Intel Optane Memory H10 SSD Review: How it could speed up your next laptop

Intel’s Optane Memory H10 SSD is one of those enigmas of PC hardware that can drive reviewers crazy. It is—simply put—a storage technology that is more responsive in some cases, but slower in others.

It’s also a technology you can’t choose for yourself. Currently, Optane Memory H10 is being sold only to PC OEMs, who will integrate it into space-limited laptops and eventually full-on gaming laptops.

Because it’s Intel technology, it’s not going work with platforms it’s not approved for (read AMD). As you start seeing it in new laptops, this review will help you decide whether it’s a feature worth seeking out. 

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Intel’s Optane Memory H10 with Solid State Storage is essentially two drives in one one.

What is Intel’s Optane Memory H10?

Intel officially names this device “Optane memory H10 with solid state storage.” It’s much easier to think of it as a hybrid drive, or two drives in one. On one half of the M.2 stick, Intel has shoved 32GB of Optane memory. The rest of the M.2 is used to house a 512GB QLC-based NAND. 

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Intel’s Optane H10 with SSD is really another iteration of Optane.

Both are independent drives, each with dedicated x2 PCIe Gen 3 bandwidth. In fact, if you disable Optane in the Intel Rapid Storage Technology driver, both drives will appear as independent drives in Windows 10’s device manager. Used as expected, though, the drives will appear as a single drive.

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Turning off Optane acceleration allows Windows Device Manager to see the two different drives.

Why Optane Memory H10?

The idea behind Optane Memory H10 is to use Optane Memory technology to accelerate performance of a slower drive by storing frequently-used files on the Optane memory. The concept is already in place for traditional hard drives, but it’s new for an SSD.

What’s not clear is whether it makes sense. When we first reviewed Optane Memory two years ago, we found it to be pretty impressive for accelerating dog-slow hard drives. It also seemed pretty promising against dog-slow TLC (triple level cell)-based SSDs.

A lot has changed with SSDs, though. TLC drives have gotten a lot faster. The other big change is that denser QLC (quad-level cell) drives have stormed the PC. QLC packs more data into each chip, which generally means a sacrifice in performance. With the Optane Memory H10, Intel is hoping to boost the performance of QLC-NAND SSDs.

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