MSI to Bundle Intel Optane Memory 16 GB Cache Drives with Select Motherboards


MSI this week announced plans to bundle Intel Optane Memory 16 GB caching drives with select Intel 200-series chipset motherboards. The company claims that the drives will not increase prices of motherboards significantly, but will bring tangible performance benefits when it comes to boot times and application launches versus systems employing HDDs.

MSI will add Intel’s Optane Memory 16 GB drives to its Z270 Tomahawk Opt Boost, B250M Bazooka Opt Boost, as well as B250M Pro Opt boost motherboards, which means the company will be hitting gaming, mainstream, and commercial PCs. The consumer Intel Optane Memory caching drives were not designed to replace conventional SSDs, but were developed to enable hybrid storage solutions featuring fast solid-state memory as well as a slower storage device with SATA interface (i.e., an HDD, but SSHDs and even SATA SSDs are formally supported as well). The Intel Optane Memory 16 and 32 GB drives cache frequently used data (i.e., frequently used LBA sectors where Windows boot files and frequently launched applications reside) with the help of Intel’s software and PCH and therefore speed up PCs with mechanical hard drives. Performance-wise, Intel’s Optane Memory 16 GB drive offers up to 900 MB/s sequential read and up to 145 MB/s sequential write speed, but keeping in mind that the drive is used for caching, random read speeds and overall read latency are what matter most.

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Intel Optane Memory Specifications
Capacity16 GB32 GB
Form FactorM.2 2280 B+M key
InterfacePCIe 3.0 x2
ProtocolNVMe 1.1
Memory128 Gb 20nm Intel 3D XPoint
Sequential Read900 MB/s1350 MB/s
Sequential Write145 MB/s290 MB/s
Random Read190k IOPS240k IOPS
Random Write35k IOPS65k IOPS
Read Latency7µs9 µs
Write Latency18µs30 µs
Active Power3.5 W3.5 W
Idle Power1 W1 W
Endurance182.5 TB182.5 TB
Warranty5 years

While MSI bundles the Optane Memory 16 GB drives with select 200-series motherboards, it should be noted that the drives are only supported by Intel’s Core i-series Kaby Lake processors (so, no Celeron or Pentium) and Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit OS. In addition, the Optane Memory drive must be supported by the UEFI firmware of the motherboard.

Based on our own test results, Intel’s Optane Memory 32 GB caching drive can bring performance an HDD-based system up to the level of mainstream SSDs in SYSmark, but like most hybrid storage sub-systems, this happens only with frequently used files or programs. The good news is that Intel’s Optane 16 GB SSD (retail $47) comes for free(ish) with select MSI’s motherboards, essentially bringing an inexpensive performance improvement to equally inexpensive systems with HDDs.

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Related Reading:

  • The Intel Optane Memory (SSD) Preview: 32GB of Kaby Lake Caching
  • The Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X (375GB) Review: Testing 3D XPoint Performance