Intel Optane Memory Vs RAM: The Truth You Need To Know

Ever since Intel unveiled Intel Optane memory it has become quite popular. A lot of manufacturers are making laptops that have Intel Optane memory.

You have seen them around. The 4GB/8GB/16GB RAM + 16GB Intel Optane memory laptop configurations on the market. Desktop enthusiasts are also concerned about if Intel Optane memory gives the desired effect of improving performance.

But, most of all is whether it will replace RAM and the differences between them. Here’s what you need to know about Intel Optane memory Vs RAM.

What Is Intel Optane Memory?

Intel Optane memory is Intel’s weapon in revolutionizing non-volatile storage.
It based on the Intel’s 3D XPoint technology. The technology is said to improve the latency and performance in DRAM and NAND. 3D XPoint is 1000x faster than NAND flash memory.

What Is Intel Optane Memory

This technology makes it one of the fastest storage devices on the market. Latency is the amount of time taken for information to be received.


Intel says Optane is 4.42 times faster than a ‘NAND’ memory-based NVMe SSD in terms of IOPS (Input/output operations per second) and has 6.44 times less latency … It has also said that Optane could be up to 10 times faster than traditional SATA-based SSDs. PC Advisor

PC Advisor

Because Intel Optane memory is a fairly new technology it is compatible with laptops and desktops that have 7th Generation or newer processors. So far, Intel Optane memory comes in 16GB and 32GB modules.

The Intel Optane memory modules are used to speed up HDDs.

Differences Between Intel Optane Memory And RAM

Majority of people out there confuse Intel Optane memory with being a new type of RAM. This is false. Intel Optane memory is not RAM because it uses a different technology than RAM. And Intel Optane memory is non-volatile whilst RAM is volatile.

Related: 2 Ways On How To Increase RAM On Laptop Or PC For Free

Non-volatile in the sense that data is still stored on the Intel Optane memory module even when your laptop or desktop has been shut down. Examples of non-volatile storages are SSDs and HDDs. RAM is volatile because as soon as your laptop and desktop shutdowns or restarts, data stored on it is cleared.

Related: A Beginner’s Guide To Choosing The Right RAM For Your Laptop

Another difference is the form factor. Intel Optane memory has the form factor of an M.2 SSD. RAM looks like a flat stick with pins running along the length or long side of it. In terms of speed when accessing data RAM is faster than Intel Optane memory.

The only similarity between them is that you slot both onto the motherboard to work.

Intel Optane Memory Vs RAM: How Do They Work?

Intel Optane memory acts as a fast means for data to be transferred between the HDD and RAM. It does this by working as cache memory. A cache is basically a “room” in processors where frequently accessed files are stored and retrieved at high speeds.

And yes, Intel Optane memory has this cache feature found in processors. A 16GB Intel Optane memory module gives you 16GB of cache memory. Same applies to a 32GB module. This allows your laptop to store cache files up to the maximum size the Intel Optane memory has.

installing intel optane memory
Installing Intel Optane Memory Credit: Digital Trends

By caching frequently used files load and boots times are faster. This performance is even more pronounced the slower your HDD is. For SSDs performance gains are small.

RAM on the other hand stores data in a different way. When your laptop or desktop has been powered on, data is stored in small capacitors as 0s or 1s as electrical energy.

RAM is able to store and discharge electrical energy at insane speeds. The electrical discharge happens when you close an application you are working on.

That’s why RAM is freed up when you close a lot of applications. Because the electrical energy that was carrying the information has been discharged.

The electrical discharge also happens when you shut down the laptop or desktop. All information and data stored on the RAM are cleared hence it being known as volatile storage.

As mentioned above, Intel Optane doesn’t lose the data stored on it when you shut down laptop making it non-volatile storage.

Is Intel Optane Memory Faster Than RAM?

No, Intel Optane Memory is not faster than RAM. It is faster than some SSDs but not RAM. RAM will always be faster because it’s the first place for files to be temporarily stored. When the RAM gets full that’s when the CPU looks for other avenues to store those files.

Also, RAM is supposed to work at high speeds. They are meant to be faster than storage devices and Intel Optane. If they are not then what is the purpose of having RAM at all.

Can Intel Optane Memory Replace RAM?

Intel Optane memory acts as a complement to RAM. Usually, when your laptop runs out of RAM your storage device acts as a virtual RAM. It does this by creating a SWAP file which is stored on the hard disk. The SWAP file then swaps files from the virtual memory onto the RAM before it can be accessed. This whole process slows down the computer and can cause freezes, especially, when you have a hard disk drive.

Intel Optane memory is able to mitigate the effects of the process and improve it by storing the frequently used files in its cache. Instead of storing the SWAP file on the slow hard disk drive it gets stored on the Intel Optane memory module. So there is little loss of speed when the file is being accessed. Hence the improvement in performance in slow hard drives.

But, Why Not Get More RAM If It Is Insufficient?

That’s a good question. Getting more RAM is the right way to go. The only reason to consider Intel Optane memory is when you are looking for a cheap way to improve the performance of your hard drive.

Keep in mind that Intel Optane memory doesn’t replace RAM. You will get much performance boost when you replace your hard drive with an SSD and increase the RAM. Yes, it would be expensive but it will be worth it.

Related: The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide: How To Find The Best Laptop

If you ever wonder whether you should get more RAM or Optane upgrade the RAM first. If you are still not getting the performance you want then get Optane. If you are still not satisfied, you are left with two options:

  1. Replace the HDD with an SSD
  2. Get a new laptop using Tech Consumer Guide’s Laptop Finder

Intel Optane Memory Benefits

The first obvious benefit that Intel Optane memory provides is faster boot times for laptops or desktops with HDDs. Because files are stored in its cache and non-volatile. It is able to access data needed to boot up the laptop or desktop faster than usual. You PC won’t take 10 min to boot up anymore.

Intel Optane Comparison Test

It will only take 5 min. System performance is also improved as a whole. Applications launch faster, loading times are also reduced and decreased occurrences of slowing down or freezing.

The benefits also carry over to games. Games just load faster as demonstrated below.

Intel Optane Memory, Is it Worth It?

It depends on your situation. Intel Optane memory becomes worth it when you can’t afford a laptop with an SSD. Some cheaper laptops come with 4GB/8GB RAM plus 16GB Intel Optane memory which is really a good deal. It might not be as fast as having a laptop with an SSD. You will definitely enjoy the benefits it brings to your laptop.

intel optane memory module
Will You Buy Intel Optane Memory? Credit: PCgamer

But, if budget is not a concern better to skip the Intel Optane memory and go with an SSD. Even so, if you are able to push your budget higher a little bit. You can buy a laptop with an HDD, purchase an SSD and replace the HDD. A win-win situation.

If you have a desktop don’t bother. Because installing Intel Optane memory is a pain in the ass. In addition, to that, your CPU has to be 7th Generation or newer. You will see much better performance gains installing an SSD and upgrading your RAM.

Intel Optane might be worth it if you decide to get their SSDs. Those are fast and get the job done. The only downside is its price.

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