Intel Optane Memory vs. RAM: Everything You Need to Know

In this article we look at Intel Optane Memory vs RAM. We discuss in detail Intel Optane memory, what it isn’t, how it differs from RAM, its shortfalls and benefits.

Optane memory introduced by Intel, is gradually catching the attention of tech enthusiasts as well as PC users who aren’t tech-savvy. You must come across Intel Optane memory when seeking information related to hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) online.

The Optane technology is still in its infancy, so if you are somewhat confused about this fast memory module, you are not alone. Right now, many manufacturers are beginning to incorporate Intel Optane memory into the  laptops they produce.

But, is the Optane memory random access memory (RAM)? Will this memory replace RAM or is it just a good substitute? Find out.

 

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Intel Optane Memory: The Basics

intel optane vs ram
The Optane memory is just an enhancer (or a supplement) which accelerates boot times

Intel Optane memory is simply a cache memory based on 3D XPoint and Intel Rapid Storage Technology (Intel RST) that facilitates seamless data transfer between a laptop’s memory (RAM), storage, and processor (CPU). It is a cache drive.

The Optane memory is just an enhancer (or a supplement) which accelerates boot times and makes processes run faster when combined with a hard disk drive (HDD). That being said, without the Optane memory, your laptop will function just as well.

The following options of the Optane branding are available: 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB.

What Intel Optane Memory Isn’t

Never confuse Optane memory with RAM. Optane memory is not RAM — Some laptop users do not know this.

A laptop with a conventional 4 GB RAM and 16 GB Intel Optane memory is not equivalent to one with a standard 20 GB RAM. The former may have 20 GB RAM on it, but it is just a gimmick – never fall for it.

It is better to opt for the laptop with a standard 20 GB RAM than one with 4 GB RAM and 16 GB Optane memory.

Intel Optane Memory vs. RAM: The Difference

intel optane vs ram
Optane memory retains data, and other information even after you have shut down your laptop

The random access memory (RAM) of a computer is a temporary storage or short-term storage for data, and other processes done by the processor. When you shut down, every data the RAM holds is wiped out. Therefore RAM is a volatile memory.

Optane memory, on the other hand, retains data, and other information even after you have shut down your laptop. It is therefore a long-term (non-volatile) storage, thanks to the non-volatile 3D XPoint memory plus Intel RST.

Optane memory becomes very useful when paired with a hard disk drive (HDD).

The Intel Optane memory works like solid state drives (SSD). So if you already own an SSD, there is really no use getting Optane memory.

Does Intel Optane Memory Replace RAM?

The 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB Optane memory on the market isn’t a replacement for RAM. It is not a replacement for a conventional storage drive, either. However, it is a very good alternative for caching data.

Shortfalls of Intel Optane Memory

One of the drawbacks of Intel Optane cache memory is its inability to handle writes of large files effortlessly.

This technology works with Windows 10 64-bit operating system only. Intel might make Optane memory compatible with Linux and MacOS in the future.

intel optane memory vs ram
One of the drawbacks of Intel Optane cache memory is its inability to handle writes of large files

Another pitfall of this super-fast memory is that it is only compatible with 7th generation Intel processors (Kaby Lake chips with core i3, i5, and i7 with model numbers in the 7xxx series) or newer models. It is not compatible with AMD and Skylake.

Intel Optane Memory Compatibility

  • 7th Generation Intel Processors
  • M.2-slotted motherboards
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)

It is worth noting that the Optane memory won’t work with PCs that lack M.2 form factor. The Optane memory requires M.2-slotted motherboards capable of hosting the Optane chip.

Power Consumption Concerns

Just know: Optane memory will consume your laptop’s battery even when your laptop is in idle mode. If you are working with desktop, this won’t be a problem.

Optane Memory vs RAM: Transfer Speed

A big part of the Intel Optane’s appeal is its speed: it is a lot faster than the traditional hard drives, and its speed is almost as good as the speed of conventional mid-range SSDs.

What are the Advantages of Optane Memory?

The benefits of Intel Optane memory are as follows:

  • It speeds up the system performance of your laptop
  • Optane memory is very responsive
  • Enables faster boot times
  • Enhances file sharing speed
  • It does not compromise the storage capacity of your laptop

A significant advantage of Optane memory is that it adapts your computing habits, and your favourite programs, making launching them faster.

Optane Memory and Gaming

intel optane vs ram
Optane memory cache is a good alternative for storing game data

As a dedicated gamer, you need a super fast, and responsive system with low latency. You can get a very low latency — up to 10 microseconds — with Optane memory.

In addition, Optane memory cache is a good alternative for storing game data, so you won’t lose your data when you shut down your system.

Should You Go for Intel Optane Memory?

intel optane vs ram
For anyone dealing with many virtual machines, Optane memory may be ideal

Yes, but this depends on your needs. If one of your major concerns is being able to launch your web browser, email readers, as well as retrieve data quickly, you may consider Optane memory.

Again, for anyone dealing with many virtual machines, Optane memory may be ideal.

If you have to choose between a laptop with a standard 4 GB  RAM plus Optane memory, and another with 8 GB RAM only, which would you consider? A good choice would be the spec with 8 GB RAM only.

Frequently Asked Questions – Intel Optane Memory vs. RAM

Q. Why is Optane memory so responsive?
A. It very responsive because it has an outstanding low queue depth random read performance.

Q. How do I know if my laptop has Optane memory?
A. The easiest way to tell is to check the specifications of your laptop model.

Q. Is Intel Optane memory better than SSD?
A. It is as good as SSD when paired with a standard HDD.

Q. Can you use Intel Optane as RAM?
A. Optane memory is not a replacement for RAM.

Q. Does Optane memory help gaming?
A. Yes, it does. Optane memory gives you low latency.

Q. How fast is Intel Optane?
A. Intel Optane is super fast.

Final Thoughts

Optane memory is good, no doubt about it. However, it does not replace RAM and it does not function a primary memory, either. Truth be told, a simple SSD laptop is a preferable option than one with a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) and Optane memory. If you already have an SSD laptop, continue using it. If you want to juice up the performance of an old hard disk drive (HDD), Optane memory is the way to go. Optane will improve your boot and load times.