Intel Optane Memory vs RAM – Which is Better?

There has been a lot of chatter around whether Intel Optane Memory can replace RAMs in the coming years.

Some laptop manufacturers have even started using a combination of RAMs and Intel Optane memory cells together to increase the performance.

But can Intel Optane memory really replace RAM? Well in this article, I will help debunk all the myths surrounding this and I hope to clear all the confusion in the Intel Optane Memory vs RAM battle.

What is Intel Optane Memory?

Intel Optane memory is a set of memory modules that can act as both System Memory like RAMs because of Quick Access Times and Storage Memory like HDD or SSD because of high Memory Capacity.

This Optane Memory is based on Intel’s new 3D X-Point(Cross-point) technology.

These memory modules can store 10 times more data than DRAMs and are 100,000 times faster than your typical HDD.

intel optane memory original version
Photo Credits – Intel

Optane memory is faster than most storage devices like Memory Cards, Flash Drives, Hard Disk Drives(HDD) and NAND SSDs.

This makes them one of the fastest storage devices available.

These memory modules are very thin and take very little space, which increases the Density of packaging.

The Optane memory modules are not going to replace the original mechanical HDDs anytime soon but can increase the performance of HDDs if used in conjunction.

Difference between RAM and Intel Optane Memory

Intel Optane memory is not the same as RAM because they use very different technologies. There are a lot of differences between the two and you can find them below.

(a) DDR4 RAMs are much faster compared to Intel Optane memory because the Latency of Intel Optane memory is higher than RAM.

Latency is the time taken by a signal to travel from an Input/Output (I/O) Device to the Storage Drive acting on that signal. Lower the Latency, Higher the Speed of the Drive.

(b) Intel Optane memory can store much more data than RAMs. Optane memory comes with a memory storage capacity of 16GB and 32GB. Whereas RAMs are available for as low as 1GB to more than 8GB.

(c) RAM is volatile whereas Optane memory is non-volatile in nature.

Volatile storage devices lose the stored data when you cut off the power supply by shutting down your computer. Example – Random Access Memory(RAM).

Non-volatile storage devices retain the stored data even if you shut down your computer. Example – Intel Optane Memory, Hard Disk Drive(HDD), Solid State Drive(SSD).

(d) RAM uses different form factors like DIMM and SODIMM and comes in the form of flat sticks with several Pins running from left to right.

Intel Optane memory uses the M.2 2280 form factor and comes in the shape of a disk drive similar to SSD.

How does Intel Optane Memory and RAM work?

Intel Optane memory helps the HDD by working as a Cache Memory.

A Cache memory stores frequently used programs and data which can be accessed much quicker than from a normal HDD.

This Caching feature increases the speed at which data is accessed and retrieved from the HDD, thereby reducing the load times of the frequently used programs.

When used along with the M.2 SSD, the Optane memory doesn’t perform as well as it does along with HDD because M.2 SSD is about 10 times faster than HDD. So, the increase in performance with SSD is negligible compared to that with HDD.

RAMs are made up of a number of capacitors that require electricity to charge. RAMs store binary bits of information(1s and 0s) in the form of electrical signals.

When data has to be loaded on the RAM, the capacitors are charged with electricity and data is stored in the form of electrical signals.

When the information is no longer required, then the capacitor discharges and the information gets removed from the RAM. This action frees up the RAM which can be used again.

RAMs require constant electrical power to store information because the capacitors need to remain charged.

If you shut down the computer then the capacitors inside the RAM get discharged and the stored information is lost from the RAM. That is why RAMs are Volatile.

The Optane memory does not require a constant electrical charge to store data which means the CPU can access the stored data even if the computer is shut down. Hence they are Non-Volatile.

Is Intel Optane Memory faster than RAM?

No, the Intel Optane memory is much slower compared to RAM.

RAMs are the most reliable temporary storage solutions for the CPU because they have high data reading and writing speeds.

RAM is faster than Flash drives, Memory Cards, HDD, NAND SSD, Intel Optane memory and M.2 SSD.

Can Intel Optane Memory replace RAM?

No, the Intel Optane memory cannot replace RAM but it can work alongside the RAM to improve the overall performance of the computer.

RAMs have much higher data reading and writing speeds which makes it the first choice for storing temporary files instead of Intel Optane memory.

A big problem occurs when the computer runs out of RAM when multiple applications are opened together.

In such a case, the Hard Disk acts as a source of Virtual RAM.

The problem with this is that the Hard Disk has much slower data reading and writing speeds than RAM. This means files are loaded slower and you will notice slower performance and frequent lagging in your Computer.

If Intel Optane memory is used along with RAM, then the situation gets different. In this case, when the computer runs out of RAM, the files can now be stored in the Intel Optane memory modules rather than HDD because Optane acts as a cache memory.

intel optane memory new ssd version
Photo Credits – Intel

As mentioned earlier, the Optane is faster than HDDs hence they will provide better writing and reading speeds which means data can be accessed much quicker.

This is how Intel Optane memory can complement the RAM to improve the overall performance when used with HDD.

Intel Optane Memory or More RAM – Which is better?

Getting more RAM for your computer is definitely better than opting for Intel Optane memory.

More RAM means you get quicker access times for running multiple applications which the Optane is not capable of.

Optane memory cannot replace RAM, but you can get some performance gains if you use Intel Optane along with your HDD.

More RAM will be better for your computer.

If you are a casual gamer and don’t use your computer for running multiple memory intensive applications, then getting Intel Optane memory instead of RAM is better. It will also cost you less than upgrading your RAM.

If you’re a heavy user than you should get more RAM instead of Optane memory and use SSD instead of HDD. This will drastically improve boot time, load time, and will provide superior performance in the long run.

4GB RAM + 16GB Intel Octane Memory vs 8GB RAM – Which one to go for?

It depends on what you are using it for. Here is my take on what you should opt for based on different users and tasks.

(a) If you use your laptop only for watching movies and videos, browsing the Internet, preparing PPTs and other applications that don’t require a lot of memory then you should go for 4GB RAM + 16GB Intel Octane memory combination instead of 8GB RAM.

(b) Medium to Heavy gamers should go for 8GB RAM without any hesitation.

(c) Tasks such as Video and Photo Editing, Game Programming, Designing, Live Streaming requires a lot of memory and the 8GB RAM should be used for these applications instead of the Optane memory.

(d) For online entrepreneurs, some applications like WordPress, Shopify, etc. don’t require a lot of memory than others. In this case, 4GB RAM + 16GB Intel Optane should be preferred.

(e) Getting 8GB RAM is costlier than 4GB RAM + Intel Optane memory combination. So, if you have the budget then go for 8GB RAM else you can opt for the RAM + Optane combo.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Intel Optane Memory

Advantages (Pros)

(a) Intel Optane memory when used along with HDD can decrease boot time of computer.

The files required for booting are stored in the Optane which has quicker access time than HDD. Hence, the files can be loaded much quicker and the computer boots up much quicker.

(b) Frequently accessed programs can be stored in the Optane which will improve the load times for these programs.

(c) The Optane memory is much cheaper compared to RAMs and SSDs.

(d) Load times for games can also improve but make sure you have the recommended amount of system RAM and VRAM to run the game. Here is a video that demonstrates the same.

Disadvantages (Cons)

(a) The Intel Optane memory doesn’t increase the performance when used along with an SSD instead of an HDD. M.2 SSDs are quicker than the Optane memory.

(b) Intel Optane memory is available only for computers running on 7th Generation Intel Corei3 processors and above. These don’t work with AMD Ryzen processors.

(c) The Optane Memory is only available for computers with M.2 motherboard.

(d) Even though Optane memory can complement the RAM and HDD but it cannot physically replace either the RAM or the Hard Disk.

(e) The Optane Memory consumes a power of around 1 Watt even when the computer is idle. This can adversely affect the battery life of your laptop.

Is Intel Optane Memory Good or Bad?

The Intel Optane memory is a good option for light users that don’t run memory-intensive programs. Your computer will boot faster and other low memory applications will run faster.

Also, if you are short in budget and cannot upgrade your RAM, then you can use the Optane memory along with your RAM and HDD.

If you are a medium user using HDD instead of SSD then, the Intel Optane memory can increase the performance of your computer.

The Optane is a bad option for serious gamers and other users who are running high memory applications.

It is also a bad option for computers using M.2 SSD because there is no increase in performance.

If you have the budget to spend on SSD and more RAM, then you shouldn’t even think of getting the Intel Optane memory. Just invest in SSD, RAM and Graphics card.

Is Intel Optane Memory worth it? The Conclusion

The Optane memory is worth it only if you are using it with your HDD. You will definitely notice some performance gains and you will have to spend less money on it.

It is also worth it for non-serious gamers and users that don’t run heavy applications but want improved overall performance and faster boot and load times.

The Optane memory is not worth it if you already have SSD and sufficient RAM in your computer along with a powerful graphics card with sufficient VRAM.

Medium to heavy gamers won’t notice any considerable performance gains.

Finally, I believe that the Intel Optane memory is not worth it at the moment. One can simply buy a computer with SSD or replace their HDD with SSD for better performance.

1 thought on “Intel Optane Memory vs RAM – Which is Better?”

  1. Pulsar does NOT play m4a files. That’s the whole reason I went looking for something that did and arrived here!

    Reply

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