Some of the fastest storage tech around is soon going to be available to people buying just any old laptop. Intel’s Optane technology, based on 3D Xpoint is really fast, but unless you’re building your own computer or manage a server farm it’s been out of reach. Which is a shame because Optane offers blazing storage speeds and the ability to improve traditional SSDs using Optane Memory.
For the average person, actually putting all that tech inside a computer—especially ones with space constraints like a laptop—has always been a challenge due to a somewhat limited range of modules. So for the new Intel Optane Memory H10 with Solid State Storage (yes, that is its full product name), Intel is hoping to make it easier for normal people to get access to super fast storage.
For the new H10 drive, the idea is that by combining 16GB or 32GB of Optane Memory—which acts a storage cache to speed up a regular SSD—and then pairing that with traditional 3D QLC NAND storage combined on a single M.2 stick, the H10 will hog less space on motherboards and make it easier to put Optane tech in laptops from major manufacturers, like Dell, HP, Asus, and others.
Previously, to get the benefits of Optane Memory, you had to have at least one M.2 slot open for something like Intel’s M10 drive, while your actual storage lived in a separate slot. Now that’s fine in a desktop where there’s typically a lot more room to tack on extra drives, but that doesn’t really apply to mobile systems like a 13-inch ultraportable.
The big benefit of combining Optane Memory with a traditional SSD is that Intel claims the new H10 drive will be able to open typical productivity apps up to two times faster, launch games up to 60 percent faster, and open large media files up to 90 percent faster— all while multi-tasking.
For anyone who launches productivity apps like Photoshop, Premiere, or Maya, Intel’s H10 drive could offer a significant upgrade in the overall speed of your system. Additionally, while the H10 is actually two drives smashed together onto a single M.2 chip, it will appear in Windows as a single volume, so there shouldn’t be any confusion when it comes to managing your storage.
However, the new H10 drive doesn’t come without a few downsides, the biggest of which is that at launch, it will only be available to OEMs. That means anyone looking to pop an H10 in their system at home will be out of luck. Intel says it is still exploring opening up H10 sales to individual users, but there’s no official timetable for when that will happen.
The other potential downside is that the H10 drive is only designed to work with recent 8th-gen Intel U-series CPUs, which means you won’t be able to pop out the M.2 SSD in a slightly older laptop in order to take advantage of those faster storage speeds.
Intel’s H10 drive should start showing up as a configurable option in laptops later this year, and will be available in three sizes: 16GB Optane Memory with 256GB of storage, 32GB of Optane Memory with 512GB of storage, and a 32GB of Optane Memory with 1TB of storage. Unfortunately, because Intel hasn’t released pricing for the H10, it’s currently unclear how much more an H10 drive will cost compared to a traditional M.2 SSD.