Intel has in all quietness released three more Kaby Lake NUCs. The NUCs are more or less the same as the previous Kaby Lake NUCs but they come with 16Gb Intel Optane storage preinstalled in the M.2 slot. For most purposes you still need to add SATA storage to make the NUC useful. This of course means that the Optane upgrade is relevant only for the taller H models as the more compact K models do not have a space for a 2.5″ SATA drive.
The products with the Optane memory are already on sale at Amazon and they command approximately a $50 premium over the standard H models without the Optane. Coincidentally, you can buy the M.2 Optane stick separately on Amazon for about the same $50.
The more concerning point here seems to be that FanlessTech was already reporting that there will not be a Cannonlake NUC Q1/2018 to replace the Kaby Lake. However, there might be something to replace the Skull Canyon NUC a bit later next year, but we still do not have the details… Should know more in the coming days.
What is Intel Optane then? It’s basically a really fast but rather small NVME storage that can be used for caching. It’s nothing new, SSD caching has existed for years yet it has never properly managed to break through. It promises to increase the responsiveness of a HDD based system to the same levels as an SSD drive. The advantage of course is that the HDD capacity is much cheaper than SSD. The cache should work in a totally transparent way to the end user. After installing the Optane into the system and adding the device drivers for Windows you will only see your main HDD drive – it just performs much better.
There’s a good article at TweakTown where the performance of the M.2 Optane module that’s also found in these NUCs is tested.
While it seems that the Optane really works as a cache, I can’t help but thinking that SSD drives have become so cheap these days that there’s really no need for an SSD cache. What are your thoughts – let us know in the comments!