Can Intel Optane Memory Outperform SSDs? Everything You Should Know

15 May 2020 | |

Intel has always been the forerunner in developing means to fasten up our PC performance. Founded in 1968, it is one of the largest and profitable companies in this world generating over 60 billion US dollars global revenue. Mostly popular for its chips manufacturing, it even manufacturers devices related to communications and computing.

Since 2015, Intel has been working on a super fast memory caching technology that can be the solution for expensive solid state drives (SSDs). 3 years ago Intel launched its super fast memory caching module dubbed the Intel Optane Memory with an aim to turbocharge your slow hard disk drives(HDDs).

So let us check out where Intel Optane Memory stands?

It is to be noted that Intel Optane Memory is a caching technology and will take some time for its algorithm figure out which applications you use the most so that it keeps them in its memory to be opened up quickly. 

Hard Disk Drive vs Intel Optane Memory + HDD

For this test, I use my laptop which happens to be powered by the Intel Core I5-8300H, GTX 1050 and 8 GB of RAM with 1 TB HDD and 16 GB Intel Optane Memory. With Optane disabled, I recorded the read and write speeds of 145.8 MB/s and 124.3 MB/s respectively. When Intel Optane is turned on, the read and write speeds are 931.5 MB/s and 159.9 MB/s respectively. These tests show significant improvement in reading speeds though write speeds have not gone up significantly.

These tests were carried out by the Crystal Disk Mark benchmarking application. 

Boot times have gone up significantly after enabling Intel Optane Memory. When Intel Optane Memory is disabled, it takes roughly 25 seconds to boot while enabling the Optane Memory, it boots up in 22 seconds in the first trial but the boot time reduced to 18 seconds on the 2nd trial and on the 5th trial the boot time is 13 seconds and the story remains unchanged since then.

Intel Optane Memory + HDD vs SSD

These tests were conducted on PCs having the same processor and RAM storage but the 1st system has 2 TB Seagate Barracuda HDD and 32 GB Intel Optane Memory while the 2nd system has 120 GB WD Green SSD and 2 TB Seagate Barracuda HDD.

In the tests conducted by the Crystal Disk Mark, the 1st system recorded read and write speeds of 1125.2 MB/s and 223.4 Mb/s respectively while the 2nd system recorded 623.5 MB/s and 290.7 Mb/s respectively. These tests clearly imply that the Intel Optane powered system crushes the SSD powered system when read speeds are considered while the SSD managed to score marginally better write speeds.

Regarding boot times, the SSD powered system booted in 17 seconds while the Intel Optane powered system boots up in 28 seconds on the first trial but after the third trail, boot times got reduced to 14 seconds and the story remains the same from then onwards.

Final Words

Combining an Optane memory module with a traditional hard drive could indeed increase system performance, in some cases even beating out a cheap SSD but here are few things that you keep in mind.

  1. Intel Optane Memory sticks are in M.2 form factor and hence need a motherboard that supports M.2 lanes. Moreover, every chipset from Intel is not supported let alone the ones from AMD. Your chipset must be anything above the seventh generation to support it.
  2. Optane memory works with any kind of RAM modules, hard drives, and graphics cards that will fit in an Optane compatible motherboard.
  3. Intel Optane Memory sticks are available either in 16 GB or 32 GB configurations so if you have a lot of applications which are used frequently, this might not be useful since the caching memory is limited.
  4. System acceleration with Intel Optane memory is only supported on the Windows 10 64-bit operating system. The drivers that support and manage this volume aren’t supported on any other operating systems. Attempting to install another OS, like Windows 7, will leave the Intel Optane memory volume unusable and could result in data loss.
  5. Though the SSD in our tests got beaten mostly by the Optane Memory, if you are getting some good SSDs like the Samsung Evo or Crucial MX500, they are going to outshine the Intel Optane Memory in 65% of the cases.
  6. If you are thinking of pairing your SSD with an Intel Optane Module to turbocharge it, throw that shit out of your mind. Your money would be better spent on RAM upgrades.

Should you buy it?

Definitely yes, if you cannot spend on a good quality SSD of reasonable capacity. I am using it and the experience so far has been pleasant.

I hope this article works the way it is intended to beLet us know your thoughts on this topic. In case I missed mentioning something or if there is some topic which you want me to cover, let me know in the comments section down below.

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