NEW YORK—Intel is taking a high-octane route to bumping up PC speed, launching what it calls Intel Optane memory to help PC users get more out of their system.

Those of us who use PCs everyday tend to be an impatient bunch—we want the machines to respond to our tasks way faster than it takes to finish reading this sentence. We want instant access to movies and high-res photographs, zippy game play, and boot times that don’t take forever.

Intel claims Optane will dramatically cut down on the wait. Corporate vice president Gregory Bryant says Optane represents the “first big step forward in memory technology in two decades.”

Will Optane live up to such hype? It’s certainly going to take a while before Optane is accepted by the mainstream PC user, says Shane Rau, a chip analyst with IDC. “It’s a case of crawl, walk, run,” he says.

Desktop only

For starters, Optane requires a PC with the latest 7th generation Intel Core processor technology, meaning a machine at the high end of the market. And Optane is a desktop-only solution out of the gate; it does not work with laptops.

“It is reliable? Is it fast enough? For whom is it fast enough?” Rau asks. “A lot of questions need to be answered by this segment of folks who are not mainstream PC users.”

According to Intel, when you couple Optane memory on a PC with the required 7th generation Intel Core-based system, you’ll be able to power on your computer up to twice as fast, improve overall system performance up to 28% faster and bolster storage performance by 14 times.

Apps will launch faster too, Intel promises: up to six times faster for Microsoft Outlook, up to five times for the Chrome browser and up to 18% faster for certain games.

Though the explanation can get kind of geeky, an Optane memory module sits between your hard drive and processor and functions as an “accelerator.”  Traditional hard drives still account for 79% of the primary storage solutions in desktop PCs today, Intel says, as folks choose more generous storage capacities over the faster speeds offered by solid state drives and other alternatives.

In simple terms, Optane learns your computing behavior and helps accelerate frequent tasks by intelligently identifying the files and data you summon most often and storing them in the Optane module where they’re easily accessible.

Computer users comfortable with cracking open their computer case can install an Optane module directly on a compatible motherboard. Such modules will be available in 16GB and 32GB for desktops PCs from various Intel partners beginning on April 24. Starting in the second quarter of this year, PC manufacturers like HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Acer will begin shipping both consumer and commercial products equipped with Intel Optane memory already installed.

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The list price Intel charges its partners for a 16GB module is $44; a 32GB module costs $77. Such companies will likely bump up the price that an end user will ultimately pay, at least initially. But IDC’s Rau suggests that if Optane proves successful,  costs could be lowered as PC manufacturers eliminate components that no longer need to be there.

Email: ebaig@usatoday.com; Follow USA TODAY Personal Tech Columnist @edbaig on Twitter

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