Faster Computer for Cheap?

Intel is pushing their Intel Optane® memory. It isn’t totally new. It has been around for a while (2017). However, the name makes it a bit ambiguous as to what it actually is. Is this memory? Yeah, but not really. If you see it you may think it is an SSD, Solid State Drive. Not exactly either as most of us think about memory and SSD’s. Optane memory is a module with memory that installs as if it were an SSD but speeds up your EXISTING SATA hard drives, the spinning disk kind.

The new buzz term you may hear is storage class memory. Optane is a step in achieving actual storage class memory. A RAM drive is sort of the idea here. But, can’t be considered ‘storage’ as it clears at power off. Massive amounts of memory are also too expensive to compete with large hard drives.

Some people buy SSDrives that connect to the motherboard’s SATA ports thinking they are going to get those reported super speeds for SSD’s. But, the SATA ports are a bottleneck. SATA was not designed to run at memory speeds. So, the SSD is only as fast as the SATA port. Screwed again.

So, for actual SSD performance, one needs an SSD that connects directly to the PCIe bus, not a SATA port. Thus the addition of M.2 connectors to motherboards.

The Optane Memory Module is a way to get around SATA port limits. So, that 2 Terabyte hard drive does NOT have to be replaced with a 2 Terabyte SSD which would take a huge bite out of your bank account. Add the module and get SSD or near SSD performance from your existing mechanical hard drive.

Intel Optane Memory Module – M.2 Package

Optane is a smart cache to fast memory speed M.2 storage for your hard drive, which while likely having its own cache has it on the wrong side of the SATA port. So, Optane is watching how you use the hard drive then pulls the most likely to be used data through the SATA port and caches it in its SSD. When your software asks for data on the drive Optane intervenes and provides it from its SSD.

Figuring out what your computer is likely to ask for next has been a decade long project. Optane is based on that research.

You do NOT see a new drive, but your existing drive gets faster.

The 32GB Optane modules go for US$60 to $75.

The install requires the module and software. The install videos:

You also MUST have a 7th or 8th generation Intel CPU. So, an i3, i5, or i7 in the 7xxx or 8xxx series… and newer. Also, the motherboard must have an M.2 connector with a z270 chipset. So, likely a 12 to 18-month-old computer…

If you have a newer computer but could not afford to go with SSD, this is a low-cost alternative to get more performance.

With my i5-6600 I would have to upgrade the CPU. My big problem is I did buy a 500GB SSD and put it in my M.2 slot. I have my SL and Firestorm viewer caches in the SSD. With Optane it would figure out that I was running Firestorm and pull in the Firestorm cache AND the Firestorm viewer code for those parts that loaded when needed and at launch.

A review: Intel Optane 3D XPoint Memory Review – April 2017

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