Everything you need to know about Optane right now

Here's the difference between Optane Memory, Optane drives, Optane DC Persistent Memory and Intel's new Optane Memory SSD.

Intel’s Optane technology promises fairly big jumps in performance, but not all Optane products function in the same way, so it behooves you to understand Optane’s various implementations.

There are currently three official iterations of Optane-based products. Although all share the same basic 3DX Point-based media, they have distinctly different purposes, and differing impacts on performance. And one of those products is being used in a fourth iteration that we'd also like to highlight.

intel optane ssd 905p Intel

Most people will think of an add-in card for Optane.

1. Optane SSD 

This is probably what most PC tech heads think of when they hear “Optane.” It’s basically Intel’s 3DX Point media—from 58GB to 905GB—mounted in a tiny M.2 stick for laptops, or in an add-in card (or odd duck U.2) for desktops. Optane SSDs are basically the same as traditional NAND-based SSDs we’ve all come to enjoy. The drives are pricey compared to NAND-based SSDs, but for those who prioritize low-latency and low-queue-depth performance, it’s likely worth it. You can read our review here

intel optane ssd 800p beauty angle Intel

Optane Memory is used to accelerate hard rives in many budget laptops and budget desktops.

2. Optane Memory

Optane Memory was actually the first implementation to hit the streets and uses fairly small, 16GB or 32GB Optane modules to act as a cache or storage tier for a hard drive. The concept isn’t new, but the use of Optane for it is. You can read our review of it here, but the upshot is that it’s pretty good—when compared to a hard drive. Optane Memory today is more commonly found in lower-end laptops, which actually have hard drives that can be accelerated by the technology.

Optane Memory has also been an option in budget desktops, but oddly, did not work with budget CPUs until recently.

The term "Optane Memory" makes sense because at a capacity of 16GB or 32GB, it’s not really enough to use for primary storage at all. While it can function similarly to an SSD drive, calling it a drive doesn’t really make sense.

intel optane persistent memory Intel

Optane DC Persistent Memory is today only in servers.

3. Optane DC Persistent Memory

The third option doesn’t currently impact consumers as it’s only a server technology. Called Optane DC (for Data Center) Persistent Memory, it packs up to 512GB of Optane media in what looks like a memory module. The modules get slotted into a server’s DIMM slots with a CPU that supports it, and can function as either slower RAM (but at a stupidly huge capacity of 3TB) or as fast persistent storage. Obviously, at a reported $6,751 for a 512GB stick and the requisite Xeon CPU that supports it, it’s not a consumer product at all. However, that will likely change. Intel spent a boatload to make Optane, so its every function is apt to find its way to consumer uses.

optane h10 Intel

It looks like a standard Optane Memory or Optane SSD, but the new Optane H10 is really two drives in one.

4. Optane Memory SSD

You know that Optane Memory (number 2 on our list) is used to cache or tier storage from a slow hard drive. The problem: Most laptops are moving away from hard drives and many only have room for one M.2 storage device.

To address this, Intel released its “Optane Memory H10 with Solid State Drive.” The H10 combines a 16GB or 32GB Optane Memory drive with a QLC NAND-based SSD from 256GB to 1TB. The concept is to accelerate the typically meh performance of QLC NAND with the high performance of Optane Memory. How it performs, we can’t say yet, but denser QLC NAND certainly isn’t the fastest in its category.

Unlike other drive combos that handled integration at the controller level and present as a single drive, the Optane Memory H10 operates much like Optane Memory does with a hard drive, via a driver doing the work of combining the drives.

Intel doesn’t officially call it a “Optane Memory SSD,” but we think sums it up since you get the Optane Memory cache and decently sized storage too.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?