When Intel launched its Optane Memory caching SSDs two years ago, it limited their support to mainstream and higher-end platforms essentially considering them premium products. Whether or not hybrid storage subsystems were ever a prerogative of premium PCs is up to debate (they are in case of Apple's iMac AIOs), but Intel recently expanded support for its Optane Memory caching SSDs to Celeron and Pentium-based desktop systems.

The Intel Optane Memory driver for system acceleration version as well as the Intel Rapid Storage Technology driver add support for Intel’s desktop Celeron and Pentium processors that are based on the Coffee Lake microarchitecture (i.e., belong to Intel’s 8th Gen Core processors). In addition to software support, Intel’s Optane Memory or Optane Memory M10 caching SSDs have to be supported by system BIOS and have to be installed in an M.2 slot connected to PCIe lanes of the chipset.

Caching SSDs store frequently accessed data thus speeding up time it takes to boot an OS as well as frequently used applications compared to a mechanical hard drive. As our review demonstrated back in 2017, a 32 GB Optane Memory SSD brought a noticeable improvement to a system only featuring a hard drive. But while caching SSDs enable storage subsystems that bring together performance of an SSD and a capacity of a hard drive, they cannot guarantee consistently high performance at all times.

Even considering all the limitations of caching SSDs, adding support of Optane Memory to desktop platforms based on Intel’s entry-level processors will clearly make these systems more responsive, which will make them more competitive too.

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Source: Intel

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  • Flunk - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    Optane cache is a pretty pointless product based on current pricing. You can get a much larger NVMe SSD to use as a single drive. A 256GB SSD is about the same price as an 32GB Optane module. If you include the price of the hard drive you might as well just get a 1TB NVMe SSD.
  • dullard - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    The point is to get a fast SSD and pair it with an even faster Optane. Why be stuck with a much slower 1 TB SSD?
  • dcianf - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    This is exactly what I'm doing. Cheap SATA SSD + 32GB Optane. It's stupid fast. Plus they've added file pinning so you can force files to stay on the cache.
  • wumpus - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    Does Intel even make Pentiums/Celerons anymore? With the current shortages I'd assume they would stamp all the "small die" cores as i3 and charge accordingly. Presumably they are under contract to produce a certain number for Dell and HP, so allowing these users to use Optane shouldn't change Intel's sales at all (assuming that such OEM computers even allow M2 upgrades).
  • GreenReaper - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    If they don't, they'd either have to lower i3 pricing or lose the market to AMD. Pricing theory dictates a product at every reasonable price point to maximise value extraction.
  • Vitor - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    Why anyone that can afford Optane would be stuck to such bad CPUs?
  • PrayForDeath - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    The small 32GB optane drives are pretty cheap, and can greatly improve the performance of slow PCs with mechanical drives
  • wumpus - Tuesday, April 2, 2019 - link

    Back when memory was expensive, a lot of OEMs would stick in a small (probably 16G) optane drive on a Pentium/Celery/i3 with 4G of memory and map the optane as virtual memory. It worked about 80% as well as "real memory" (and presumably would work a lot better with 64B cachelines instead of having to swap 4k pages).

    With today's memory prices that's pretty pointless. And the 32G drives are harder to find/more expensive if you had bigger jobs and wanted 16-32G RAM and a 32G-64G optane swap.
  • zodiacfml - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    The CPUs will be a bottleneck. I have an i3 dual core laptop with a disk, CPU load shoots up for any intensive disk activity except a copy.
  • notashill - Monday, April 1, 2019 - link

    That's probably the windows defender real time protection, it does a very good job of making fast storage devices completely pointless to own if you use Windows.

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