If you’ve come across a computer featuring the Intel Optane memory, and felt a bit confused, you are not alone. The way Intel and computer makers have marketed this new technology has been misleading, especially at launch time. After initial criticism from consumer advocates (and vigilant tech bloggers!), Intel, Dell, HP and others have done a better job explaining what the Optane Memory is, and what it isn’t. Unfortunately, there are still some sellers out there – especially third-party Amazon sellers – who continue confusing and misleading consumers.
Certainly, the Intel Optane memory is a useful technology that can benefit consumers. However, it is not RAM, and it is not in any way a substitute for it.
The Optane Memory is a cache drive (usually m.2 type) that benefits computers running their operating system on a traditional spinning hard-disk drive. So, rather than using the slow spinning disk whenever the system needs to cache or page data (for example, when the RAM gets filled up), the caching can be done on this very fast Optane drive.
However, you’re not going to see much of an improvement if your operating system already runs on an SSD (especially if it’s type NVME). That’s also the case if you boot on an SSD but keep your applications and data files on a HDD – the Optane technology will not speed up your second drive.
To be fair, the Optane Memory is a really fast drive that is optimized for caching. The problem lies not with the technology, but with how it has been marketed. It should have never been called “memory”. It would have been more appropriate to call it “Optane drive” or “Optane cache drive”.
So, whenever stores or computer makers promote their devices as having, for example, 24GB of memory, because they have 8GB of RAM and 16GB of Optane memory, that is straight lying. Unfortunately, this still happens.
The good news is that the big companies have cleaned up their marketing, and make it much clearer that Optane Memory is a misnomer. But, as evidenced in the picture above, there are still third-party sellers on Amazon who try to mislead consumers.
The even better news – from consumers’ perspective – is that the Optane Memory will lose relevance soon. That is because Samsung recently announced mass production of 4-bit V-NAND SSDs, which should significantly reduce the cost of 1TB, 2TB and 4TB consumer SSDs. If that’s the case, then we’ll be able to have fast and large SSD storage.
If you’d like to find out more about all the turns in the misleading marketing of the Optane Memory, here are a few excellent articles:
“Dell and HP advertise Intel Optane as ‘memory’ “ by Slobodan Simic