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Optane cache drives are not DRAM, but that's not what Intel and OEMs would have you believe

By Cal Jeffrey · 13 replies
Jun 18, 2018
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  1. ExtremeTech reports that Dell and HP are both advertising systems claiming to have 24GB RAM. However, a quick look into the specifications of the Dell G3 15 gaming laptop revealed that the computers actually only carry 8GB of DRAM and 16GB Intel Optane memory.

    Likewise, HP lumped DRAM and Optane together but stated as much in its advertisement. However, this means little for those who don’t know exactly what it is, and there is a vast ocean of difference between Optane memory and DRAM.

    “Combining DRAM and Optane cache drive capacities and pretending this refers to a single contiguous memory pool is a lie,” said ExtremeTech’s Joel Hruska.

    Intel’s Optane memory is used to make SATA drives faster by storing commonly used data in an Optane memory cache for quick access. That is it. It is not a substitute for DRAM, a fact that until recently was explicitly stated in Intel’s FAQ pages.

    Under the question, “What is the difference between Intel Optane memory and DRAM? Does it replace DRAM,” the company formerly stated, “The Intel Optane memory module does not replace DRAM so, for example, if a game requires 8GB of DRAM, you can’t use 4GB of DRAM and 16GB of Intel Optane memory to meet the game requirements. DRAM continues to be needed for regular PC functioning.”

    Recently, the chip maker has changed the wording in the FAQ to read, “Intel Optane memory is called memory because it uses a new memory media to store information closer to the processor. It’s similar to the function of dynamic random access memory (DRAM).”

    “Combining DRAM and Optane cache drive capacities and pretending this refers to a single contiguous memory pool is a lie.”

    Not only is this contradictory to their original definition, but it is also patently false to claim that it is similar to DRAM. This wording seems to be giving OEMs the “greenlight” to falsely advertise Optane as part of a computer’s DRAM capacity.

    This marketing ploy is misleading in the least, but I would argue is flat-out false advertising as it could lead a buyer to purchase a system with much less DRAM than he or she actually requires. This is especially true for the Dell ad, which just listed 24GB RAM without making the distinction between the DRAM and Optane like HP did.

    Shortly after reaching out to Dell for comment, the advertisement in question was pulled, but not before ExtremeTech had grabbed a screenshot above. Neither Dell nor Intel has responded on the matter.

    Permalink to story.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 19, 2018
  2. This is what happens when a company is looking at something very bad internally.

    I'm guessing Optane sales are much lower than they expected.
    Darth Shiv, orondf and MonsterZero like this.
  3. texasrattler

    texasrattler TS Evangelist Posts: 513   +187

    Isnt Optane going to be mainstream by Intel anyways?
    Wording aside, Dell is still responible for blantly lying to consumers. Ive seen HP computers in store advertising optane memory but ive never seen where it has said its replaces or claims its replacing dram.
    Just says it makes memory faster.
  4. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,751   +3,173

    Hard to believe in this day and age that a company would stake it's reputation on such a falsehood. Certainly they understand the speed the facts can be spread around the globe .... this is just plain dumb!
    Knot Schure likes this.
  5. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,410   +2,681

    I told people months ago when they decided to go with the Core i9+, i7+, i5+, and i3+ branding that Intel was misleading customers. This is just an extension of that.
  6. texasrattler

    texasrattler TS Evangelist Posts: 513   +187

    Whats the + suppose to be for?
  7. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,410   +2,681

    Just a quick question before I tell you (and please don't read ahead). What does it sound like the + is for?

    To me a core i9+ sounds like a better processor.

    In reality though, a core i9 and core i9+ are exactly the same. The + after the processor name is given to laptop processors that happen to be paired with an Intel optane drive. It actually has nothing to do with the processor.

    This is misleading, as the processor isn't the one responsible for the extra performance despite what Intel leads you to believe.
    EndRessentiment and texasrattler like this.
  8. texasrattler

    texasrattler TS Evangelist Posts: 513   +187

    I see. didnt even know there was even + models. Either I hadnt heard or just missed the + being there.
    So all the hub bub is about optane boosting memory but Intel pitching it like its dram or making it sound like the processor is better than a oringal one?
  9. Ben Myers

    Ben Myers TS Enthusiast Posts: 72   +21

    So Intel is playing a branding game with the I9+Optane, just like they did with Intel laptop CPUs and Intel wifi cards, and calling the combo Centrino. Where on earth they get these marking nonsense terms like Optane and Centrino, I dunno. Not as bad as big pharma's Xarelto, Cialis, Viagra and a whole bunch of other brain-dead buzzword names. Hey, get used to it. Obfuscation is a major part of marketing hype. Try to find a statement that tells you the screen resolution from a cell phone vendor. What do you need to know that for?
  10. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,410   +2,681

    Yes, pitching Optane as DRAM and i9+, i7+, i5+, and i3+ as better processors. Optane does not behave like RAM at all and it is very misleading. A computer with 8GB of RAM and 16GB of Optane will not perform nearly as good as a 24 GB system especially if users are buying that system specifically because they intend to use that much memory.

    The difference here is Intel is falsely advertising the amount of RAM these system actually have. This isn't just marketing speak to confuse consumers, it's downright lying. You can't advertise a system with 24GB of ram when it only has 8GB. That's how you get sued.
  11. texasrattler

    texasrattler TS Evangelist Posts: 513   +187

    Why havent they been sued or is it just that it hasnt happened? I have yet to see any of the marketing here in my area but im not in a major area either.
    I am assume this is something more to keep an eye on and as always buyer beware.
    Hopefully TS keep us aware of things like this since this site is a popular tech site. This is useful info but also gets the word out to others who may not know of things thats going.
    Capaill likes this.
  12. erickmendes

    erickmendes TS Evangelist Posts: 500   +220

    I'm waiting for the 28 cores with 24GB RAM PC.
  13. Bp968

    Bp968 TS Enthusiast Posts: 43   +17

    Im wondering if its just stupid and confused marketing departments. Intel just recently released Optane products that *do* work alongside DRAM and function similarly (unlike the cashe products). That said the new DRAM style optane is only available for top end Xeon boards and CPUs and will likely cost huge sums of money so its not like consumer products will be seeing them anytime soon.
  14. Ben Myers

    Ben Myers TS Enthusiast Posts: 72   +21

    Yes, having worked with some marketing and ad types in my checkered career, some of them can be pretty clueless. Now, stir in some complex new technology, and they figuratively roll their eyeballs while retaining a calm outward demeanor. I am now convinced that ad production is very much like the sausage-making that goes on in Congress and state legislatures.
    Evernessince likes this.

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