Intel mentioned last month that they planned to launch their Optane memory into the market during the later part of April. That time has now come with the announcement that they will be hitting retail shelves beginning today (April 24th).
The new memory modules are actually M.2 PCIe NVMe sticks that can function like any other M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD (now available from a number of manufacturers, such as Samsung and Western Digital), only Intel’s approach is to release them as 16GB and 32GB models (significantly smaller than the alternatives) for the purpose of using them for system cache. The idea is to assist the hard drive you already have by caching your OS, applications, and games, which allows them to open much quicker (sometimes up to 2-5x as quick).
It’s a lot like Windows’ ReadyBoost feature that savvy users were taking advantage of using memory cards and sticks that were faster than their hard drive to cache their most used application, allowing them to speed up their usage experience. With the release of solid state drives, this feature was no longer used since the SSDs were far more superior in speed to using such media with ReadyBoost (and the feature automatically disables as an option in Windows when you use an SSD as your main system drive).
Now, you are supposed to get near SSD speeds using your normal spinning hard drive, teamed up with Intel’s Optane memory. This brings back the idea of using an alternative source to cache things with, so that the response time of your system increases. It’s a lot like the new hybrid drives that have been circulating in the market the last few years (a drive that features spinning disks for large capacity and a small portion of on-board SSD to cache things with),
The price tag is pretty enjoyable. The 16GB model retails for only $44 and the 32GB model for only $77. Not bad when you consider how much that capacity costs you for normal sticks of memory. Of course, you need to keep in mind that Optane does not replace your system’s memory modules. Memory may be in the product name, but Optane is a form of drive and not an actual memory module (DRAM). This is more than likely going to cause a lot of confusion with shoppers that store representatives will be forced to help resolve.
In the near future, multiple companies have plans to move towards replacing your DRAM memory with NVDIMM modules as NVMe moves beyond the drive market. That time just isn’t now. When that time comes, we will more than likely see an insane improvement in PC performance, so we can’t wait. For now, we get to bask in the improvements that NVMe bring us in our drives such as Optane.
Now to only see how they actually perform. We haven’t come across one just yet, but when we do, we will make sure to share everything we find. We do after all have a number of systems capable of testing them out with.