Everything You Need to Know About Intel® Optane™ Memory

From old hard drives in PCs to the Large Hadron Collider, Intel’s groundbreaking memory tech is changing the way PCs operate

With PCs creating, handling and processing more data than ever before, hardware can have a tough time keeping up, particularly if it’s built on legacy architecture.

To address this issue, Intel developed Optane technology in partnership with Micron*. First announced in 2015, Optane is the biggest shake-up in memory technology for 25 years, but what is it, how does it work, and what does it mean for you?

“Optane memory functions as a cache that speeds up boot times, makes apps launch quicker and generally makes your PC feel faster.”

1. What Is Intel® Optane™ Memory?

Optane is a new kind of high-speed, low-latency memory technology that sits between the computer’s processor and SATA-based mass storage. Based on 3D Xpoint and designed for seventh-generation Intel processors or later, Optane memory functions as a cache that speeds up boot times, makes apps launch quicker and generally makes your PC feel faster and more responsive through better random read performance than an SSD. It can complete everyday work tasks up to 2.2x faster, make levels of a game load up to 4.7x faster, and open large media files 90 per cent faster.123

2. How Does Optane Memory Differ to Traditional DRAM?

Optane isn’t a replacement for DRAM, it’s designed to work in addition to it. While DRAM is a volatile type of memory, meaning its data is lost when the PC shuts down, Optane chips retain any cached information when the power is switched off. That means they can retain key files from your most frequently accessed apps and games in order to drastically cut loading times in day-to-day use.     

3. How Much Data Can Optane Memory Modules Store?

Optane Memory accelerator modules currently come in two capacities: 16GB and 32GB. This dictates how much data they can cache, with the former suited to most everyday tasks and the later recommended for gamers, VR fans and anyone who wants to do any kind of design, animation or editing work. While both configurations are currently too low to adequately function as primary long-term storage, Intel has also developed Optane-boosted SSD drives of larger capacity. These H10 modules come in the same M.2 format but also include up to 1TB of Quad Level Cell (QLC) 3D NAND storage in one package.

4. Does Optane Memory Work with All Types of Hardware?

One of Optane Memory’s biggest strengths is its ability to make old-style spinning hard-disk drives feel like newer solid-state drives, but it can be used to speed up both types – the benefits will just be even more noticeable on an HDD. The only hardware requirements in the PC space are for a seventh or eighth-gen Intel processor, plus a compatible motherboard from the likes of Asus*, Gigabyte* and MSI*. Some motherboards might need a BIOS (basic input/output system) update in order to recognise the Optane chip and you’ll need to be running Windows 10 64-bit.

5. What Else Is Optane Technology Used For? Meet Intel® Optane™ DC Persistent Memory

But it is not only in the consumer space that Intel® Optane™ helps deliver performance gains. CERN*, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research based near Geneva, operates one of the biggest and most complicated scientific instruments in the world: the Large Hadron Collider. With huge volumes of data generated for every second the LHC is active, CERN uses Intel’s Optane DC Persistent Memory for its data centres, which reduces waiting time and increases the efficiency of the analytical process. If Optane’s good enough for CERN, it’s probably good enough for your business.

*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others

Product and Performance Information

2As measured by Game Level Load Workload comparing Intel® Core™ i7-8750H processor + 1TB HDD + 2GB Intel® Optane™ memory vs. Intel® Core™ i7-8750H processor + 1TB HDD.
3As measured by SYSmark* 2014 SE Responsiveness comparing Intel® Core™ i7-8750H processor + 1 TB HDD + 32 GB Intel® Optane™ memory vs. Intel® Core™ i7-8750H processor + 1 TB HDD.