If you've been CPU shopping today, you may have noticed some weird new products on offer at e-tail shops. Don't be confused: the Core i5+ 8400, Core i5+ 8500, and Core i7+ 8700 are all the same CPUs as their non-"plus" brethren. These new models simply include a 16-GB Optane Memory module in the box. Slot that module into an M.2 socket on your motherboard, and you can cache the contents of a hard drive for SSD-like responsiveness.
Intel announced the Core i+ branding when it revealed the remainder of the Coffee Lake CPUs early this month. At that time, though, it seemed as if the branding would be applied only to pre-built systems and laptops that included a Core i-series CPU alongside an Optane Memory device or Optane SSD. Intel gave no indication at that time that we'd be seeing Core i+ bundles at retail for system builders to enjoy.
Even if you plan to boot your system off an SSD, you might still consider the Core i+ bundles. With the latest update to its storage software, Intel now allows users to cache non-boot drives with Optane modules. Gamers still commonly use large hard drives to hold their game libraries while booting off fast solid-state storage. When I tested MSI's Aegis 3 (which included a 16-GB Optane module), the difference that the cache made in overall system responsiveness was downright stark. We haven't tested Optane as a cache for a data drive yet, but if it can offer the same sort of improvements for game load times we saw in our initial testing, then it could become a staple of gaming builds.
The Core i5-8400 currently goes for $179 on Newegg; the Core i5+ 8400 goes for $215. Stepping up, the Core i5-8500 goes for $205, and its "plus" version goes for $240. Similarly, the Core i7-8700 goes for $302, and the Core i7+ 8700 goes for $340. For comparison's sake, the 16GB Optane Memory module goes for $39.85 alone. Buying a bundle only saves you a few bucks over buying the chip and Optane module separately, but that's a few bucks you wouldn't have otherwise.