Intel Optane Memory vs SSD – Which Is Better?

Most new laptops with Intel processors come with an option for Intel Optane Memory as a storage option. You’ll find a combination of Intel Optane memory and HDD as storage options.

As the Optane memory came out, tech enthusiasts have been comparing the Optane memory with SSD and if the combination of Optane Memory and HDD can replace the SSD as a much faster storage option.

A lot of other questions may pop in your mind like what is Intel Optane Memory? What is the difference between Optane memory and SSD? How do both of them affect the performance of your laptop and finally whether the Optane memory can replace SSD in the near future?

In this article, I’ll answer all these questions and clear all the confusion regarding them.

What Is Intel Optane Memory?

Intel Optane memory is a set of memory modules designed by Intel to increase the overall performance of your computer. The Optane memory can act both as System memory like RAM and Storage Device like HDD or SSD.

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

The Optane memory increases the performance of your laptop or desktop by working as a Cache memory in conjunction with the HDD. This caching feature allows quicker data accessing and retrieval from the HDD and reduces the load times of frequently used programs.

The Intel Optane memory is a Non-Volatile memory which means it can retain the stored data even if the computer is shut down.

It acts as a connecting link between the System RAM and HDD Storage. The Optane memory has Quick Access Times which means the data transfer rates between the Storage, Memory, and Processor are very high.

The Quick Access times of Optane memory reduces the time taken to boot the computer, reduces the loading time of games and other demanding software, and also reduces the time taken to launch a game or program. The Optane memory improves the overall system performance of your laptop or desktop.

In most laptops, the Optane memory is used in conjunction with the HDD to improve the system performance. HDDs have slow data reading and writing speeds but when combined with the Optane memory the data reading and writing speed significantly increases.

The combination of HDDs and Optane memory is used to obtain a performance similar to SSDs but the SSDs are much faster and perform way better than this combination.

The Optane memory is faster than most storage devices like Memory Cards, Flash Drives, HDD, SSHD, and NAND SSD. However, they are slower than NVMe M.2 SSDs. Also, the Optane memory is slower than memory devices like RAM.

Unlike HDDs and SSDs, the Optane memory comes in the form of sticks of 16 GB and 32 GB capacity. The Optane memory is compatible with only select Intel Motherboards that support 7th Generation Intel Core i3 Processors or higher.

When it comes to Operating Systems, the Optane memory supports Windows and some versions of Linux and Ubuntu. It doesn’t support Apple’s macOS as of now.

intel optane memory original version
P.C – Intel

Intel Optane memory can act as memory and storage options when needed but cannot physically replace the memory module(RAM) or the storage modules(HDD or SSD). However, there are Intel SSD storage devices available now which are faster than conventional SSDs.

What Is a Solid State Drive (SSD)?

Solid State Drives or SSDs are the fastest storage devices available in the market. They are faster than HDDs, Flash Drives, Memory Cards, SSHDs, and Intel Optane Memory.

SSDs use electrical circuits to store data and have a special NAND Flash which gives them fast data reading and writing speeds. The Optane memory uses Cache to store data that has also fast data reading and writing speeds.

SSDs increase the overall system performance of a laptop or desktop. The fast data read and write time of SSDs mean you get fast Boot Times, Programs and Applications Launch very quickly, Games and other Softwares load very quickly and files can be copied and pasted much faster.

There are different types of SSDs available in the market and none of them are exactly equal. The different types of SSDs are PCI-E SSD, NVMe M.2 SSD, 2.5 inch SATA SSD, mini-SATA SSD(mSATA), and Intel Optane SSD.

hyperx pci-e ssd
PCI-E SSD

The PCI-E SSD is one of the top performing SSDs with a very high data transfer rate. They use Peripheral Component Interconnect Express technology to connect the SSD to the motherboard.

These SSDs are faster than SATA, min-SATA SSDs but are slower than NVMe SSDs. The effective data transfer rate of PCI-E SSD is around 985 MB/s per lane and the overall speed depends on the number of lanes in the SSD.

NVMe M.2 SSD

The NVMe M.2 SSDs have a bare open type Circuit board structure and come in the shape of a flat stick. The sizes vary according to the manufacturer and come in both SATA and PCI-E variants.

These SSDs use the Non-Volatile Memory Express(NVMe) controller interface and storage protocol which makes them the fastest storage device available with effective data transfer speeds of around 2 GB/s.

2.5 inch SATA SSD

The 2.5 inch SATA SSD is the most affordable and common type of SSDs found in the market. Most laptops, notebooks and desktops use this type of SSD.

The SATA uses Serial AT Attachment technology and has a data transfer rate of around 600 MB/s. It is one of the slowest SSDs available and is only faster than the mini-SATA SSD.

mini-SATA or mSATA SSD

The mini-SATA or mSATA SSDs are the smallest in size and have the slowest data transfer rate among all SSDs. They use a bare open circuit type structure similar to NVMe M.2 SSDs.

The read write speeds are very low and are around 150 – 170 MB/s.

Advantages (Pros) Of Intel Optane Memory

The Optane memory has three major advantages . These are:

Improves Overall System Performance

The Optane memory boosts the overall system performance of your laptop and desktop by working as a cache memory which forms a connecting link between the storage, memory, and the processor.

The Optane memory works as Cache storage which stores temporary files and increases the rate at which it can be accessed by the HDD or SSD. This reduces the launching and loading time of programs and games and increases the system performance of the computer.

It is Non-Volatile

The Optane Memory can retain the stored data even when the power supply is cut down by shutting down the computer. The data remains stored there and doesn’t wipe out, unlike RAMs.

That is why they are similar to storage devices like HDDs and SSDs. These storage devices are also non-volatile in nature.

It has faster Read and Write Speeds than most SSD Models

The Intel Optane memory has very high read and write speeds which are higher than mSATA SSD, SATA SSD, and PCI-E SSD. However, they are slightly slower than NVMe M.2 SSDs.

The Optane memory can transfer data at the rate of 1.4 GB/s which is faster than most SSDs except NVMe M.2 SSD. The NVMe M.2 SSD has a data transfer rate of around 2 GB/s.

When combined with HDDs the read and write speeds increase a lot but when combined with SSDs the increase in speed is not that much. But still, there is some improvement in the read and write speed.

The combination of Optane memory with HDDs and SSDs doesn’t unlock the full potential of Optane memory in terms of speed.

Disadvantages (Cons) Of Intel Optane Memory

The Intel Optane memory has six major disadvantages. They are:

Installation is Difficult

Installing Optane Memory on a laptop or desktop is difficult and requires expert supervision. Most laptops don’t have a memory upgradability option so you cannot install the Optane memory on these laptops.

Installing the Optane memory in laptops that do allow upgradability is a headache and requires expert hands.

Compatibility Issue

Intel Optane memory is available only for Windows and some versions of Linux computers running on 7th Generation Intel Core i3 processors and above. Also, it only supports the M.2 motherboard.

These don’t work with AMD Ryzen processors and don’t support Apple computers with macOS.

Costly

The Optane Memory is more expensive than most SSD models.

A 32 GB Intel Optane Memory with M.2 module costs around $72 whereas you can get a Silicon Power 512 GB M.2 SSD at a price of around $65.

The Intel Optane 905P M.2 SSD with 380 GB storage space costs a whopping $506 while you can get a 512 GB SSD for $65.

Consumes Power Even in an Idle State

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.

If you have a habit of using your laptop without plugging it in to charge then this will eat up a lot of your charge. Your battery life will decrease slowly even if you don’t use your laptop.

Doesn’t Increase Performance by a lot when used with SSD

Optane memory, when used with HDD, can greatly improve the system performance because HDDs have very slow data read and write speeds.

But SSDs have high read and write speeds. So, when Optane memory is used in conjunction with them the increase in speed is very small and almost negligible.

Basically, the Optane memory cannot accelerate the performance of SSD as it does when used with HDD.

Cannot Physically Replace the SSD, HDD or RAM

The Optane memory accelerates the performance when used in conjunction with RAM, HDD, and SSD. It cannot physically replace either the RAM, HDD, or SSD.

The caching speed of Optane memory is slower than RAM and the storage capacity is less than a typical HDD or SSD. Therefore, it cannot act as a replacement for the SSD, HDD, or RAM.

Advantages (Pros) of Solid State Drive (SSD)

SSDs are the most one of the most popular storage devices because of these three advantages.

Fast Read and Write Speeds

The NVMe M.2 SSDs are the fastest storage devices available with a higher read and write speed than the Intel Optane Memory.

Most types of SSDs have very high read and write speeds because they store data in electrical circuits and use Flash memory.

Better and Faster Performance

SSDs are very fast and reliable storage devices. They can read and write data at very high speeds. Also, the data transfer rate is very high which leads to faster and better system performance.

The Optane memory, when used in conjunction with HDDs, improves the system performance but this increase in speed and performance is not close enough to what a single standalone SSD can provide.

However, an Optane memory combined with SSD can provide better performance than a single standalone SSD.

Slower and Lower Storage SSD models are Inexpensive

Slower and lower storage SSD models are quite inexpensive when compared to Intel Optane memory. You can get two 256 GB SSDs for the price of one 32 GB Intel Optane Memory.

Disadvantages (Cons) of Solid State Drive (SSD)

SSDs don’t have any major disadvantages. There is only one minor disadvantage.

Faster and Higher Storage Models are Quite Expensive

If you want to buy a high storage and super fast SSD then you’ll have to shell out a lot of cash. The NVMe SSDs in particular are the most expensive among all SSDs.

For example – A Samsung 512 GB NVMe SSD costs around $170.

The faster and higher storage SSDs are so expensive because they have low failure rates which means they are more reliable. Also, they provide fast read and write times and improve overall system performance.

SSDs are also smaller in size which allows laptop manufacturers to make slim and thin laptops.

Intel Optane Memory vs SSD For Gaming

If you’re buying a new laptop or desktop for gaming then you should always go for an SSD storage. SSDs will ensure that your games launch and load really fast. They also increase gaming performance.

If you already have a laptop or desktop with HDD storage then you can get an Intel Optane memory. The combination of Optane memory and HDD will decrease the launch and load time of games and increase the performance but this combo will always be slower than standalone SSDs.

If you have a high budget then you should combine SSD with Intel Optane memory. This combination is the perfect choice for launching and loading games really fast. This will give you a serious boost in system performance.

However, the most important factors for high gaming performance is a fast CPU, high system RAM and a GPU with high VRAM.

Can Intel Optane Memory Replace SSDs?

Not a chance. The Optane memory can be used in conjunction with the SSD storage but they cannot physcially replace the SSD storage.

This is because Intel Optane memory comes with a very low storage capacity which is 16 GB and 32 GB. This is not enough for using it in a laptop or desktop for storing files. At the very least you need a storage capacity of 256 GB for a laptop or desktop.

However, Intel has developed a new storage device that features Optane with SSD and they called it the Intel Optane SSD storage.

The Intel Optane SSD is supposed to be faster than most SSD storage devices but they are extremely expensive.

Intel Optane Memory vs Solid State Drive (SSD) – Which One Should You Choose?

Both the Intel Optane memory and SSD have their advantages and disadvantages.

If you want a faster system performance without breaking the bank then you should go for SSD storage. If you don’t have the budget for SSD then you can use a combination of HDD and Intel Optane Memory.

If you’re a light gamer and use your laptop for everyday tasks like surfing the web, watching movies, writing articles, creating presentations, etc. then the combination of HDD and Intel Optane memory is perfect for you.

If you’re a medium gamer who wants fast performance then a single fast NVMe SSD is the right choice.

For heavy gamers, video editors, 3D and VFX Designers, 3D Game Designers the combination of SSD and Intel Optane memory is an ideal choice. You’ll get the fastest response times, games and other programs will launch and load really fast and most importantly you will see a huge boost in performance.

A combination of SSD and Intel Optane Memory will cost you a lot so get them if you have the budget. If not, then go for a fast SSD with high storage capacity.

However, there are still points of concern about Optane memory. Firstly, it is a very new technology and has just made its way to the market. There are a lot of improvements and enhancements to be made before it becomes the primary choice for users.

The Optane memory isn’t compatible with most processors and motherboards. AMD Ryzen and Apple Macbook users cannot get a feel of the Optane memory.

Even with these cons, the Optane memory definitely increases the speed of the system and improves the system performance when combined with an HDD storage.

The SSDs are more reliable and seriously fast storage devices. The price has gone down with time and they have become much more affordable. They have been in the market for a long time and most importantly there aren’t major cons associated with them.

SSDs are still my preferred Storage devices and I recommend everyone to just go for a standalone SSD with fast read and write speeds along with a decent amount of storage.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.