexpensive. You'll only spend about $100 for the 32 GB chip, which is much cheaper than buying RAM. Of course, along with that price, you need to buy any components you must have to operate the memory, so the costs can actually add up, making this memory quite expensive.
Optane System Requirements
Even if you do go out and buy a new system with the Optane memory, you may not be thrilled with the performance. Optane can speed up a system, but the best results are with systems using older hard drives. If you have SSD storage, you may not notice much of an improvement. Furthermore, you will use more power, which could tax your power supply if it isn't up to par. Therefore, an additional
expense may come from upgrading that just so you can run the Optane card.
If you have a combination system, you are also likely to be disappointed. Optane only works with primary OS drives and the primary partition. You may be able to install the memory, but it won't work beyond this limitation. Your secondary storage won't get any boost at all.
It is suggested that for many users, foregoing Optane for more RAM is probably the better option. Optane is really designed for those who want the speed of an SSD but who do not have SSD.
The good news is that if you have the right system, Optane can be a blessing. It is a simple upgrade, so you won't need a lot of guidance to add it. Installation requires putting the memory in the M.2 spot. You then install the drivers and pair with your primary boot drive. From there, it works undetected. You just go about using your computer as you always have with the Optane memory functioning in the background automatically. You don't have to manage it or worry about it at all. It is hands-off, which is great if you don't want to mess around with having to save things in a special way. Once you click save, the computer manages where the file goes and Optane picks up where it needs to.
It also outperforms the lower-cost SSDs. This is good news if you are on a budget and cannot afford a higher-level SSD. You can pair the Optane with your computer as-is to get an SSD level performance for a price you can afford. As the amount you spend is a huge factor in computer performance and what you can do, having the ability to add this low-cost memory can allow more access to faster-working computers even if you don't have a lot of money on hand.
Things To Remember
Optane memory can be confusing. Perhaps the word "memory" in the name throws people off. The bottom line is that while it is a memory, it doesn't work in the way you think it might. It is a backup memory of sorts, with the main job of increasing speed, not increasing memory capacity. It does not work on its own and requires specific software and hardware to perform properly. It may be a blessing for some users, while others may find it to be a non-essential add-on they don't necessarily need or even want.