When Intel's Optane Memory technology launched this week, we overlooked a critical requirement for the platform. Despite seeming ideal for speeding up budget-friendly systems with hard drives as their sole storage devices, Optane Memory apparently won't have support from Intel's most budget-friendly Kaby Lake CPUs: the Celeron G3930, the Celeron G3950, the Pentium G4560, the Pentium G4600, and the Pentium G4620. Lower-power "T" variants of those chips won't work, either. Only Kaby Lake Core CPUs are Optane Memory-compatible, according to Intel's ARK database and the Optane Memory product page.
We've gotta say: this is a baffling decision on Intel's part. Assuming ARK is correct, the cheapest CPU one can pair with an Optane Memory device is the Core i3-7100, a $120 part that's $28 more expensive than our budget-favorite Pentium G4620. The Core i3 adds 200 MHz of clock speed and AVX support to the bargain, to be fair. Even so, paying $65 or so in total to get that Core i3 CPU and the 16GB Optane Memory hardware itself seems like a hard sell for the frugal system builder who's already chosen a capacious hard drive.
If we play the incremental cost game a bit more, one can get a reputable budget 480GB SSD like Toshiba OCZ's TR150 for $130—not that much more versus the $105-ish extra that one would pay for the 16GB Optane Memory module, the Core i3-7100 CPU, and the WD Blue 1TB hard drive one would need to get our Budget Box's storage subsystem Optane Memory-ready. We'll have to reserve judgment until we've had time with Optane Memory products to be sure, but it seems like those 3D Xpoint-equipped gumsticks and their caching software will need to be quite competitive with SSD performance to be worth the platform cost.
We've asked Intel to comment on this matter, and we'll update the post if we hear back.