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 revolutionary non-volatile memory and represents the biggest development in memory technology since flash technology, over 30 years ago. Unlike flash memory which relies on trapping electrons to store a bit, 3D Xpoint achieves this through a change of bulk resistance. The 3D XPoint name was likely inspired by the cross-grid array structure of the memory cells. Billions of cells are tightly packed together and arranged perpendicular to conductors, which are then arranged in layers. The absence of transistors in this structure allows the packing density to be far greater than for DRAM.

Performance sits between DRAM and traditional flash memory, with benchmarks placing consumer devices very much closer to flash memory. Using 3D XPoint should enable quicker boot times and quicker access to files and applications and 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 (in 280 GB and 480 GB) and Intel Optane SSD 905P series (in 906 GB) . Although these devices are not currently bottlenecked by their PCIe 3.0 interface, PCIe 4.0 is now available 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 (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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