A 3D XPoint is the name given by Intel and Micron to their jointly developed, revolutionary storage technology as employed in Intel’s Optane memory.
3D XPoint is the biggest development in memory technology since flash memory was first released, over 30 years ago. Intel and Micron have not been forthcoming with all the details, but it is suggested that unlike flash technology, it does not rely on trapping electrons to store a bit (doing away with the need for transistors) and instead changes the property of the memory cell instead by varying the amount of voltage that each cell receives. The 3D XPoint name was no doubt inspired by the array structure of the memory cells. Billions of cells are tightly packed together, arranged perpendicular to conductors and then these structures are arranged in layers.

Performance is claimed to sit somewhere between RAM and traditional flash memory but to date benchmarks place it very much closer to flash memory. Using 3D XPoint will enable quicker boot times and quicker access to files and applications. For gamers, this paves the way for 8k gaming, richer graphics and a more responsive experience.

Consumer products using 3D XPoint are now available in the form of the Intel Optane SSD 900P series which currently comes in 280 GB and 480 GB capacities. Although these devices are not currently bottlenecked by their PCIe 3.0 interface, PCIe 4.0 is already in the pipeline and it is likely that even faster interfaces will emerge to compliment future generations of 3D XPoint.

DRAM stands for Dynamic Random Access Memory. It is a separate class of memory to flash and 3D XPoint. The main contrast being that DRAM is volatile memory and does not retain data in the absence of power. It is relatively inexpensive to manufacture DRAM (but more expensive than flash) which requires one transistor and one capacitor on a circuit to store a bit. The main benefit of DRAM is very fast read/write data speeds coupled with exceptionally low latency, even the guys at 3D XPoint concede that DRAM has around 10 times lower latency than XPoint. Despite having greater power consumption DRAM remains the clear choice for PC and Graphics card main memory.

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